Work Force Management & making it work for you!

As a member of a security team there are several key things that we look for in an employer:

  1. Pay us on time, every time!
  2. Make sure we are paid correctly, every time!
  3. Let us know when we are working so that we don’t show up for a shift on what should be a rest day, or vice versa (don’t screw up our overtime!!)
  4. Register our holidays and pay us for them in line with our contracts
  5. Get information that we need to us in a timely manner
  6. Make sure that we have the tools that we need to do our job safely
  7. Make sure we have the tools to do the job properly
  8. Recognise our value to the business

I’ve numbered this list for my own convenience and don’t claim that its exhaustive. I’m sure that you will have your own item to add.

All the above can be achieved by good organisation. However, if the norm in a situation is to have to chase up emails, find notes on a clipboard, going with wrong information because someone hasn’t updated a spreadsheet or changed it since you last looked at it, be waiting for a call back from officer X about covering that weekend shift, then organisation is hard to achieve.

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to have all this information available in one place, up to date and accurate with real time updating? This is where workforce management comes in.

Why wait for a phone call when officer X can check an app on their phone and confirm that they can work a shift? Once the shift is covered its off the system and it won’t generate any further ‘if that shift still open’ inquiries, so freeing up time and resources.

Technology already plays a large part in the life of a security officer. Without a doubt technology will play an increasingly important role in the life of the security officer going forward. Apps permeate every aspect of our now permanently connected lives! It’s no surprise that the nature of work is being shaped by the increasing use of technology. But even the best technology in the world is useless if it is not introduced and used properly at all levels of an organisation.

I used to work in a control room where between 400 to 700 security officers booked on by phone depending on days or nights. Us controllers ticked off those signing on against a list and manually made any corrections that needed to be made.

It was time consuming, often frustrating, and prone to errors. Would technology have made this process easier?

When I go in to work now and book on, I call a number, enter my PIN, get confirmation that I’m booked on and that’s that! I only need to ring up and speak to a real live human being now if I get an error massage telling me I couldn’t be booked on – this happens rarely.

Going back to my control room days this system would have given me and the other controllers a lot more time to devote to other essential duties and dealing with inquiries. Under our pre-technology system, if an officer called in asking where his relief was, and another controller was on the phone to the relief officer trying to explain where the site they were supposed to be was, it often led to a backlog of people trying to book on. It’s not just admin staff whose life is made easier and less stressful by technology.

We could only deal with one phone call at a time. Software and automated booking on can deal with numerous routine calls without anyone having to pick up the phone.

So, for me, it’s not a question of whether technology has improved the industry or not, but rather how?

There remains some resistance to the idea of WFM in the industry, it’s only a way for the boss to spy on people is something heard every now and again. While it’s true that WFM, like anything else, can be abused (there will always be unscrupulous employers) where employers and employees are aware of the benefits and potential drawbacks it will make life a lot easier for both.

Suppliers and buyers need to make sure that they have properly assessed how a WFM system is introduced and used. Hint, if you haven’t gone to front line, spoken to the end user and surveyed them to work out what their pain points are, then you are probably not off to the best of starts.

Lack of end-user training is unfortunately all too common!

Several years ago I had feedback from a few colleagues on different sites. New patrolling software was being introduced, and out of the blue a shiny new tablet appeared with buttons to push and fields to fill out.

It was a total waste of everyone’s time. The officers who were expected to use it to ‘log’ their patrol couldn’t work it out. The training was the Chinese whispers variety – the site supervisor had been given a quick demo and told to train the rest of the team. It was introduced as ‘idiot’ proof, always an idiotic assumption to make!

What happened? Everyone struggled with it. People spent more time trying to work out what they were supposed to be doing with this new app on a tablet than they did carrying out the patrols they were supposed to use it to log. I was familiar with the system, even on its best day it was clunky and slow! Even then there were better solutions on the market which would have been a more sensible choice. None of the end-users had been consulted and the managers who put the system in place had never, to the best of my knowledge, patrolled a building!

The team never got any replies to their queries or concerns. Eventually the tablet was consigned to a drawer, pending an update, where it probably continues to gather dust to this day…

This is what happens when people very familiar with their software introduces it to a team of end users that were never consulted about how they would use it, what they would use it for, and let’s be honest, whether it was the right app for the job?

This illustrates why you need to know how the end-users actually work and consult with them and train them when a WFM system is deployed. 

Straightaway, before we even get to the software, we have the 2 biggest issues that lead to failure of WFM systems to be used to their full potential, lack of consultation of the RIGHT PEOPLE, and lack of proper training. No apologies for repetition, this is so fundamental to success that it cannot be overstated!

Running a close third is failure to explain properly to end users why the software is being introduced in the first place and how it will benefit THEM!

WFM makes it easier to book on, check for overtime and register for shifts and make yourself available or not, depending on your commitments. This can all be accomplished on an app on your own personal phone at your convenience, rather than having to call the office and be put on hold. Apps make things happen seamlessly in the background.

On the job a patrol report is written for you via the WFM app on the work iPhone, including allowing you to include pictures, videos and voice notes! Once you get back from your patrol you would no longer have to write up incident reports as you’d already have completed that in real time.

You can also complete your welfare calls to control via the app when walking around your site rather than having to go back to the office to make a call.

One of the banes of the manned security industry has traditionally been poor administration. WFM, set up properly by the supplier, can do a lot to correct that situation.

A major advantage of WFM is that everything happens in one place, no more trying to remember if a key piece of information is on a clipboard somewhere and needs to be phoned in and the frantic chasing around that this involves.

While researching WFM Solutions I looked at several systems. At IFSEC 2019 I set aside time to speak with Paul Ridden, the CEO of SmartTask and asked several very pointed questions. I have since then remained in contact with the company and have seen several demonstrations of the platform in action. I’ve also been able to speak to people who use it on the job – over all, I’m very impressed.

Time to declare an interest – in November 2019 SmartTask became corporate partners with TPSO in order to publicise the benefits of their application to a wider security industry audience. SmartTask is already being used by several security companies. I predict that this number will grow. In my view SmartTask basically sells itself!

Over the course of a 30-year career I’ve seen the development of WFM and am completely convinced of the benefits for both employers AND employees! Whatever your job, wherever you do it, there will be a workforce management solution that will help you to do it better, more efficiently and productively.

I’ve copied SmartTasks own introduction from their site:

About SmartTask: SmartTask is a cloud-based collaboration solution that caters to businesses of all sizes across various industries. It offers task management, project management, customer relationship management, location tracking and team monitoring.

SmartTask helps project managers and team leaders to assign specific tasks to team members or projects, add details using task or project comments, attach files to tasks or conversations and create recurring tasks. The solution also enables project managers to auto schedule dependent tasks in the timeline, log time for individual projects and track location of field workforce.

Additionally, SmartTask features project templates, email reminders, a custom reporting and analytics engine and enables users to invite guests to collaborate on tasks or projects. Mobile applications for Android and iOS devices are also offered by the solution that allow users to remotely manage their business activities. Services are offered on a monthly subscription basis that includes support via online live chat.

Case studies:

Comment from Paul Ridden SmatTask CEO:

Paul Ridden SmartTask CEO

“At SmartTask Workforce management technology is in our DNA. Our UK based developers have been building leading edge technology solutions for over 20 years, taking the latest and greatest technology tools and producing exciting new features that help security businesses operate more effectively. From Machine learning to Data analytics our systems take away the drudgery of paperwork, empower the workforce and help keep them safe”