Job, yes. Carrer? Not so much.
Pros: great for students, retirees, former law enforcement...really depends on the post and onsite and office management
Cons: poor management, website for internal applicants is a joke, no more medical benefits, self-directed 401k
I've been with G4S since October 2010. Granted, it's not a great deal of time, but I've witnessed things that the (supposed) world's second largest private employer should find cringe-worthy.
My first assignment was a graveyard post for a water treatment plant in Orange County, CA. Patrolled the facilities on foot and by truck, walked through office – more... areas and made sure lights and coffee makers were off and that doors were secure. Only had a couple instances where equipment was left running, but I'd notify on-site staff (most of them didn't seem to care, but there were a couple good people there). I enjoyed the autonomy of knowing what I had to do and not have some middle-manager hovering over you. As long as you did the prescribed patrol and logged the appropriate mileage on the truck (badge scans and truck mileage were our "watchclocks"), you were good. G4S lost the account to Securitas; city/county entities really only care about price (so they're certainly getting what they paid for). I'd ask my post commander about advancement (as I have a degree and should have been hired on as a CPO) but he told me I had to "pay my dues". I was the new guy so I kept my mouth shut.
Second assignment was with a satellite broadcast center; again, physical patrols but entirely on foot. We had other guards on post, so we rotated assignments every hour or so (so we'd cover each others lunch and switch out). At this post I had a more personable post commander that told me "you have to call and bug the office weekly" if you wanted to get promoted or a new site. I had to take a management-level course to qualify for the CPO exam; with the exception of the test format and a handful of questions, the tests were virtually identical and easily passed with a week's worth (5-7 hours) or study. I also had to use four vacation days (we only get five a year) to be able to go to the office and take the CPO course. I also got passed over for a promotion for a shift supervisor position; I had an interview scheduled but the client interviewed and hired an "outsider". I can see if the client wanted someone that didn't know or have any rapport with guards on another shift (they were mainly students and passed time playing on laptops or doing schoolwork), but it would have been nice if the client just said "We want to go with someone outside the site" but they didn't. I was informed to tell the office about this and the account manager thought it was a load of bovine excrement and scheduled me an interview at the clients corporate location.
Third assignment was the corporate office of the satellite provider, working in their control center. Sat for the duration of shift, monitoring a wall of security cameras, fielding calls, performing remote unlocks and conducting video surveillance. The challenge was going from a strictly "beat job" to a "desk job" and the rotating hours (two dayshifts, two swingshifts, and a graveyard) made any kind of social life (or sleep) difficult. They did have another guard leave, so I ended up working swing shift with a couple midweek days off, so that was much better. I ended up getting removed from the post as I allegedly used "inappropriate language" over the telephone; one of our "kid" guards used profanity over the radio (FCC reg) and I had him call a landline and told him you can't swear on the radio. My supervisor couldn't (or wouldn't) tell me, so I found out from office management instead, but they seemed to understand my situation.
Fourth assignment was as a "rover", which is really no fun. I've been a temp in the past and there's really nothing worse than making $10/hour and you have no clue what your schedule is going to be week to week. Was generally only working 20-25 hours/week, as there seemed to be some sort of pecking order (rovers with more seniority get more hours) and one of the field supervisors made a scheduling error, so I had to report to a post 50 miles away on a Friday night (about 1hr15 travel time to the site) watching a construction site. Calling into the client's dispatch line hourly was the only real action and having to work graveyard on Christmas and New Year wasn't fun.
