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Tips and Tools for Efficient and Effective Schedule Management

By Mark Folmer, CPP, MSyI

How to deal with Last-Minute Dropouts and No-Shows

 

“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” This well-known maxim from military strategy can be adapted to scheduling in your security services firm: “No planned guard schedule ever survives the approaching shift.”

A little exaggeration?

Maybe, but it it does highlight the workplace reality of how planning scheduling differs from its execution. Planning may not be an overly complex puzzle, assuming, of course, you have the right number and quality of resources. In other words, depending on the size of your operation, you are in the happy place of having “x” number of shifts to fill and the resources to match — or better yet — exceed the demand.

Effective Scheduling dealing with No ShowsBut then the unforeseen strikes. Dealing with a no-show, a last-minute book-off, or an emergency request, you are up against the clock and some mission-critical problems can beset you, such as:

  • Client confidence taking a hit because your guard is not there and client assets go unsecured.
  • Overtime costs rising because it takes you too long to get a new resource in and that affects your bottom line.
  • Your exposure to liability leaping up because you are not delivering on your contract. Even worse, something could go wrong while you should have had someone on-site.

How can you do efficient and effective scheduling in such situations? Here are:

 

4 tips on tackling the no-show

1. Manage the exceptions

Issues should stand out. Do not be distracted by information confirming that all is OK. When something does not meet established criteria, you want an alert. Flags are easy to see!

2. Tackle first things first

Not only do you want alerts, you want them in real time, with the most urgent first! That is where you start. Remember, time is of the essence.

3. Take on the complex before the easy

When someone books off, an experienced scheduler or operations person knows which sites are the tougher to schedule, e.g., due to location, skills required, or site realities. Put the odds on your side. Start with the most urgent task, when your on-call list has the most resources, then move to the most complex.

4. Be efficient by using all the tools at your disposal

Tasks that are repeated should be automated. Then adopt efficient ways to communicate with staff. Use SMS or email mass-messaging for open shifts. Another option: Have the system cascade offers to staff.

 

Data opens up your options

At TrackTik, we often talk about using data to improve a client’s security program. When you adopt tools and processes that allow you to harness operations data across your organization, you can measure performance and drive success. Data use becomes a mindset and a way of operating, in client-facing situations and back-office management. Data also gives schedulers opportunities to be more efficient and effective, as you can observe in these effective scheduling tactics.

 

Adopt shift bidding

Often referred to as self-scheduling, shift bidding is an operational process in which a large part of employee scheduling is put in employee’s hands. The employer can use a first-come, first-served system by sending an SMS to all selected officers: The first to respond will be assigned the shift.

Another option is to send the SMS sequentially. The messages will be sent to the officers based on a list created by the employer. This option allows you to choose the delay after each SMS that does not get a response. You can also offer different wage rates during the shift bidding.

 

Take advantage of commuting distances

Employee information stored in a scheduling system allows you to know how far an employee lives from a site. Generally, people prefer not to commute far to get to work. Your workforce system should be able to provide you with accurate commute-time estimates. Once you have that information, take advantage of modern communication tools such as SMS for shift offering.

 

Filter your on-call list by site-skills required

Identify soft skills and hard skills, i.e., the absolute musts and the nice-to-haves, respectively. Again, start with the complex skills and move on to the less complex.

 

Help schedulers support your bottom line

Schedulers manage a large part of the bottom line because they have an impact on overtime (OT). Two suggestions:

  1. Make it easy to identify who is at OT and at regular time. That gives schedulers the opportunity to make cost-saving decisions.
  2. Set a benchmark regarding what is an acceptable OT number. If the schedulers meet the target or stay below it, give them a bonus! Heck, if not, you will be presiding over the first-come, first-served, all-you-can-pay OT buffet!

 

Offer a carrot

Effective Scheduling offer premium shiftStuck in a scheduling bind? Offering a premium can be a handy escape. Maybe at a current rate, an employee will say “no thanks” to a shift, but at a slight premium say “yes.” If guards are within their regular time hours, this option is surely less pricey than overtime.

Plan for the best and expect the worst! There are no “maybes” about book-offs: They will happen, guaranteed. Adopt techniques and tools that allow your team to do efficient and effective scheduling management.

With the right security workforce management software, you can automate many of these steps and processes to support the success of your operations and admin teams. The bottom line is clear: less liability, better margins, and happier clients.

Those are great reasons to schedule yourself some well-earned fishing days!

 

Mark Folmer, CPP, MSyI
Vice President, Security Industry
[email protected]
Twitter: @markfolmer

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