Over the coming months and years, one of the more significant challenges security businesses will face is the ability to recruit trained, qualified and experienced candidates. That challenge will only heighten when Brexit realises a significant demographic shift in the availability of staff. Louise McCree searches for a cohesive and workable solution.
The increased terror threat in the UK of late has has undoubtedly done nothing to quell demand for security personnel. In addition, the often poor perception and image of the security industry does little to assist matters when it comes to attracting new talent. The security workforce is often seen as transient, with a number of officers viewing their job as a ‘stop gap’ rather than a career. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to attract good candidates and retain them.
Last year, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) produced a report detailing a decline in the number of licence renewals. The prediction is that the overall figure will continue to fall. The research underpinning this report was undertaken before the terror incidents in London and Manchester and, as such, this is likely to compound the findings still further.
It makes sense, then, that employees with an SIA licence who are trained, motivated and experienced can afford to be selective. Potentially, at least, this could lead to an increase in staff turnover.
Heightened awareness among candidates about employers’ brands will also make recruitment within the security industry very candidate-driven. Those candidates also have far more power than previously, including access to vast information about a business and the ability to use social media to locate new roles.
Commenting on a Recruitment and Employment Confederation report published back in January, the organisation’s CEO Kevin Green stated: “Employers are seeking assistance from recruiters and boosting salaries in an effort to compete for scarce skills.”
The security industry is perceived as being relatively unglamorous. Pay for officers has historically been low and the shift patterns can be long. Career progression is seen as sporadic and, with margins being tight, it’s often the case that enhanced benefits fall by the wayside. The industry will continue to lose valuable talent if it cannot incentivise its people, motivate its teams and demonstrate that there are real progression opportunities.
So what’s the answer? As a starting point, by looking at how, why and where they recruit, businesses can begin to address some of these issues.
There are numerous benefits to be had from overhauling the recruitment process, among them addressing the issue of staff shortages, saving money spent on recruitment, increasing efficiencies by speeding up the process, saving money in relation to on-boarding costs (including resources, training and equipment) and gaining competitive advantage in order to be as attractive as possible to potential candidates.
To encourage positive change, awareness is absolutely the key. Understanding what your competitors and employees think of the business is vital. This will then enable an organisation to identify ways in which to improve.
Managing your Glassdoor profile is absolutely crucial. Over half of job seekers abandon their job applications after seeing negative reviews of security companies online. Security businesses should consider what information is out there on the Internet and how it can be better controlled. Using exit interviews as a vehicle for identifying why staff are leaving and the ways in which your business could become a more attractive employer is another useful tool. Investment in better social media strategies is also important.
Consider ways in which to make your business more accessible, for example by posting online videos which give a ‘flavour’ of the organisation. Make sure that you have live and up-to-date Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Most businesses do have these in place but rarely post, and what they do sporadically upload isn’t hugely interesting or relevant.
Content really is King when it comes to social media. Consider appointing a social media ‘champion’ who regularly monitors online activity and ensure that there’s a standard protocol in place for responding to comments (both positive and negative). Be mindful that social media can also be used as a valuable recruitment tool. It’s free, efficient and simple and enables security companies to engage with different demographics.
Strong employer brand
According to a 2018 White Paper by CV Library, over 40% of respondents to a survey about recruitment priorities listed ‘establishing a strong employer brand’ as one of the top four. Businesses are still struggling to understand what an employer brand really means. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development refers to it as “a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that make an organisation distinctive.”
There are numerous ways in which you can shape your employer brand and ensure that the right message is being delivered. Identify your USPs. Understand and communicate your values and what drives the business. Target job seekers who reflect the culture of the business and understand its goals. Better engage with clients, customers, employees, suppliers and anyone who comes into contact with the business to create the personal touch.
Work on better transparency. People want to see honesty and integrity. In order to successfully grow a business, it needs to be built on trust. Strive for more authenticity, namely that your business is consistent with its messaging and communication, remains true to its values and doesn’t try to be something that it isn’t.
Tackling your social media strategy and addressing your employer brand is only half the battle, though. In order to recruit more efficiently and effectively, you should also consider implementing a Standard Operating Procedure if you don’t already have one. This ensures that everyone understands what’s expected of them and the process is consistent. Such a policy is particularly helpful in protecting against claims of discrimination and encouraging a culture of fairness.
In addition, it’s crucial that you ask competency-based questions, but also that anything you do ask is compliant with ever-changing legislation. Ensuring that job descriptions are up-to-date goes hand in hand with asking the right questions. An out of date job description will make it extremely difficult to recruit the right candidates. Bear in mind that, in order to embed new ways of working, training is going to be vital. Even the most experienced of managers always benefit from refresher training.
Applicant Tracking Systems
42% of respondents to the aforementioned CV Library White Paper noted that ‘investing in tools to speed up the hiring process’ is vital. One such tool is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). For those not ‘in the know’, this is essentially a piece of software that allows organisations to control the entire recruitment lifecycle, from posting jobs to processing CVs, setting up interviews and making an offer. It also allows the monitoring of key data, such as tracking where applicants are coming from, the average length of time recruitment takes from end-to-end and the overall spend.
Having previously implemented an ATS, I understand first-hand the benefits to be had and the substantial amount of time and money which can be saved. The software also prevents well-meaning managers from recruiting inconsistently through their own preferred channels.
Another advantage that’s particularly relevant right now is that an ATS is a sound and efficient way of auditing and measuring data and tracking trends. According to the Global Recruiting Trends Report by LinkedIn, one of the top recruitment trends for this year will be a focus on diversity in order to improve culture and company performance and more accurately reflect customer’s core values. As such, having a programme in place that enables businesses to capture this information easily and quickly will be hugely beneficial.
Ultimately, an ATS will also ensure fairness and consistency, subsequently helping to provide a better service.
Managing personal data
With the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation now in force it’s more important than ever that companies are managing and processing personal data correctly, ethically and in line with legislation. Having all of the data in one place makes it much easier to manage. New software can also assist in ensuring compliance.
Once you’ve recruited the employees, you need to incentivise and engage them. This may be by reviewing whether your benefits are competitive, assessing if your office environment is a positive one or your career progression opportunities are appropriate and transparent. Consideration needs to be given as to whether employees are promoted internally, the business invests in appropriate training and what enhanced benefits are going to be on offer.
Intrinsically linked with this is the extent to which the company supports employee welfare. Additionally, the focus on mental health at work goes on. Many candidates are more concerned about being happy and supported in their workplace than they are about receiving a pay rise. On that basis, the importance of non-monetary benefits should never be underestimated.
Louise McCree is Founder of effectivehr