Weighing the Options: Contracted vs. Proprietary Security Guard Services

Most of the clients I support have security officers posted at their corporate headquarters and other facilities. Many rely on outside contract vendors while others employ in-house teams. When it comes to the question of proprietary security vs contractual security services, our clients want to know: “Are we getting good value for our approach?” Some think hiring an outside firm can cut overhead costs associated with employing guards, while others wonder if they can achieve better outcomes by bringing guard services in-house.

The first step in determining the best option is to review the current security guard program, outline any deficiencies and isolate areas in need of improvement.

The next step is prioritizing officers’ objectives and duties, such as their core responsibilities and any ancillary duties that can be performed. Security staff’s primary goal should be protecting employees, customers, and the facility with a secured perimeter, checkpoints, roving patrols, video surveillance, and quick response to alarms and requests for assistance.

Once these tasks are completed, you can begin weighing the advantages and disadvantages when considering proprietary vs contract security.

Contract Security Guard Services

Advantage: Lower Cost, Less Internal Responsibility

In almost all situations, the cost of outsourced security is lower than maintaining a proprietary security team. Outsourcing security services can reduce the administrative and operational overhead that a proprietary security force entails, and can save the organization expenses related to recruiting, screening and training. Security vendors can test prospective employees to determine their qualifications and work experience, which saves time and effort for their clients.

Outsourcing security services also distributes risk and potential liability. A company will often share liability for security officers’ actions or allegations of failure to act appropriately (some images in the hyperlinked article depict violence and may not be suitable for all readers) with the contractor. Though the company that contracted with the guard services provider shouldn’t expect to be absolved of liability if an incident occurs, it could require provisions that place responsibility for handling on the aftermath on the vendor.

A client should always work with the contractor to develop a workable security policy, scope of work and post orders tailored to the needs of the site, as well as a response plan should a concerning incident occur.

Disadvantage: Turnover Rates and Little Disciplinary Power

Many contract security guard services have high employee turnover. This results in guards who are not as familiar with the company’s culture and protocols. The contracting agency controls which officers are hired, fired and allocated to other clients. If the hiring organization wants to add or replace security officers, it must work through the contracting agency and cannot make such decisions unilaterally.

Companies are often reluctant or unable to address negative work performance issues directly with the contracted security officer. This can have a dramatic effect on a company’s ability to address exigent issues related to customer service or facility security.

Proprietary Security Guards

Advantage: Integration with Company Protocols, Culture and Technology

What is proprietary security? An organization has more control over a proprietary security department and can structure it to meet its unique needs. Problems can be addressed at the officer level without going outside the organization. Companies can devote resources to specific training for their security employees, and those employees are likely to feel more invested in and loyal to the company that employs them.

In-house security employees are more effectively integrated into the culture of a company and more aware of the company’s specific security technology, information systems and company business objectives.

Disadvantage: Much More Overhead and Management Needed

The organization holds the burden for managing and overseeing an in-house security staff. This is particularly problematic when an officer leaves the company or when the security plan needs to be scaled in response to an adverse security event and no immediate contingency resources are available.

Companies would be responsible for acquiring and maintaining necessary licensing and certifications for themselves and their employed security officers. In some states, companies have to register with the state jurisdiction as a private security provider and the officers have to obtain the appropriate certifications.

In the end, safety and timely emergency response is the goal of all security management plans, and this is difficult to quantify. Both a proprietary or contracted security team will only function as desired if they are provided information on post orders and prohibited activities and effectively overseen. If you’re having trouble determining if contracted or proprietary security guard services make more sense in your security plan, contact one of our experts.

Hillard Heintze

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