Currently I'm at a warehouse with a 20min commute. I conduct patrols and assist the client with customers. At least it's a CPO post and I can finally justify the expense of maintaining my firearm permit (G4S actually issues you a weapon, but most people have to amend their credentials to carry a .38....a bit odd but that's G4S for you). So it's indoors/outdoors with something different to do every hour, so you're constantly engaged (getting the nods in a dark control room isn't fun and coffee wasn't an option as we could only take restroom breaks during lunch or slow hours). The former post commander (who wore captain bars, but wasn't a captain) would monopolize hours (if the client was on a short production schedule he'd assign himself 40 hours and I'd get 20-25). When I suggested that we split hours when it was slow, he looked at me like I was crazy. I also had one instance were I was ten minutes late for work (I called ahead and left him a voicemail) because I had a close friend pass away suddenly; he pulled me aside and gave me the whole "you need to arrive on time" speech (he obviously didn't review my message) and when I apologized and mentioned that my friend passed away, he didn't care. As karma would have it, the corporate office of the client had the officer removed, so I'm the current post commander (without captain/lieutenant insignia...that guy was a joke). The downside with this post is that the hours are inconsistent (client needs and all that) and G4S management has told me "you can't take all your vacation days all at once" (sorry...if I'm entitled to five days and I want to take a trip...I can't?). They also have a hard time finding guards to stand post if one of us needs to take time off; I've had a couple declined vacation requests and the other guard had to constantly "bug" management to get his leave of absence for the birth of his child. According to one of the field supervisors (my first post commander, actually), this post is a CPO post, so only CPOs can cover it (but some CPOs don't have the armed certification). So I have the option of accruing vacation days and burning them on holidays we don't work (client observes nine major holidays, but it closed and no guards are needed) or saving them (and I've gotten the runaround from management to HR on how many hours I have used/accumulated).
If you made it this far, congratulations. That's three and a half years of G4S work..now for the good stuff...
Pay? $10.50/hour to start. Was under the impression that if you wanted a raise, you work another post that pays more, but the satellite company client's security manager told me it's based on what the client wants to pay (so if they think you deserve a raise, you might get one). CPOs (at least in CA) are $13-14/hour, depending on the post. If you have LEO, corrections or military experience (the ever famous "combat arms" that G4S wants), you might get in the $30/hour range.
Benefits? I had PPO medical with one client (just the way it's negotiated in the contract, welcome to contract security) and didn't have to pay for it, but another post had the pretty bare-bones G4S medical for $100/month (much more if you want to put dependents on it). Vision/dental are pretty nominal. Now with Obamacare, almost all line officers have to buy their own...not sure about management, however. 401K is entirely self-directed, so there's no company match (heck when I was working for a bank in 2003 I had a 5% match!)..again management might differ.
Day off, work/life balance? Really depends on the post; now my two-guard post makes it virtually impossible to get days off (let's wait until I have a medical emergency, jury summons or a death in the family and see how they handle that!). Posts with multiple guards don't seem to be subjected to this as much, as they can spread the workload. My thought is if you're entitled to days off with pay, you should take days off, with pay (I've seen guards 'burn' vacation days to get paid more, but I don't see the point).
Management? I've run across one good post commander, one good field supervisor, a decent trainer a few field supervisors that should really just retire and let me move in that position (although you're responsible for covering posts and if you can't find a guard, you get to work them). Main issue with management is communication; if you want a new post, refer to the website (which lack functionality and isn't intuitive). If you have an HR question, don't call on Mondays (that's payroll day) and be prepared to play phone tag with a couple different people as they pass you off. The phone check in system isn't usually updated correctly and sometimes you can't check in or out; if you're outside the 5-minute window and check out early or late, expect a call from a field supervisor. Last week my guard checked out five minutes early (under client direction; if they leave early, my guard leaves with them) and the field supervisor told me to make sure he checks in/out properly. I informed him that when the client is on a flex schedule, early check outs are to be expected (I had a handful of these when I worked second shift). My guard called the field supervisor and explained that I gave him the passdown and that he left early with the client and secured the facility; I hear the field supervisor just repeat, "Well, you need to check out in the five-minute window"...he wasn't even listening that my guard was following a CLIENT DIRECTIVE.
It's a job, not a career. Mediocre pay, poor management and lack or any real upward mobility are the real nails in G4Ss coffin. – less