Exclusive: HPW and the road to nowhere


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Steven Reinharz and Mark Folmer of Robotic Assistance Devices examine the changing nature of security guarding and argue that it’s time to move on from HPW.

Since life as we knew it abruptly changed in March 2020, the modern workforce has been re-evaluating how it does business. For many of us, work is now something we “do” – not somewhere we “go” and our performance is based upon the quality of results – not the hours spent pursuing them. Our metrics have changed.

Let’s face it. The old metrics were long overdue for a change, but as a recent article in The New York Times points out, “employers saw no reason to change when the old way had been making them money.” Within the private security industry, one such metric that employers have been loath to abandon is “Hours per Week” (or HPW as it as affectionately known), despite the fact that it’s the worst possible metric for Security Operations to use when evaluating their own success. While we’re arguing here that modern technology, rather than the current pandemic, will be the catalyst for abandoning HPW, we’re hoping that its demise occurs as swiftly, imminently and definitively as so many other long-standing business metrics that are now falling by the wayside.

The worst metric

Why is HPW so awful? It does not describe a company’s capacity, ability, differentiation, or value. All it measures is size – and “size” as a very limited (and not particularly relevant) definition of “billable man hours.” In the traditional guarding model, all that HPW shows is the number of security officers deployed at sites. To be blunt, who cares? HPW assumes that “all guards are created equal.” It discounts the role that technology plays in empowering those guards to perform their jobs. And, it completely ignores whether those guards have the capacity to deliver safety and security – which is, ultimately, why they’ve been hired in the first place.

All of which begs the question, “Why are we still incentivising our sales teams to maximise HPW?”

What would be better?

Anything! Seriously, just about any metrics that actually describe operations, performance, quality or value of the services delivered. Consider a combination of site turnover, client satisfaction, response times and incident resolution. All of these are indicators of a job well done.

Progressive companies also think outside the box by looking inward – at how well their organisations nurture a positive and rewarding work culture. For example, employee engagement and security officer satisfaction are potential metrics. Why? Because employees who are engaged with their work are more likely to perform better.

How do you drive employee engagement? There are many ways, but one of them is to make roles and responsibilities as interesting as possible. This is extremely difficult for companies to do if they’re striving for HPW on low margin business, because HPW values each guard as little more than a person at a post.  Instead, security officers should be equipped with the tools they need to manage situations. When empowered with data and insight through the use of technology, they can optimise their own performance while contributing to a superior level of safety and security at their assigned site. In other words, everyone wins.

Steven Reinharz

How can I bring about this change?

If HPW only measures size and bigger is not necessarily the desired goal, then as a security service provider, why not partner with your clients to reduce HPW? After all, security officer hours are expensive and they are not necessarily generating what they are intended to do.

What happens when you reduce HPW? From your clients’ perspective, they save money. Clear and simple. And from a service provider’s perspective, reducing hours makes your organisation leaner and meaner. It lessens internal administrative hassles related to unbillable time, overtime and overhead in general. There are fewer last-minute book offs and fewer vacation requests to manage. You can be subject to fewer compliance issues such as meals and rest break management. And, a leaner human guard force contributes to more organisational efficiencies year-over-year, because as security officer pay rates go up, so does the HPW spend.

Of course, the option to reduce HPW is predicated on the ability to deliver against more meaningful metrics; those things we spoke of earlier that directly correlate to quality of service and client satisfaction. How does this occur? How is it possible to do more with less?

Breaking the mould

You can do more with less, but it requires removing your “HPW lenses” and taking a hard, fresh look at what you’re really trying accomplish.

Consider any given job site. What are the mitigating measures that you’re trying to derive from “security at a post?” Why is there a person in each role? What are they contributing? Are the tasks they are providing routine? Are there two officers at a post because one may have to respond to a situation? One may need a break? One may need to patrol? Is the function’s goal to detect something? Is the intervention potentially dangerous? Does the position require human judgement or interaction? Does the service being performed by an officer bring value by virtue of being in-person? How important is accuracy, accountability, reliability and transparency?

After thinking about these issues, take a step back and consider three big questions: what can be automated, what can be remote and – perhaps the most difficult to visualise – what could “service” look like or mean? It’s time to bring modern technology into the equation. Combining a pared-back but technology-empowered guard force is the key to kissing HPW goodbye; to bringing much needed innovation to the field of Security Operations.

Mark Folmer

Proper resource deployment

The power of technology is now accessible to large and small companies alike. Technology allows you to deploy machines to handle the mundane, reserving better developed human security resources for situations that require intervention and exception management. Machines are unbiased, non-confrontational and can pick through the minutiae of finding the needle in a haystack. When technological resources are leveraged, expensive “Hours per Week” are no longer wasted managing nothing-to-report scenarios; instead, human resources are directed toward responding to issues and incidents.

Combining technology with a few different service models (none of which are based on HPW!) such as static security, shared services, mobile response, patrol and remote video monitoring offer better security and better value. We call these “Automated Response Services.” Choosing the right model involves aligning your security team’s goals with those of your clients.

This is where innovators come in and are turning the industry on its head. The forward-thinking view is that it is time to rethink the security industry; to identify and capitalise on the sweet spot between traditional security guarding services and security integrators. Integrations can be expensive and hit capital expenditure. Robots, drones, unmanned vehicles are connected devices taking advantage of cellular networks and are fully equipped with software-as-a-service to support security programs; they are considered an operating expense. A device that you can bolt to a wall, use at a gate, place in a parking lot or position in high traffic areas can optimise how you deliver security and how you mitigate risk. Devices that adopt artificial intelligence to learn from their environment, apply analytics and support compliance are accessible and cost effective.

By adopting the Automated Response Service approach, you are not taking away from your security service organisation because autonomous devices, combined with security officers, is still a service. In fact, it is a higher-end service that is more repeatable, scalable and takes full advantage of recurring revenue models. It increases net profitability as a percentage of total revenue.

Customer retention is also likely to increase, due to a superior level of service, lower out-of-pocket costs and a psychological “buy-in” in the minds of customers as to the value that smart, robotic solutions bring to their overall security operations. Once they’ve tried the ARS model, there will be no turning back.

The industry is in a state of transformation and this means that you, as a service provider and security practitioner, have the opportunity to lead the change. It’s time to fix years of wrongs. Pick metrics that make sense and consider how, by turning a broken model around, you can deliver better security to your clients and do so in ways that actually make more sense to you from a business success perspective.

As always, your comments are welcome! Share success stories or issues you have had below.


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