How COVID-19 Affected the Physical Security Workforce

It’s no surprise that the global COVID-19 pandemic upended the normal churn of daily life for almost everyone. On a macro level, this affected every industry, as normal practices for running “business as usual” were turned on their head.

This was the case for the physical security sector.

Recently, Corey Sipe for Total Security Advisor took a deep dive investigating the ways the global health crisis impacted the physical security industry.

He writes that the turnover rate for physical security jobs was already high — in 2019 and at the start of the pandemic in 2020, a survey by Thinkcurity revealed that around 70 percent of respondents “believed turnover was a top challenge.”

Turnover will always be a challenge

Tim Lozier, director of product strategy for Trackforce Valiant, explained in a webinar with Jeff DiDomenico, vice president of sales and marketing for Trackforce Valiant, that he doesn’t think turnover “will ever not be a challenge” for the physical security sector.

That being said, COVID-19 made a pressing issue in the industry even more challenging.

Sipe cites an employee turnover study that surveyed 200 security guard divisions — which range from those of 5 to over 15,000 workers — and found the average turnover rate between 2018 and 2019 was “plus 6 percent.”

This indicated that more hiring was being done during that period of time, but then from 2019 to 2020 the survey showed the average turnover rate was “minus 12 percent,” due to COVID-19 and its shutdown of industries.

Sipes reveals that “in a benchmark report in July 2020, 34 percent of security professionals said they saw turnover as a direct effect of COVID-19.”

How firms had to adapt during the pandemic

Sipe reports the companies that saw the most turnover from 2019 to 2020 were those that had between 5 and 100 employees, mostly in “niche industries.”

The companies that had between 101 and 500 were more likely to benefit from the Payment Protection Program (PPP) funding and could take on “special assignments,” which include temporary, part-time positions “to assist with COVID-19-related vaccination sites or testing centers, often at facilities like vacant spaces at shopping centers, large event venues, and conference centers.”

“Companies of medium and large size had the financial flexibility to reallocate funds for security professional salary and compensation costs,” Sipe writes.

Essentially, smaller firms suffered due to the fact that they had access to less capital and means to support a physical security workforce put in flux by the pandemic.

Changes in physical security hiring practices

As COVID-19 changed hiring practices in most industries, physical security increasingly is heading online for screening and outreach efforts. Social media and websites such as Indeed have streamlined the hiring process.

“While some security professionals will want to do their own hiring, others might want to consider hiring a recruiting agency. In either case, it is important to work with HR to determine soft and hard skills such as experience and certifications,” Sipe reports.

One thing is clear: in a very complex world where the demands of the pandemic have made already difficult physical security challenging, it is important that businesses do what they can to retain their security workforce and adapt to current, efficient methods for hiring the best employees possible.

Published by Peter Cavicchia

Peter Cavicchia is a retired U.S. Secret Service Senior Executive, now Chairman of the security consulting firm Strategic Services International LLC.

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