More and more end user customers are demanding accountability from their contracted security companies by insisting on independent verification of officers’ attendance on site, and particularly for services like mobile patrols. Les Wright discusses the latest developments in electronic monitoring systems for remote workers and how they can benefit private security companies
Put simply, the best way to meet end user requirements for proof of service when it comes to contracted security provision is by way of a dedicated electronic remote workforce management service. Already widely in use in the cleaning, FM and homecare sectors, this type of service is now commanding the attentions of security companies, not least because many ‘full service’ FM providers with more recently-established security divisions already have experience of using electronic monitoring systems for remote workforce management and are familiar with the numerous benefits they can deliver.
At the core of all such services is Time and Attendance verification which shows the whereabouts – in real-time – of all members of staff working remotely, duly confirming that site visits and specific shifts have been completed as and when required.
Attendance at the customer’s site can be recorded by landline with some solutions providers now also offering alternative ‘device’ options for logging in/logging out (among them smart phones, biometric solutions or fixed wireless telephones).
Smart phones are increasingly the favoured option with Time and Attendance achieved using a mobile app that scans a unique coded site tag – kept on site or at the premises – or with location being confirmed via specific GPS co-ordinates.
Built-in alert mechanisms
Another core feature common to most remote workforce monitoring systems is their built-in alert mechanisms. If members of the security staff fail to report for duty then a ‘no-show’ alert will be triggered such that remedial action can be taken to avoid any service breakdown. In turn, this helps when it comes to maintaining good relations with end user customers.
The latest generation of remote workforce systems come with features intended to appeal directly to security companies. For example, they can verify hourly check calls (for absolute proof that a visit was made), generate confirmed attendance reports for shift handover personnel and match actual to planned visits for enhancing accountability.
With any modern, current generation of remote workforce monitoring systems there are also extensive ‘back office’ benefits. Such systems can drastically cut payroll administration by eliminating the labour-intensive work involved in paper timesheet processing. They will also eradicate payroll overpayments, discrepancies, time fraud and disputes. Combined with providing a precise third party record of actual hours worked by security personnel, these systems typically realise a significant reduction in payroll costs.
It’s well known that, for security companies, managing rotas and shifts for the next 24-hour period can be complex and critical, particularly so when constant changes have to be made in order to prevent any service breakdown. With an effective remote workforce management service in place, staff scheduling and planning for the next 24 hours is simplified and changes to work schedules may be made on an instant basis. Notifying team members about covering for other jobs or changes to patrol routes is a process that can be conducted in real-time with auto-confirmation from staff in return.
Those security companies unfamiliar with remote workforce monitoring systems may believe them to be complex and that their staff will have difficulty in adopting them. In reality they are remarkably easy to use. Security personnel are given a unique PIN code and, on beginning their shift, they simply access a freephone number to log in. They then repeat that process to log out having completed their shift at any one location.
Immediately, supervisors can see in real-time the verified Time and Attendance of any individual member of staff. Calling Line Identification or standard mobile technology means the precise location of any security officer can be immediately ascertained. This removes scope for fraud and timesheet abuse.
A selection of reports and alerts allow management to check that staff have logged in and out at the right site as scheduled. If an officer is late to arrive or to leave then an alert can be raised and sent immediately to management. Remedial action may then be taken if there’s any breakdown in service. Reports can be used to prepare payroll and client invoices. Relevant information may also be sent to payroll and other systems.
Smart phones and mobile apps
As stated, if it’s not possible for members of the security team to use a landline, login and log out can be achieved using other methods such as a smart phone and mobile app that scans a unique coded site tag to verify location or a wall-mounted biometric terminal whereby staff log in and log out as a result of simply running their finger across the terminal.
It’s the ‘fool-proof’ way for supervisors to confirm that site visits and work shifts have been completed as scheduled. It also means third party evidence of visits, attendance and actual hours worked can be provided to clients.
Payroll modules – which are usually an option with the leading remote workforce management systems – will seamlessly integrate with the leading payroll systems such that actual hours worked can be matched against contracted hours, thereby streamlining and simplifying the whole payroll process.
All organisations employing field-based staff have Duty of Care responsibilities towards them. This is all the more critical for security companies given the heightened risks inherent in the sector. Remote workforce monitoring systems will provide a crucial safeguard for lone workers by automatically raising an alert if a staff member fails to log out from the system.
Trigger settings, escalation procedures and alert recipients can be set by system end users according to their own requirements. This provides clear evidence of responsible risk management and, from the security company’s point of view, demonstrates a real commitment to their employees’ safety and welfare.
Security and FM converging
Leading FM players now offer security as part of a broader range of services as they compete against the established ‘stand-alone’ guarding specialists who focus solely on the security offer. A bigger market for end users, then, has subsequently attracted more entrants and increased competition. Adopting an electronic remote workforce monitoring system can give security companies a critical edge in what is now a highly competitive marketplace.
Any security company employing large numbers of staff who work on a remote basis will benefit from a remote workforce management system that affords them proof of service delivery (for their clients), major reductions in valuable time spent on payroll administration, the elimination of any timesheet fraud or overpayment problems, exact measures around contract profitability and a reduced payroll bill.
Les Wright is Head of Sales (Security) at Ezitracker