The degree of success of a guarding company is largely determined by the degree of efficiency with which the company’s guard force is applied to the requirements of the company’s clients. The process of ensuring the efficiency may be called workforce management. EasyRoster is a very important TOOL which can be used to provide the information which is required by workforce managers to achieve their efficiency objectives.
Obviously it is almost impossible to achieve 100 percent efficiency because of the ever-changing client requirements and guard complements, as well as varying degrees of unpredictability with regard to personnel behaviour. However, the closer a company can get to achieving the 100 percent efficiency target, the happier their clients will be and the lower the wage bill will be.
In order to achieve maximum efficiency with regard to guard force utilisation, it is necessary to consider the following points:
It is essential that client contracts are initiated and maintained with the utmost care and accuracy. The current state of contracts determines the number of guards that are required at the current point in time. If contracts are not maintained, then either rosters or invoices, or both, could be incorrect. This could be that either too many or too few guards are posted to sites, or in extreme cases, those guards are posted to sites where contracts have lapsed.
It is equally important to ensure that all applicable staff members are notified of any contract changes.
Legislation with regard to wage determination
Wages are by far the biggest cost driver in the guarding industry and should therefore be given the most attention when it comes to controls.
The current legislation should be used to determine the most efficient shift pattern that should be used to roster and post guards. The most efficient shift pattern is the one according to which no overtime, as well as no non-productive time, is accumulated.
There are situations where the most efficient shift pattern cannot be used because of client requirements or other operational reasons. An example of this is when a client requires a guard to work from Monday to Friday, in other words, 5-on-2-off. In South Africa, this will mean that the guard will qualify for overtime during each week or month. This is obviously unavoidable but should be taken into account when preparing a quotation for the client.
Number of guards needed to meet client requirements
It is very important to determine the correct number of guards (by grade and skill level) needed to meet the requirements of all client sites. The reasons for this are twofold.
Firstly, if there are too few guards then it would mean that some of the existing guards would have to work overtime in order to meet client requirements. This obviously has a negative effect on wage costs.
Secondly, if there are too many guards then the company carries unnecessary costs with regard to basic wages, uniforms, provident funds, etc.
Naturally, the shift pattern used to roster guards determines the number of guards that are needed to cover all sites.
The HR department should use these details to ensure that the correct numbers of the correct grades of guard should be employed, where possible, and that the correct grades of guard are employed when new guards are needed.
Complement of excess or spare guards
It is desirable to have a complement of excess or spare guards (usually by area, depending on the level of operational control). These excess guards should also be rostered according to the most efficient shift pattern. The reasons for the excess complement are threefold.
- Firstly, to be used as relievers when guards go on leave.
- Secondly, to take the places of guards that are AWOL or sick during a specific shift.
- Thirdly, to be used to cover ad hoc or temporary requirements that occur from time to time.
It is important that the company decide on an acceptable percentage of guards that should fulfil this role. It is also important that these rostered excess guards be posted when there is a shortage of any nature because that is what they are rostered to do. It is silly, and expensive, to post guards that are on their off shifts to fill shortages when there are rostered excess guards available for this purpose.
When preparing a tender or quotation for a specific client, it is obviously necessary to consider the following:
- what exactly the client requires in terms of numbers of posts, grade requirements and shift patterns to be used,
- what the actual cost to company would be to meet these requirements as efficiently as possible,
- what the required wage-to-revenue percentage should be on the site,
The rostering cycle
Historically, rostering has been carried out as a manual process without taking all the components of efficiency into account. Total efficiency with regard to guard force utilisation would mean that the correct numbers of guards, of the correct grades, are rostered and posted for the correct number of hours to the correct sites. Furthermore, there should be no overtime, no non-productive time, and each site should deliver the required percentage of profit.
Rostering should really be carried out in a cycle with each iteration of the cycle being used to increase the efficiency of the roster. This means that after the first iteration of the roster, checks should be done to determine whether there are any inefficiencies on the roster in terms of:
- under- or over postings,
- under- or over gradings,
- non-productive time and
- required profitability.
Where inefficiencies are found, changes should be made to the roster by either:
- moving people between sites,
- changing shift patterns,
- adding people to sites where there are shortages, or
- removing excess people from sites
Once this is done, the above checks should be done again. And so the iterations should continue until the most efficient rosters have been created.
Once this has been achieved, the master schedule should be saved and used again the next time rostering takes place so that the next rosters are already efficient, and only typically need to be checked and fixed in one iteration of the process.
All the above-mentioned steps which should be followed to plan for maximum efficiency in the utilisation of a guard force would be worthless if a company did not have effective operational control. Rostering or planning is only one step in the operational process.
Once an efficient roster has been compiled, it is imperative that operational managers at all levels ensure that the roster is followed by guards as much as is possible. This includes ensuring that sites are neither over-posted nor under-posted. Otherwise, the effect of all the efficiency planning would be negligible.
Wherever guards do not work according to the roster, rostered excess guards should be used as relief in order to minimise the cost of exceptions.
Making use of biometric devices, either mobile in supervisory vehicles or static at sites makes the registration of attendance far more accurate than relying on manual reporting procedures. Other than that, this technology enables real-time reporting which obviously enables operational management to rectify any attendance issues immediately.
Ideally, the payroll should be generated from the attendance details that have been captured and checked for accuracy by operational managers who have also ensured that there are no over- or under-postings at sites.
In this way, ‘ghost guards’ would be eliminated and the correctness and minimisation of the payroll can be ensured.
As can be determined from the discussion above, there are quite a number of issues that should be taken into account when managing a workforce in a guarding company.
Some guarding companies seem to be of the opinion that a simple time-and-attendance system would solve their wage problem. This is definitely not the case. The main contributors to a minimised wage bill are efficient planning and operational control (which obviously includes time and attendance).
It is almost impossible to make the correct management decisions with regard to the above-mentioned issues without the use of a management tool which provides the necessary information to help in the decision-making process. EasyRoster is used by a large number of guarding companies throughout Africa and the Middle East to ensure that guarding operations are planned and controlled efficiently. EasyRoster Deployment Manager (ERDM) may be used as the interface between biometric devices and EasyRoster.
The staff of EasyRoster Software, the suppliers of EasyRoster and ERDM would also gladly provide a consultancy service to help with any of the above-mentioned issues no matter what your company’s wage calculation rules are.
Albert co-founded EasyRoster Software in 1995 and helped grow the business to where it is today. Albert has over 25 years of experience in Workforce Management and Software development which has helped the EasyRoster team build one of the best WFM systems on the market today.