Understanding the 4 Main Security Service Approaches

Understanding the four main security service approaches is essential during the contractor selection process.

By Sean A. Ahrens, CPP and Steve Siegel, Contributing Writers  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: How to Hire Security OfficersPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Onboard Security: Remember the Five W's Pt. 4: 11 Considerations for Transitioning to a New Security Contracting Agency Pt. 5: Contracting Security Service: Challenges and Rewards

In addition to staffing and personnel functions, understanding the four main security service approaches — and the benefits and drawbacks associated with each — is essential during the contractor selection process. These include:  

Proprietary/in-house security staffing: This involves the policies and procedures for recruiting, screening, hiring, training, scheduling, and supervising in-house staff, as well as providing uniforms and ensuring compliance. The benefits of employing in-house security personnel include:  

  • Loyal staff committed to the organization and protecting its interests. These individuals are often engaged and invested because these individuals are often more engaged and invested since they are part of the larger organization and have opportunities for continued professional growth and advancement.  
  • Increased reliability and control.  
  • Caliber of security officer subject to rigorous owner hiring practices and standards, as well as requirements for education, training, and professional qualifications. Reduced likelihood of criminal backgrounds and/or tendencies. 

But this model has some drawbacks as well, including:   

  • Salary is often subjective and, although it should emphasize a more expensive hourly wage, benefits, and training, it is dependent on organizational budgetary allowances and priorities.  
  • Limited staffing pool/resources.  
  • More difficult to terminate, because a process needs to be shown, whereas contractors can be dismissed more easily. 
  • Company assumes 100 percent of the liability.  
  • Requires security infrastructure that may not be initially available (policies, training programs, infrastructure to support compliance requirements).  
  • Salary is subjective and while these positions typically require a higher hourly wage — as well as increased, benefits, and training, and overhead — accommodation often depends on organizational budgetary allowances and priorities. Possibility of unionization (union authorization card initiatives) depending on the market.  

Contract, supplemental, hybrid security staffing: A contracted agency supplies all security officers and functions, acting as an owner’s agent providing permanent contracted services. In situations where one service contract is replaced by another provider, existing staff may be transferred while underperforming staff could be replaced. Select benefits include:   

  • Lower initial cost, pay, and benefits as most agencies negotiate fixed fees and escalation rates for the contract duration.  
  • Minimize administration burdens (program is ready and customized to the environment).  
  • Staffing pool and augmentation is usually more widely available compared to in-house services.  
  • More security-focused with less likelihood of acquiring non-security related tasks. 
  • Broadens the overall burden of liability as the contractor is an owner’s agent.  
  • Can accommodate supplemental staff when temporary or additional needs arise.  

Caliber of security officers subject to agency staffing requirements (versus building owners) for qualifications such as education and professional background. 

The drawbacks are:   

  • Though liability is extended to a second party, the contractor is still an owner’s agent; therefore, the overall burden remains largely on owner accountability and performing ongoing contractor monitoring.   
  • Contracted staff typically require more supervision.  
  • Higher staff turnover. 
  • Less educated staff. Caliber of officers may decrease. 

While contracted security staff act as the owner's agents, the contracting agency is their primary employer. This can create an engagement disconnect between contracted personnel and the owner's organization as it could be potentially viewed as a secondary interest.  

Supplemental or temporary security service: Supplemental or temporary contracted security services are employed to augment staff gaps and provide sufficient security support as needed during peak times, environmental changes, or special events.  

Hybrid security service: This approach effectively balances proprietary/in-house security professionals with the additional support of contracted officers. Hybrid services typically employ contracted security personnel to accommodate business-orientated functions, such as concierge, patrols, operations center staffing. Proprietary/in-house staff provide additional support in supervisory capacities. Hybrid security services can be highly beneficial as this method provides both owners and agencies greater flexibility to quickly accommodate ever-changing staffing and service needs.  

For any of these security services approaches, the respective management responsibilities, reporting, and administrative functions are almost limitless. Specifically, reporting can be completed entirely by the contract service provider or partially under the contract provider and shared with the owner.   

