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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Case Study: Kent Fire and Rescue optimises staffing with time and attendance system

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As one of the busiest in the country, Kent Fire and Rescue Service was keen to maximise the number of operational fire crews that it had available to attend incidents, especially during key holiday periods.

The Service has 66 fire stations and 120 fire engines as well as 1,700 operational members of staff, who deal with around 20,000 happenings every year.
 
So the decision was taken to implement a time and attendance system from supplier Kronos to create schedules for the entire workforce, in a move that took nine months.
 
Shifts are now set centrally by checking firefighter availability against their skillsets and ensuring that every fire crew has the necessary expertise and seniority of personnel on duty. Managers are alerted automatically to deal with any unscheduled absences and the software identifies  appropriate replacements to fill any gaps.
 
It also links to the Service’s mobilising system and provides real-time information about who is working in each crew, how long a fire appliance has been at a particular incident and when it will need replacing.
 
When a replacement is required, the software identifies who should work on the next available fire appliance by matching schedules with skills. Its analytical capabilities likewise enable Kent to project its future staffing requirements.
 
Such information has resulted in the Service creating a range of part-time contracts to ensure that it has enough staff available during its busiest times. The move has also led to a number of HR administration personnel being re-deployed elsewhere. 
 
Steve Griffiths, director of community safety at Kent Fire and Rescue, believes that the new system has led to the creation of a more streamlined fire service and, ultimately, could help to save lives across the county. His top tips for implementation success are:
 
1. Know where you are
“If you change the way your staff work, you need to make sure that you know how and when staff are working and have a system to monitor that. What’s the profile of your activity and risk?”
 
2. Plan for tomorrow
“Don’t build your system to the way you work today – configure it to how you will work in the future. It’s about scoping the change properly. You need to involve stakeholders and invest time and effort in this area, but it will bring benefits later”
 
3. Revisit your project
“Continue to change once your product is in place. After we’d been live for 18 months, we did an in-depth review with our supplier partner to come up with efficiency improvements. When a product is new, you don’t exploit all its capabilities. Most of our 1,700 staff had only used Microsoft Office before. It’s important to take them forward slowly.”
 
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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