Nov 1, 2005 12:00 PM

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If there seems to be too much turnover among a company's contract guards, maybe it's because guard services are treated as commodities — by the customer and by the provider. Customers may use low-cost providers, for example, because they see no difference in security officers from one firm to the next. When guard companies take this same attitude, employees have little reason to stay.

Some companies have successfully combated turnover issues. The secret: showing employees that they are valued. Firms such as AlliedBarton Security Services and Old Dominion Security (ODS) in Virginia believe in quality over quantity.

“It's more important that we bring in and retain the right people,” says Deborah Brantley, vice president of human resources for AlliedBarton.

Practices that reduce turnover include:

  • Higher wages

    Hourly wage is often what determines whether an applicant accepts a job. Earning slightly more than minimum wage barely covers expenses; it doesn't develop loyalty. Even an extra ten cents an hour will convince a guard to switch employers.

  • Competitive benefits

    Benefits have a direct impact on a person's ability to care for him- or herself and a family. Meaningful benefits allow employees to concentrate on their jobs. This focus creates a win-win situation for everyone: employees, clients and the company.

  • Training

    Raise employee job satisfaction — and customer service — by developing their skills. Every new officer at ODS commits to a 90-day self-paced educational program. The curriculum includes not only assignment-specific training, but also life skills such as problem solving, social interaction, decision-making and financial management. This total-person development continues throughout the employee's tenure.

  • Career advancement

    Employees at AlliedBarton, for example, know that the company rewards hard work with promotions. According to Brantley, 60 percent of operations managers in the Philadelphia area — where the company formerly known as SpectaGuard started 25 years ago — began as guards. Among these is one of four division presidents.

Investing in personnel reaps huge returns. At ODS, turnover is only 86 percent, compared to industry averages of 200 to 300 percent. Co-owner Rafe Wilkinson attributes retention to the employee development program, which received the 2005 Employee Development Award (mid-size organization) from the Richmond Human Resources Management Association.

“It's gone without question that it works,” says Wilkinson, “whether from our officers who feel more professional to our clients who see the advantages of having an individual on post that is not going through the process, but is building on skills to better themselves.”

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© 2015 Penton Media Inc.

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