The challenge of sourcing high-quality guards isn’t new. Over the last five years, several well-documented factors have had a negative impact on the industry’s labour pool, from remuneration concerns to Brexit’s impact on migrant workers.
Recently, the labour shortage has become even more pronounced. COVID-19 has exacerbated the existing problems and stretched the industry to its limit, resulting in a further reduction in quality workers and a difficult period ahead for security teams.
By combining our internal data with external sources and the opinions of industry experts, we have analysed the impact of this labour shortage and recommend what you can do to navigate it.
How COVID-19 changed guarding
The pandemic completely changed the working environment for guards. Many were propelled into higher pressure front-line roles that left them more susceptible to contracting the virus and experiencing abuse from the public.
This period of high-intensity work has led many to consider career changes, particularly older guards with more experience. The Institute of Employment Studies (IES) March 2022 labour statistics supports this, “People are leaving the labour force at a worrying rate… Older people are leading this exodus, with half a million fewer people aged over 50 in the labour market than two years ago.”
ONS vacancy data makes the labour issues more apparent. Since April 2021, quarterly vacancies for administrative and support activities (which include security services) reached 92,000, an all-time high since records began in 2001.
What our guarding data tells us
Since COVID-19, The Keyholding Company has seen a significant shift in request patterns for our guarding services.
In the initial months after the UK’s first lockdown of March 2020, we experienced a staggering 700% increase in guarding requests. This drastic increase reflects the sharp rise in demand for extra support.
Whilst we initially identified the demand increase as an isolated occurrence, at the end of the third lockdown in 2021, we saw a new spike and the beginning of an upward trend that continues to this day. This trend aligns with the ONS vacancy data, indicating the increasing need for guarding support since the pandemic began.
So, how are increased demand and reduced labour numbers impacting the industry, and what can we do about it?
Vacancy challenges mean lower guard quality and increased risk
Labour shortages mean that staffing issues are difficult to deal with quickly and effectively. This leads to businesses desperately sourcing external guards to fill shifts whenever they have absences due to sickness, holidays, or job vacancies.
At the same time, with high demand in a smaller labour market, security teams are pushed into using lower quality guards, resulting in staff who can’t fulfil their roles adequately and reduced peace of mind for security teams. These quality challenges vary in scope and severity but can include lack of site knowledge, misunderstanding of responsibilities, inappropriate attire and incorrect qualifications.
Whether you struggle to find guards at all or can only bring on ineffective ones, you get the same result: increased risk and more threats to business continuity. Continuing to operate like this is not viable.
Mike Roberts, an Account Manager at Andron Facilities Management which delivers guarding services across retail, corporate, events, and more, highlights why the right cover is important for maintaining confidence and effectiveness; even down to the clothes they wear.
Confidence and reassurance for the client are the main priorities and a hot topic right now. Seeing guards turn up looking professional and being professional is crucial. It gives a lasting good first impression when arriving on the job if they look the part, know their responsibilities, and are fully briefed prior to arriving on site.
Mike Roberts, Account Manager at Andron
The solution: instantly accessible, quality guards
The key to navigating the guarding labour shortage is having a pool of licensed security guards at your fingertips, ready to step in at a moment’s notice when urgent cover is needed. Our recently re-launched emergency and temporary guarding service provides exactly that.
Led by an expert guarding team, our emergency and temporary guarding service gives guarding and facilities managers access to a ‘subs bench’ of over 11,000 licensed officers from 200 carefully vetted service partners nationwide. Guards can be booked online through our platform at the click of a button, and detailed briefing instructions are added so they are ready for the job.
Our guarding service provides security managers with peace of mind. Our clients know that whatever happens, there is always reliable, quality guarding cover available for them to book online, from anywhere, at short notice.
Michael Calvert, Guarding Operations Manager at The Keyholding Company
We can support you throughout the guarding shortage, whether you need a guard on-site urgently after a staff member calls in sick, or scheduled guarding cover during planned annual leave.
Learn more about our emergency and temporary guarding service
Get in touch today and ensure that whatever happens, you have reliable, high-quality guards to keep your estate secure.Learn more