Building a Professional Guard Force

Physical Security

photo by Elvert Barnes​​​​

Building a Professional Guard Force
 

In today's environment of heightened security in all areas, security departments are struggling to attract and retain high-quality guards. Now more than ever, it's vital to examine how security guards are evaluated, trained, and compensated.

All entities, including corporations and government facilities, understand the importance of a top-notch security force. However, not all of them recognize the elements needed to create such a force.

Security managers may presume that a security guard who passed the preemployment screening and successfully completed training when hired will perform the required duties well. And that may be true. But human nature allows people to become complacent, cut corners, and get too comfortable. Continuing education, regularly scheduled evaluations, and enhanced training can improve the team's performance.

On March 1, 2016, at Escuela Campo Alegre, Caracas, Venezuela, we initiated a new method of recruitment and selection for incoming loss prevention and control analysts (LPCAs). At that time, we chose to enhance our program by hiring 10 people with bachelor's or associate degrees in engineering, economics, administration, education, and other related fields.

We developed a screening and training program for candidates hoping to join our security team as LPCAs. In addition, we created a regimen of close supervision and daily evaluation of the security force to reinforce the training.

Here are the elements that led to success in creating excellent employees for our school's protection, from the first job application to seasoned protection professional.

SCREENING AND TRAINING

Detailed job description. Experience has taught me the importance of a detailed and clearly stated job description. Candidates for the position of LPCA receive a precise explanation of the duties and expectations. This is presented first so that potential candidates fully understand the duties and responsibilities of the position. If the job description isn't something the candidate wants to do, we have saved everyone a lot of time.

Required qualifications. Every security force has necessary requirements when seeking team members such as age, place of residence, experience, physical abilities, criminal background, and computer skills. Education, of course, is taken into consideration, and at Escuela Campo Alegre we look for higher education, from associate degree to bachelor's degree and up, for LPCA candidates.

Testing potential candidates. LPCAs must have certain abilities from the beginning.

Observation. The candidate must be attentive and aware at all times of the general appearance of people, placement of objects, locations, colors, vehicles, and location of security equipment.

Oral communication. The candidate must be able to respond in detail when relaying and explaining the facts of a situation. The candidate must also be able to delegate duties to a third party using clear directions. 

Written communication: The candidate must be able to write a report using correct grammar and vocabulary. An excellent memory is needed to write a complete report. Also, the candidate must be computer literate to produce the report.

During the interview process, we determine if the candidate has the qualifications listed above. We evaluate the ability to give directions properly to a third party. Observation skills are also evaluated. Reporting skills are tested by having the candidate read and summarize a paragraph using a computer.

Introduction to private surveillance. A candidate who passes the initial interview process is invited to attend an eight-hour training presentation the next day. This introduction exposes the candidate to the basic requirements of private security. Among the topics addressed are the expectations of a security officer, the organizational mission, legal aspects, visitor management, keys and locks, and guard tours.

After the presentation, the candidate undergoes a test, which requires 17 points to pass. If successful, the candidate is invited to come the following day to read the operations manual.

Operations manual. This next step is important. We determined that it requires five business days to read, analyze, and understand the school's operations manual. We administer an evaluation at the end of each day to determine whether the candidate has understood the reading for the day. This helps to clarify questions or misunderstandings the candidate may have. If the candidate does not reach the minimum score during the first evaluation, the average of the first and second tests must be a passing score. Candidates who do not receive the required score are no longer considered, but those who pass the evaluation are invited to the induction program.

Induction program. This phase of our program provides detailed descriptions of the jobs to be performed. Candidates learn that they will rotate throughout the facility and understand that there are multiple and varying tasks at each location. They receive on-the-job exposure to the work by staying at our institution during four day shifts and two night shifts.

The candidate is evaluated each day, and the minimum passing grade is 17 out of 20 points. Once again, candidates who do not receive a passing grade will no longer be considered for a position.

Final evaluation. After passing the induction program, the candidate will meet with the security manager for the final assessment. This assessment includes topics such as employee identification, addresses of various locations, location of safety equipment, knowledge of the operations manual, recognition of patrol routes, and disciplinary code.

Assignment to a guard group. Candidates who advance through the final evaluation receive the rank of Officer I and are assigned to a regular working group. Together with the supervisor, the officer will put into practice all theoretical and practical knowledge achieved through training. The officer will work as an auxiliary for 90 days and will perform day-shift and night-shift tasks in conjunction with the assigned group.

During this trial period, the officer will be guided and instructed by the supervisor regarding the responsibilities of the log book; closing and opening of facilities; operation of lighting; vehicle fleets; entry and exit of students; entrance of drivers, chauffeurs, and caregivers; Escuela Campo Alegre staff, contractors, tutors, substitutes, trainers, and frequent visitors; entry and exit materials; fire alarm system; evacuation drill; and many other activities.

Completing the probationary period. Once Officer I completes the probationary period, we administer an evaluation to demonstrate readiness to assume multiple responsibilities. If the officer does not pass the evaluation, an additional 15 days as an auxiliary allows for more instruction, followed by another evaluation. When this evaluation is passed, the individual is promoted to Officer II.

