With the new year upon us, let’s take a fresh look at the areas within the security guard market, especially in time and labor management, scheduling, touring, payroll, billing and human resource management, that can potentially trend in 2020. We’ll take out our crystal ball and make a few predictions.
Prediction #1: Increased Guard Roles Rise with Increased Technology Adoption
Throughout 2019, the idea of incorporating new technologies into the Guard Force was a common theme. Facial Recognition, Robots, Drones, and GSOC all made their way into the technology discussion. And, while in 2020 many of the leading-edge technologies will start to make their way into Guard Firms regular arsenal of tools, don’t expect mainstream adoption. There are still many hurdles for smaller firms to overcome, including infrastructure costs and overall maturity of operations.
If there’s one technology that will be most clear for mainstream adoption in 2020, it will be Mobile Guard Management tools. Mobile applications for guard touring, incident reporting, and visitor management have been around for a several years. Yet, as we start to see these applications evolve – from a standalone app to an integrated solution – with Time and Labor Management, Scheduling, and back-office administration, more companies and security managers will soon adopt the mobile component of guarding, which has a low point of entry and can be easily introduced without much disruption.
Prediction #2: (Real) Time and Labor Management – Tighter Visibility and Control Over Schedules
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of visibility and control over scheduling and Time and Labor Management. The nature of Physical Security lends itself to complex schedules. Multiple clients, locations, posts, and shifts make scheduling a difficult process to manually manage. As guard firms evolve and mature in their operations, moving from manual to digital can be seen as a difficult change. Slow to this change are by those in the SMB space (guard firms usually under 250 guards).
As more and more options become available, and integration with some of the front-line mobile tools become more common, expect to see more focus on how to manage schedules with efficiency. Without visibility into understanding how to optimize a schedule, guard firms are leaving money on the table – creating unnecessary cost by putting the wrong guards on a post.
Prediction #3: Recruiting, Onboarding and Retention – and the Fight to Close Wage Gaps
When we conducted our benchmarking report last year, we asked about the top challenges facing Guard Firms today. The majority of firms cited Turnover as the biggest challenge. With all time low unemployment rates, and competitive wages being offered by big box retailers such as Home Depot, Walmart and others, the struggle to find and retain talent is very much a challenge.
Expect to see similar themes in 2020 around retention, since the statistics have not changed from a wage and labor perspective. However, companies are starting to get smarter about operations, which enables them to increase profit margins and revenue. When you start realizing higher margins, you can get more competitive in wage rates with your guards, helping with retention. Another key solution towards retention will center on Benefits. More and more firms are building in Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) plans which offer a benefits program that is not only affordable but competitive. Other perks, such as commuter benefits, FSA cards, and Cash Cards help with retention.
Prediction #4: Increased Personnel Management – Education , Training, and Awareness
On a similar vein, the guards that operate within client sites must maintain a level of professionalism, training and awareness that matches the client’s expectations. We’ve seen recent developments in 2019 where guard firms were not meeting the acceptable standards of their guards, leading to serious violations and criminal activity. As a result, many firms are challenged with ensuring that guards are trained, certified and educated on best practices. The challenge becomes maintaining visibility and control over personnel to flag for incidents.
Look towards 2020 ushering a tighter control over conduct, training and certification with technology. While the ultimate responsibility lies within the owners and operators to be held accountable for behavior on-site, having a solution that tracks training and certification will help manage and notify users when there are expired permits, re-certifications or training that is overdue. You want to make sure that you cannot place a guard on the schedule who has not completed the training or is not certified. This level of visibility will ensure you are mitigating risk with your guards and your clients.
Prediction #5: Compliance Updates: An Ever-Changing Landscape
Last but not least is compliance, which seems to be a major theme in every year – let alone 2019. We saw minimum wage increases, local and state laws around wage and labor compliance, Schedules that Work Act, ACA constitutionality, and more. The point is, owners and operators in security firms continually struggle to keep up with these compliance laws when working to run an efficient business.
Expect more updates and changes in 2020; compliance is and always will be a component of the industry. New privacy laws are going into effect in California, wage rates will continue to fluctuate, and ACA is not going away. It’s important for companies to make sure they have the means to stay on top of the compliance laws and updates, and leverage partners to help with interpreting and acting on the regulations.
Going into 2020, the Security industry will no doubt see some interesting developments. More announcements of consolidation; more technology adoption; more awareness of the impact of security in the physical landscape; more awareness on how changing business trends will impact service-related industries, such as physical security. Whether you a 5 person firm or a 5000 person firm, the needs are the same. People, process, and technology can help improve profit margins, reduce costs, and retain talent.