The challenge of getting your staffing function right

The challenge of getting your staffing function right

Credit: PA

Immediately prior to the 2012 London Olympics it became apparent that there was an issue with the staffing of the Security function, a vital element of staging a successful Games. It appeared that the contracted company G4S, then the largest security company in the world, were not going to be able to provide the required number of staff to run their element of the security function.

How did they end up at this point and what could have been done differently?

The Games required 24,000 staff to deliver the Security function, of which G4S were to provide more than half people. The security team decided to take a different sourcing approach to some previous events and work with one supplier.  In the past, these events had worked with multiple providers to ensure they had a sufficient number of staff and when the Organising Committee reviewed the numbers submitted it appeared that they had the number required, if not more. However, in the labour market, people had been signing up with multiple companies to ensure they got work (and income) from the events. When the total numbers were collated and the duplicates removed, it was clear that there were not enough potential staff. The LOCOG approach of working with a single supplier sought to remove this variable from the staffing equation.

Once an overall number of required staff was identified, G4S went to market to obtain them and appeared to achieve the required numbers. However, as the process of allocation began it became apparent that there were problems.

People who had applied to fill the roles may not have made it through an already over-stretched vetting and interview process. At the next stage, some of those who had been chosen dropped out. These and other similar issues impacted the number of staff that would ultimately be available.

Additionally, when looking at the detail of the number of staff required, it became apparent that there were other limitations.

At the operational level, there was a requirement for a 50/50 mix of males and females, particularly relating to activities such as security pat downs (the closer inspection of individuals at the security checkpoint) where females could only search females and males could only search males.  

it would have been best to undertake a detailed Workforce Planning activity . . .

There were also limited allowances made for attrition – where people may come to training or their first one or two shifts, but not be present for all their scheduled shifts. When extrapolated across the many checkpoints at all Olympic sites, this meant that i) the final number of people required was higher than the original estimate, and ii) the on-the-ground number would only be correct if it allowed for the nuances of the on-the-ground delivery requirements, e.g. a 50/50 gender split of staff in to activities such as security pat downs.

By starting with a top-down number, as people progressed through the staffing activity funnel (attracting staff, recruitment, vetting, contracting, on-boarding, training, scheduling, and ultimately on-site activity) the number available at the bottom of the funnel (on-the-ground) was insufficient.  To properly determine the number of people required it would have been best to undertake a detailed Workforce Planning activity of the overall requirements, which meant starting at the bottom of the funnel (final required numbers). This would have allowed for the incorporation of discrete operational requirements which could then be built upwards to determine the final number required at the top of the funnel.

Furthermore, understanding the full scope of what needed to be provided would have allowed G4S to have the right processes and infrastructure in place in sufficient time to allow the full service to be delivered effectively. Underestimating the requirement and what was involved compounded the issues around sourcing, training, and delivering staff.

To get your staffing right, you need to work through all of the elements of the planning cycle.

The overall impact of this issues was significant operational dislocation for the LOCOG Security team close to the Games. Rather than fine-tuning their operations they were firefighting a significant operational issue. Ultimately the Ministry of Defence stepped in, deploying up to 7,500 personnel, sometimes from live combat zones, to supplement the delivery of the Games’ security. Other impacts were on the perceived preparedness of London to host the Games and the severe reputational damage that G4S suffered as a result.

This Workforce Planning challenge exists for all events at all levels. Not having sufficient staff will impact your event delivery, while having too many creates management and budgetary issues. To avoid these types of issues for your event you can talk to IPSEM Squared about how to manage this built on our staffing approach and experience of delivering these services at Olympic, multi-sport and single-sport events, as well as for event agencies. This, coupled with our deep domain knowledge in most event related functions will save your team time and cost when planning and delivering your operation, as well as reducing your level of risks.

To discuss your requirements contact us to learn how we can help you.

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