Certification as Loss Prevention and Control Analyst. An Officer II will work for nine continuous months at the new job, demonstrating knowledge of establishing priorities, situation analysis, decision making, safety, conflict management, investigations, and first aid. Depending on performance and the results of monthly assessments, it can be determined that the officer has a clear understanding of what constitutes the work of the supervisor. The officer is now eligible to be certified as an LPCA. A further evaluation involves a series of cases and situations and requires a passing score to become a certified LPCA.

Out of 120 people who apply for a position as an LPCA, only about 10 successfully reach this point.

EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT

Training updates. In our organization, we believe that providing continuous training enhances the performance of each member of the group. Daily training is provided to each member of the guard force for 15 minutes prior to the day shift and the night shift. This training is different every day and covers more than 40 areas related to the fulfillment of security tasks. The training aims to strengthen the knowledge and ability to perform required tasks.

Daily evaluations. From the first moment the candidate joins our ranks, we stress the importance of maintaining our organization with a spirit of healthy competition within the groups. This interest and enthusiasm in our organization fosters respect, pride, and knowledge about the organization.

The daily evaluation is a practical application that consists of the exchange of files and questions that the coordinator of vigilance presents to each member of the group. Officers must demonstrate their ability to recognize the faces of employees, know the geographical location of any room on campus, know the exact location of the security equipment, provide detailed information of the operations manual, run the courses correctly, and honor the disciplinary code. This daily evaluation keeps officers on their toes and objectively assesses their knowledge.

Monthly evaluations. At the end of each month, the scores from the daily assessments are reviewed, allowing us to determine who has been an outstanding analyst and who may need more supervision and additional training. Officers who come up short three times during the school year are reassigned to jobs outside of Escuela Campo Alegre.

LPCA lectures. Each LPCA of Campo Alegre School, as part of ongoing professional development, must present a lecture about security once a year. Each 20-minute lecture is followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session. The topic of the lecture is assigned by management.

Annual research presentation. For further professional development, each LPCA at Escuela Campo Alegre must research and propose new tools, criteria, or procedures to make the job function better and more efficiently. This improves the LPCA's skills while helping management meet its objectives.

Interpersonal communications with management. Once a week, an off-duty analyst will attend an hour-long meeting with management. The parties discuss topics not related to work, such as sports, hobbies, and leisure pursuits. Management gains an appreciation of the social, cultural, and familial environment of the analyst, and both participants strengthen their communication.

Disciplinary court. If any officer is involved in a disciplinary action, that officer seeks a member of his group to act as his "lawyer." The lawyer will represent the officer and help to clarify the situation. Likewise, management will choose an officer to act as "prosecutor" to argue the case of the disciplinary action. This interaction allows each party a fair chance to present facts.

LPCA authors. Every member of the security team is required to write an article about campus security. The article is published in our digital magazine and is shared with the Campo Alegre community, including parents, students, teachers, employees, and contractors.

LPCA of the month. Each month, an officer who has successfully met all objectives is awarded LPCA of the month. The objectives include staff identification, detailed knowledge of the campus, analytical prowess with regard to the operations manual, location of safety equipment, completion of duties, and adherence to the disciplinary code. The officer must demonstrate clear concise communication and common sense.

LPCA of the year. This honor is awarded to the LPCA who has received the greatest number of monthly awards.

Compensation. In addition to careful training, we know that humans respond well to a good salary and benefits. They feel appreciated for a job well done. We are proud to say that our LPCAs are the best paid in the country. In addition, they receive a stipend for being a university graduate, a stipend for transportation, and bonuses for work performance. The Escuela Campo Alegre community also shows appreciation through thank you notes and personal gratitude. That goes a long way in making our team feel appreciated.

RESULTS

Since Escuela Campo Alegre began this program of recruitment, training, supervision, daily evaluations, and professional development of analysts, management has observed both positive and negative behaviors: distractibility, obscurity, lack of discipline, lack of confidence to perform duties, inequality when working in groups, selfishness, and lying, as well as professionalism, fairness, honesty, transparency, and overall pride in the work and the institution.

Our evaluation system contributes greatly toward a successful program. A Google Doc is available so that every person on the task force can monitor his behavior and improve in areas of operation, manual details, face recognition, geographic location on campus, security equipment location on campus and security rounds. With this information available at any time, they can self-motivate and improve. The same Google Doc can show them where they stand as far as positioning and they can see what salary increase they may expect on their next evaluation. The disciplinary system tracks all mistakes made by the analyst on duty. This provides the analyst the opportunity to correct mistakes and advance in the program.

Our turnover is very low because of our evaluation system. It not only helps those who wish to advance, but it also allows others to realize, on their own, that their job performance is too low to continue.

The analysts take pride in their work and, because they can see what other analysts are achieving, they can collaborate and ask questions of those higher achievers. There are fewer missed shifts. Because the analysts work so closely together and respect each other, they are more willing to cover for a team member.

It has been arduous work that involves a great deal of discipline, ethics and morals, teaching, and faith in what we are doing. We are proud of our successful program and will continue to refine and improve it in the future.

Guillermo Guevara Penso was security manager at Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela, until July 2017 when he elected to seek other security related opportunities in Chile. He has more than 30 years of experience in the security field.