Police force command and control and contact centres operate in a highly pressurised environment where having the right amount of staff in place to handle inbound emergency calls is critical. Over the years police forces have excelled in benchmarking how other industries apply workforce management technology and assessing whether the application of that technology could work in their own environment.
Thanks to the rise of social media and the increasing public profile of many forces, this has driven a need for a more customer focussed approach when dealing with members of the public. As a result we are now seeing increasing interest from UK police forces in investing in customer service based technologies like workforce management (WFM).
Workforce management technology helps police forces struggling to balance limited resources with dwindling budgets and high public expectations by providing the ability to forecast accurately, how many staff they require at any given time. Failure to resource correctly can result in unnecessary overspending of budgets, potential damage to force reputation if mishandling of calls goes public as well as exposing the public to danger if responses to incidents are not swift enough.
With this in mind, we highlight three ways workforce management technology can help police forces more effectively manage their workforce.
Police forces that haven’t deployed a workforce management solution tend to use a combination of legacy duty management systems and spread sheets, which require a significant amount of time to plan and are at higher risk of human error.
Staff scheduling is a complex task, made more difficult where quick decisions are required from highly skilled call handlers to protect members of the public. Multiple conflicting objectives need to be addressed in order to ensure that all legal and contractual requirements are met. During the scheduling process planners need to take into account employees’ qualifications and availability, in order to ensure positions are covered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Workforce management solutions allow police forces to easily access important information regarding staff and automate the process of scheduling the right number of call handlers and dispatchers needed at any given time. In addition, WFM technology permits staff to self-serve and shift swap when needed within agreed parameters. By offering flexibility and allowing employees to manage their own schedules, it provides them with the opportunity to participate in the planning process getting them actively involved and more bought into the process, whilst reducing admin time for planners and schedulers. This in turn gives planners the opportunity to review more complex ‘what if’ type scenarios so they can better plan for major and unexpected incidents.
Police forces have extremely strict service level agreements (SLA), with 90% of emergency calls needing to be handled within 10 seconds and 90% of non-emergency calls within 45 seconds. Inability to meet these can potentially result in fines, loss of budget and public embarrassment. Having the ability to properly forecast staffing requirements is essential.
WFM technology gives supervisors easy access to historical demand data that can help identify the level of resources required during specific times of the year; such as sporting events, festivals, parades as well as change of weather and unexpected circumstances.
By ensuring the correct level of staff is present during specific events and occasions, managers can ensure that the increase or decrease in calls is fully managed and under control at the right cost.
In addition workforce management systems can help predict long-term needs and support scheduling for training programmes to make sure call handlers develop the right skills to meet the force’s needs.
3. Real-time Management
The number of inbound calls can be influenced by factors that can’t always be predicted, for example call volumes might increase due to a large or unexpected event. Consequently, procedures need to be put in place to respond to overall traffic levels as and when they happen. This means being able to track traffic volumes in real-time and take necessary steps to manage them accordingly.
Workforce management tools are designed to identify and understand call demand and staffing requirements. They provide fast and effective response to changing conditions that enable supervisors to manage their staff automatically, without the potential for human error.
This is particularly useful in emergency situations where call volumes suddenly spike as well as managing time away from the phones for call handlers who have dealt with distressing calls or unionised events such as strikes.
Ultimately workforce management software helps forces organise their workforce effectively to ensure they are capable of meeting their service level agreements at all times. It simplifies the process, reduces the costs associated with planning and resourcing and reduces the risk of mistakes being made.
To find out more on how WFM can help your organisation run more efficiently, contact the Business Systems’ team.