Here’s how labor shortage is impacting Arizona security industry
The security industry like any other industry has been dealing with a labor shortage. It has become harder for security professionals to hire and retain top-notch talent as the economy faces low unemployment but a high number of vacant positions. The great resignation began in the middle of 2021 and has continued to be a barrier to hiring good security professionals. Security professionals in Phoenix Arizona are no exception as labor shortages have forced physical security companies, secure document and hard drive destruction companies, and secure document and cloud storage companies in the Valley to find creative ways to hire and retain the best security professionals. I sat down with a few security companies in the area to discuss how the labor shortage has affected their business and how they have dealt with the issue.
Lionheart Security Services
Lionheart Security Services is a private security company in Tempe that specializes in physical security. Lionheart CEO Bill Herzog said the company dealt with labor shortages for over a year and a half but is currently fully staffed. Lionheart security currently employs 120 security guards with 40 of them hired within the last three months. At one point they were working with under 70 security guards which made it difficult to meet active client needs and impossible to take on more clients.
“Until very recently the labor shortage in our area hurt our business in a big way,” Herzog said. “The staff shortage meant we struggled to keep up with contracts and passed on lucrative jobs. Our security company turned down 32 contracts last year. There was no point in bidding since we didn’t have the people to do the job.”
When they did try to hire they felt that candidates did not have enough experience and did not meet the company’s standards. With the hiring pool dry, Herzog decided to focus his efforts on retaining the professionals he had rather than lose them and hire inexperienced security guards with no long-term prospects.
Herzog gave pay raises to every long-term employee he had and offered plenty of opportunities for overtime to those that wanted to make some extra money.
“Retention was our most important issue so raises were an essential part of keeping our team happy,” Herzog said. “The short-term financial loss we took was well worth it to keep our best guys.”
Eventually, Lionheart ownership was able to increase rates on some long time clients to cover the cost and give another set of raises to the team.
Herzog freely admits that the company hiring standards put them in even more of a hiring bind than most security companies; however, he would rather be understaffed with the best people than at full capacity with an inexperienced team.
“Our hiring standards are tough and it was part of the reason we were unable to take on more jobs over the last year, but I don’t feel comfortable putting guards in front of clients if I don’t trust them,” Herzog said. “Our team does a lot of extra training, handcuffing training, use of force class, de-escalation class, as well as a hospitality class and report writing class. We need people who are committed to this extra effort and sometimes the hiring pool in our industry is all coal and no diamonds.”
Herzog credits an end to Lionhearts hiring issues to the company’s great pay and advancement opportunities, as well as the fact people needed to come back to work as the state and federal governments ended expanded unemployment benefits.
“I think a lot of people didn’t have a lot of reason to work and did have a lot of options to work if they changed their mind,” Herzog said. “People weren’t in a big rush to get a job and now they are and when they came back we had a well-paid opportunity waiting for them.”
PROSHRED Arizona is a secure document shredding and hard drive destruction company in Tempe Arizona that serves the entire Metro Phoenix area. PROSHRED franchisees Joe and Patty Caradonna opened the Arizona location in 2012 and have worked to grow their document shredding franchise to the successful location it is today.
PROSHRED Arizona has always run a small operation and it is fully staffed at six people right now. They have three drivers along with Joe and Patty Caradona and their son Joe who manage the operation. Hiring in 2021 and 2022 was difficult for the franchise owners as they struggled to find qualified drivers.
“There weren’t a lot of drivers looking for work and when people did apply for a job they were either unable to pass a background test or they didn’t have the commercial driver’s license they needed to do the job,” Joe Caradonna said. “Our job requires dealing with sensitive information daily so we go back 10 years on background checks to ensure we are hiring the right people and this disqualifies a lot of people.”
With no luck finding good drivers PROSHRED Arizona ran what Joe called a “lean and mean operation” meaning management took on the responsibility of driving the document shredding trucks to clients. Throughout all this PROSHRED Arizona was able to meet current client needs while managing to grow by taking on new clients.
“We were able to manage steady growth even when we didn’t have any drivers and now that we do we expect to grow even more,” Caradonna said. “It required us to work more efficiently and longer hours but we maintained the same quality of service we strive for.”
Caradonna said by the start of 2022 applications began to come in with qualified drivers looking for new work. He believes the new wellspring of new candidates is due to a number of commercial drivers looking to dip their toes in a new industry. He said these potential candidates were also doing more research on PROSHRED to ensure it was somewhere they wanted to work before applying.
“Our current drivers came to us looking for a new career challenge so they came to work for us,” Caradonna said. “ One of the things that have made hiring a lot easier this year is candidates are doing more research on us. By the time they do the interview they already think we are a good fit for them so it makes it easier to find quality drivers that want to be here.”
To continue to keep their drivers happy they have given pay raises to all staff.
“We have a great team right now,” Caradonna said. “ We want to keep everyone happy and avoid a revolving door of new employees.”
Data Storage Centers
Data Storage Centers is a full service records management company specializing in secure document records storage and management. They do cloud storage as well. Their clients encompass medical professionals, lawyers, accountants, and small business owners who are legally required to store some sensitive information for a number of years before disposal.
The aerospace industry, healthcare, law firms, manufacturers, and any business that generates papers that need to be retained, use secure document storage services,
Data Storage Centers’ Director of Business Development, Jerry Dilk, said “a lot of organizations are going digital, but they are still millions of boxes of records in storage.
Despite what a lot of people think paper is not going away.” We have, however, experienced considerable growth in our digital conversion (scanning) business segment. This may be partial attributed to the need for access to records for employees that have been home-based by their employer.
Data Storage Centers operates three large records storage facilities with a team of 7 and has had only two departures in the last 5 years.
Dilk said “we care about our people and the reality is we are a very low overhead family owned business, and less cost means we have more money to go to paying and rewarding our employees for all the hard work they do,” Dilk said. “We have a very stable workforce and it has been stable throughout the labor shortage in the rest of the country.”
Dilk also credits the company’s retention success to a frequent commitment to overtime opportunities, preferring to pay their people more money than hire new ones.
“We have a team of seven dedicated people who want to work a lot and quite frankly we would rather pay seven great employees overtime than pay 14 okay employees a standard wage.”
The labor shortage in the security industry has affected businesses in different ways and these three businesses are no exception. Many businesses have had to find new avenues to find qualified talent and retain qualified talent. Some businesses have avoided the labor shortage altogether. Every business faces challenges, but these three companies show how professionals in the security industry can overcome labor shortage challenges or prevent them from being an issue at all.
Max Lancaster is a freelance writer in Phoenix Arizona.