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The Future of Guarding Depends on Reimagining Its Workforce

You know how sometimes there’s an issue lighting up your radar that just isn’t getting the widespread attention it deserves? Then suddenly, POW, there’s this collective awakening and it’s everywhere, on news feeds, podcasts, and all over social media. Right now, that’s what we’re experiencing at Robotic Assistance Devices (RAD). The issue we’ve been so concerned about? The changing state of employment and the job market.

In March, U.S. job openings rose to an all-time high of 8 million. Economists and Wall Street expected Americans to head back to work in droves. However, when the April jobs report was released, only 266,000 jobs were created during the month – just over a quarter of what was forecast. Where are all the workers?

To be clear, our concerns at RAD have been explicitly focused on the shortage of workers for security guard positions. Still, the broader unemployment/employment picture that everyone is now talking about tells the same story. Since our company’s inception, we’ve been advocating about the need for a new guard industry paradigm – one that better leverages technology and is far less reliant on hourly security officers. Companies already spend a disproportionate amount of their budgets on security services. A shortage of security guard workers has been pushing up hourly wages, resulting in even higher rates passed on to customers. Even in good times, guard jobs have been hard to fill. They’re often quite boring, there’s no career track, the hours are terrible, and there are plenty of service sector jobs that pay just as well and are far more appealing.

All these problems existed pre-pandemic, but now alarm bells are going off. I’m not exaggerating. A quick Google search tells the story. A guard company in Reno reports job applications down 95% from 2019[1], causing it to turn away customers. The labor shortage in Ontario, Canada, prompted the leading union representing security guards to widely convey the urgent threat facing public safety.[2] In Singapore, the demand for security officers has increased by as much as 20%, dramatically pushing up wages.[3] A municipality in Sweden is investing in guard training programs deliberately targeting women, hoping to expand the field of qualified candidates.[4]

While we’re all for Sweden’s commitment to a more diverse workforce and equal-opportunity hiring, training more women to be security guards is a band-aid, not a long-term fix. Unless the nature of the job significantly evolves, women will be no more satisfied in the role than men are. And job satisfaction really does matter. Research has shown that all else being equal, workers would prefer to enjoy their jobs and feel personally fulfilled by them than be paid more money to spend their days at a job they dislike.[5] This means that boosting the hourly wage of security guards isn’t, by itself, going to create a pool of stable, long-term employees. We may get more candidates, but they won’t stick around for long once they’re hired.

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Autonomous Remote Services,” or ARS, is a new paradigm that’s available and ready for implementation by guard companies today. Through the deployment of interactive, cross-functional security robot devices powered by intelligent, self-learning software, ARS enables guard companies to re-balance the way they utilize machine and human resources. Technology handles mundane, repetitive tasks – like routine monitoring, health screening, and ID verification. Humans seamlessly intervene, via remote connection, as soon as an exceptional event requires their attention and response.

Unlike old-school guards, who spend 99% of their time idle and on auto-pilot, ARS personnel spend all their time dealing with the 1% of security situations that genuinely benefit from human judgment and expertise. These positions are far more interesting, pay more, and attract a higher caliber candidate. Better salaries are possible through economies of scale, not through higher pricing passed on to customers. In fact, the cost for guard services goes down because fewer guards can monitor many more sites simultaneously. As guard companies improve the quality and affordability of their services, they increase their marketability to a broader client base. The solution is good for guard companies, good for their workers, good for their customers, and a boon to society as a whole, as a larger segment of the population benefits from enhanced security services.

When we look at the state of the future labor market, the security industry must choose: do we continue to rely on the dwindling number of low-wage workers who apply for guard jobs purely as a last resort while they look for something “better,” or do we redefine the job of security guard through the help of technology and create jobs that are challenging, rewarding, and in demand? The competition for workers is going to remain intense. By implementing an Automated Remote Services business model with the help of RAD, the guarding industry will position itself to survive and thrive.

[1] https://www.kolotv.com/2021/04/20/local-demand-for-security-guards-on-the-rise/

[2] https://www.securityguardtrainingcanada.ca/critical-shortage-of-security-guards-threatens-public-safety

[3] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/manpower/some-firms-face-labour-crunch-as-demand-grows-amid-pandemic

[4] https://www.tellerreport.com/news/2019-10-29—big-shortage-of-security-guards—new-education-where-the-majority-are-women-.ByZ5HTLBcB.html

[5] https://careerbright.com/career-self-help/what-matters-most-%e2%80%93-making-more-money-or-having-a-more-satisfying-job