Making decisions  

Managers should look to establish a true partnership and avoid merely transactional, vendor-employee relationships. Partners may not always agree, and that’s okay. They should, however, align on the final destination and ultimate goal, even if they prefer taking different routes to get there.  

Managers should be wary of contractors that seem inflexible and will not entertain a different opinion or approach. When evaluating and determining the right program and contracted security service provider, managers need to consider the following:  

Cost: Determine a realistic budget. If the can, managers should not be afraid to share their budget with the security service provider/agency. The more information they have, the better they can customize a program to fit specific needs. Managers should also discuss minimum starting pay wages and hold the contractor accountable to those minimum wages.  

Caliber: What attributes, skills, and knowledge do security professionals need to effectively accomplish safety goals? The contractor should be able to define this and determine the type of benefits needed to not only keep but continuously engage and reward staff. Understand the contractor's background screening requirements and discuss any additional qualifications and/or additions you consider necessary. Who will be interviewed and determine the appropriate staff for the site? Ensure all interviewees fully understand all applicable agreements and requirements for caliber training, special duties, and professional knowledge.  

Training: What kind and length of training is needed? State requirements, re-assignment, on-site, and/or continuing education. How is this paid and billed? What about future needs? What about validation? How is the training administered: in-person, online, or hybrid? Testing is of prime importance and must be ongoing. An officer's performance can help determine not only the safety of those in and around the property but also address critical and potentially life-threatening decisions. This must be taken seriously. Officers must understand what the job duties are and must know what to do.  

Retention: How does a company keep its better employees? What benefits and incentives do they offer? How can managers help keep staff? Remember, both retention and turnover are highly related to staff treatment and overall job satisfaction. Increasingly, reviews from platforms such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and Google can provide insight and feedback that could otherwise be obscured. If possible, obtain testimonials from current and/or former customers and officers. How is retention measured? Get a good understanding of how the company keeps its better employees.    

Supervision and management: Management is very important. What is the supervisory process? How is communication handled and what are the expectations for moving forward? How often do should meetings be held? How will incidents be handled, reported, and measured? What are expectations? Who will be the primary and secondary contact? Be honest and get the contractor to buy in and agree on what is realistic and deliverable. Remember, security staffing companies are in business to make a profit, and security service profit margins are traditionally very low. The more management time they are forced to invest will completely decrease their margins and make managers more of a nuisance than a partner.   

In closing  

One important tip: Never sign a contractor’s agreement. Instead, managers should have contracted service providers sign their agreements. Signing a contractor’s agreement instead can limit insurance protections in a litigious society.   

When considering whose agreement to sign, remember there are probably many items in the agreement that do not apply to the services contracted for. The contractor's legal department will probably want to make modifications to the agreement. It is always best to discuss the agreement in the early stages as many modern contractors will walk away from an agreement that is too one sided. Consider their agreement tailored to the requested service. Inspect the liability language, indemnification insurance coverages, billing, and payment terms. These are the most important items to the contractor. Verify what they will cover and what they will exclude.  

Pay all bonuses, leases, and reasonable expenses. Why? Because managers want to be a partner and want the contractor to respond and do what’s needed when it’s needed. If they are not making a profit, they simply will not provide what you desire. Agreements that have cancelation clauses of 30 days are fair and reasonable. Clauses indicating payment terms ranging from 45 to 120 days can be problematic for the contractor because of the erosion of profits, which could lead to contract termination.   

Proprietary and contracted security services are here to stay. As security wages inch forward, there are compelling reasons to re-evaluate general security staffing practices. Using this guide, prepare and anticipate changes to developing your staffing program. Have a good understanding of needs. Remember, by failing to prepare, managers are preparing to fail.     

Sean A. Ahrens, CPP, FSyl, CSC, is a premises liability expert and a board of directors' member with the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC). Ahrens provides security consulting, assessment, and security design solutions that reduce security exposures for domestic and international clientele as a market group leader for Affiliated Engineers, Inc. (AEI). Steve Siegel is a member of and has served on the boards of many security industry associations. He is also a sought-after security industry subject matter expert. 

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  posted on 12/13/2022   Article Use Policy

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