How COVID-19 has impacted the physical security labor market


While staff turnover has always been a concern in the world of physical security, COVID-19 has made the problem even worse. The pandemic has forced companies to change their practices for hiring and retaining security professionals.

Both in 2019, before the pandemic, and in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, surveys conducted by Thinkcurity showed that around 70% of respondents thought turnover was a major challenge.

“I don’t think it will ever be a challenge,” said Tim Lozier, Director of Product Strategy for Trackforce Valiant.

Lozier joined Jeff DiDomenico, vice president of sales and marketing for Trackforce Valiant, during a recent Total security now webinar entitled “Benchmarking Turnover in Security: How Security Companies Are Hiring and Retaining Talent”.

Average turnover rates and company size

A turnover study of 300 security guard divisions, ranging in size from 5 to over 15,000 workers, examined 100,000 security professionals in the United States comparing 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020 The average turnover rate between 2018 and 2019 was +6%. “That means in our group there were actually more hires,” Lozier said.

Hiring “represents a significant cost driver in what drives your overall spend for managing your security guards,” DiDomenico said.

From 2019 to 2020, the average turnover rate was -12%, mainly due to COVID and the closure of industries in which security thrived. In a July 2020 benchmark report, 34% of security professionals said they viewed turnover as a direct effect of COVID. -19.

The study showed that the security companies with the most revenue between 2019 and 2020 were those with between 5 and 100 employees, mainly in niche sectors, because they had less financial flexibility. Some analysts believe that many of these small businesses did not apply for loans under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) because the businesses did not know exactly how much of their loans would be cancelled, how it would affect their taxes or other details. from the program.

More companies in the middle group, between 101 and 500 employees, understood and benefited from the PPP, had more financial flexibility and accepted special assignments.

Special assignments included temporary part-time positions to assist vaccination sites or testing centers related to COVID-19, often in facilities such as vacant spaces in shopping malls, large event venues and centers of conference. Special assignments also included health ambassadors and health screening officers, such as those who took visitors’ temperatures and possibly checked that visitors had vaccination records or negative COVID test results.

The highest group, 501+ employees, also benefited from PPP and financial flexibility. They were also more affected by special assignments.

Medium and large companies had the financial flexibility to reallocate funds for security professional salaries and compensation costs.

Hiring and Retention Practices

While some think that hiring and retaining employees is simply a function of human resources (HR), it really should be everyone’s concern. In the security industry, professionals must strive to attract and retain the best and the brightest to help protect company assets, customers and colleagues.

Security professionals should consider the following strategies to help recruit their workforce:

Social networks, online job sites and recruiters

Websites like ZipRecruiter and Indeed, along with social media, have helped simplify the hiring process and make it faster and cheaper. Social media and online job boards have mostly replaced the need to place expensive classified ads in newspapers.

While some security professionals will want to hire themselves, others may want to consider using a recruitment agency. In either case, it’s important to work with HR to determine soft and technical skills such as experience and certifications.

Examples of physical security certifications are Physical Security Certification (PSC), Certified Criminal Justice Specialist (CCSJ), and Homeland Security Certification (CHS).

Virtual interview, integration and communication

The security industry, like other industries, is embracing permanent changes to the hiring process brought about by social distancing protocols during COVID-19.

  • Applicant Tracking: Asks the right questions of applicants to determine who would be the best fit.
  • Video Screening: Allows candidates to take a video of themselves explaining why they want the job.
  • Remote Interviewing: Allows candidates to conduct video interviews based on their availability.

This shift to digital communication can also save employers on overhead and travel costs, as HR staff, many of whom work from home, would not need to travel to the office to interview, onboard or talk with new employees.

The remote onboarding process involves online documents, which can be downloaded virtually and added to HR records. This saves on ink, paper and wear and tear costs for printers and copiers. Additionally, officeless workers can efficiently receive important internal information using mobile communication so they can be engaged and informed.

Technology investments

Some companies, including those in the physical security industry, may have been hesitant to embrace the technology, but pandemic-caused labor shortages, increased general acceptance of the technology, and falling prices of technology have driven many companies to make investments in the 21st century.

DiDomenico said robotics and remote monitoring have been embraced in the security profession. He explained that a major supermarket chain used to have robots in 37 of its stores, but recently increased to 700. Even the purpose of the robots has changed from helping at points of sale and slip situations. and fall to people notification and safety management. regarding social safety distances. Although the use of robots for this latter purpose is not useful in a post-pandemic world, security professionals can still use this technology to help provide another set of virtual eyes for theft prevention purposes. .

The future of hiring security

It is likely that security professionals will see additional special assignments if we have another strain of COVID, or another pandemic, which could result in many people being tested simultaneously or another wave of mass vaccinations.

While the physical security industry has temporarily adapted to meet the challenges of COVID-19 through PPPs and special assignments, more permanent solutions include the use of social media and online job boards. online, as well as virtual interviews, onboarding and communication. It is likely that the industry will continue to experience turnover, but this could be mitigated by advances in technology.


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