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The Problems With Recruitment in the Security Industry

The Problems With Recruitment in the Security Industry
24 February 2022

Like many industries, security is currently facing a recruitment crisis. But why is it happening and what can be done about it?

Elizabeth Smith, Head of People & Culture at Expeditious Services, examines how the pandemic, Brexit and training challenges are contributing to recruitment issues in the security services sector.

Elizabeth has worked for Expeditious since 2019, joining the company to conduct screening and vetting, and her role now expanding to manage all of People Services for our Security Officer Division. Elizabeth is also heading up a new recruitment arm to Expeditious Services; A2R Personnel. She is putting her CIPD Level 5 and years in the HR & recruitment industry into practice to support the FM, healthcare and agricultural sectors in finding skilled workers on demand.


"Many officers placed on furlough have been sat at a career crossroads, giving time to rethink their place in the security industry. Long shifts doing high-risk work for low reward, with expenses to keep compliant and licensed have contributed to the 'great resignation' as workers want more pay for less stress."


The Current Problems With Recruitment in Security


Over the last year, there have been several events that have impacted recruitment and the labour market.


  1. COVID-19 – has propelled many security officers into high-risk front-line roles, with extra responsibilities and many contracting the virus as a result. Security industry workers were listed among the roles most likely to be affected by the virus.
  2. BrexitBrexit has affected labour throughout the country, particularly within the security industry. Many EU workers have not renewed visas and have returned to the continent, or not seeking work in the UK. 
  3. Furlough – many officers placed on furlough have been sat at a career crossroads, giving time to rethink their place in the security industry. Long shifts doing high-risk work for low reward, with expenses to keep compliant and licensed have contributed to the "great resignation" as workers want more pay for less stress. 
  4. Costly responsibility – for those officers who have remained in the industry, renewing licenses and training is expensive. For a workforce typically paid minimum wage, or on unpredictable zero-hour contracts, these costs may be prohibitive at a time of rising household expenses, tax rates and national insurance. As such many officers may seek to leave the industry in preference for work elsewhere.
  5. Compulsory top-up training – as well as paying for license renewals and training, as of October 2021 security officers are now required to complete SIA top-up training. This not only comes at a cost but requires the officer to take time away from paid work opportunities.
  6. Different opportunities – Throughout the pandemic and the various lockdowns, there has been a variety of extra short-term earning opportunities for officers, such as vaccine centres and testing sites. As these were high paid, often cash-in-hand jobs, many officers left their regular security roles in search of higher-paying work.
  7. Backlog of license processing – a knock-on effect of COVID and furlough is a backlog on applications and training processing, such as license renewals, due to office closures. Similarly, there has been a driving license backlog with the DVLA, and driving licenses are a necessary requirement for many security roles.
  8. Expectations – Client and employee expectations in recruitment have changed as a result of the above. Both parties are now expecting faster turnaround times in successful placements, more options to choose from, and increased opportunity to negotiate. 


What Can be Done About the Security Recruitment Crisis?


As employers within a critical industry, we collectively have a responsibility to recruit and retain security talent. Some of the ways we’re improving our own recruitment strategies include:


  1. Encouraging younger people into the security industry as a career, e.g at careers fairs, university freshers fairs, college open days.
  2. Encouraging older people to take on easier roles as a way to top-up their pension, keeping them active & social, such as gatehouse work which doesn’t require a lot of long arduous work or patrols.
  3. Recruiting ex-military personnel who may already have a suitable background for security style work.
  4. Reaching out to local charities who support people getting back into work.
  5. Supporting officers in getting licenses and top-up training.
  6. Developing strong career progression opportunities.
  7. Offering stable hours and regular work – not zero-hour contracts – where possible.
  8. Offering strong benefits packages, such as enhanced sick pay, paternity/maternity pay, holidays, pension contributions. We also have a portfolio of employee benefits supporting positive mental and physical wellbeing, for example, free eye tests, free GP tests, financial planning support, debt advice, and home workout access.
  9. Adopting a strong engagement strategy for both client and employee from day 1 of recruitment, through onboarding. Better engagement helps us to set realistic expectations and give better retention results.


Picture: a photograph of Elizabeth Smith. Image Credit: Expeditious Services 

Article written by Elizabeth Smith | Published 24 February 2022


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