The Security industry’s role in maintaining safe workplaces has never been more critical. Yet, individual security officers remain likely to drop shifts at the last minute and with greater frequency in the current climate, with illness, lockdown, self-isolation and home-schooling all common reasons for being off.

Having a reliable bench with relief officers on hand has never been more important. Sorting drops internally (as opposed to using agency officers) is no longer nice to have to improve margins but is increasingly expected by clients who require consistent support more than ever.

Thanks to COVID-related complications, staff sickness and absence rates could reach as much as 15% this winter and because of this, Controllers can no longer assume they know how many Security officers are going to be able to turn up on any given shift.

The truth is traditional static, fixed schedules and standard workforce management software can’t resolve blow-outs or unpredictable demand with any degree of reliability. It is too rigid and inevitably operates too close to maximum capacity to give scope for an adequate response.

Agency officers          

By using agency officers, Controllers find themselves stuck in a cycle of relying on them and allocating valuable time to filling shifts rather than dealing with the root of the staffing issues. Agency officers are also expensive and need to be trained, with each new officer having to be familiarised with site procedures before starting a shift.

By avoiding agencies businesses can not only save money but also the relentless job of ringing around to fill last-minute gaps. Agency staff also heightens the risk of internal officers catching COVID by increased mixing with outside staff members.

Static staffing

Static roles have a fixed rota pattern and are needed in place no matter how low or high each site requires So, what can Controllers do to avoid agencies but also ensure they have the staffing levels they require? The solution lies in rethinking the approach to static staffing - or staffing by fixed-schedule, permanent team members.

In short, the answer is to set full-time staffing levels to the minimum required for operational stability and use a bench of dynamic reserves to cover all other levels of demand.

Static roles are those that have a fixed rota pattern and are needed in place no matter how low or high each site requires. Dynamic roles, in contrast, are those roles that can be filled from a pool of people who work non-fixed hours. Once minimum full-time staff requirements are determined then Controllers can begin mapping the dynamic reserves needed to build a bench of officers.

How to build a bench

  1. Choose areas of the business (by client contract or region) that will benefit most. As a guide, look first where any agency usage is significant.
  2. A bench isn’t a line-up of second-rate substitutes - it’s an opportunity to build a talented flexible workforce that wants or needs to be able to work non-standard hours. By empowering bench officers with choice over how and when they work, businesses will see less staff turnover and be able to fill shifts quickly and easily with the right people.
  3. By taking into account the preferences and skills of the workforce businesses can intelligently match available officers to the right shifts for them. This helps to build better teams that work well together and allows officers to choose the shifts that suit them best.
  4. There has never been a better time for recruiting additional bench staff. This may seem an odd strategy during a recession, but with unemployment levels at a high and incentives from the government to employ apprentices, now is actually the perfect time to look at what additional skills each team needs to offer high levels of service. With the option of flexible contracts and many officers looking to be able to fit work into their busy lifestyles, recruiting additional officers to be part of a bench is a win-win situation.

Flexible working options

Dynamic staffing gives maximum responsiveness and efficiency but it is complex There are further advantages of internally filling roles, especially during the pandemic, such as peace of mind that officers aren’t mixing unnecessarily with outside staff, reducing the risk of exposure to the virus.

This is especially important for those who live with or are high-risk people themselves. In addition to this, by offering flexible working options, officers can feel empowered and happier; we live in a flexible and personalised society so why shouldn’t this thinking be applied to our working lives?

By giving officers this dynamic option, many who have other responsibilities such as childcare or aging relatives to care for can still enjoy working and contributing to society. This way of thinking is inclusive, empowering and a lifeline for those who are juggling different factors.

Dynamic staffing software

Dynamic staffing gives maximum responsiveness and efficiency but it is complex. The moving parts involved - the volume of officers, their availability, the necessary skills, performance feedback - is hard enough when setting schedules in advance.

Throw in last-minute blow-outs because of sickness, timetable clashes and operational needs and the sheer complexity can cause an operational meltdown.

Dynamic staffing software can help take the operational headache away.

Treating officers equally

Lastly, it is important that all officers are treated equally, whether full time or bench.

Controllers and the reputation of the business rely on these bench officers to respond to unpredictable needs, they aren’t a band-aid, they are the business and their performance depends on their satisfaction and retention.

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