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Changing the Scheduling Mindset

April 19, 2011

For most retail branch networks, the mindset of scheduling tellers has been unchanged since the inception of teller lines — resulting in costly inappropriate staffing levels and excessive scheduling preparation time for management.  I.H. Mississippi Valley Credit Union (IHMVCU), a $830,000,000 asset, 14 location institution in West Central Illinois, took on the challenge to shift this scheduling mindset with the help of FMSI’s Teller Management SystemTM(TMS) — and over the past two years they were able to accomplish a 29% increase in their overall productivity and an astounding 20% decrease in their average labor cost per transaction.

Scheduling Before and After

As perennial members of the FMSI Comparative Data Top 10 monthly benchmarking report, IHMVCU has been very effective at utilizing the TMS scheduling engine to staff the right number of tellers at the right time.  Prior to implementing TMS, they would schedule tellers based on the number of open teller windows per branch — from open to close.  When it came to employee preferences and time-off requests, the manager responsible for preparing the schedules would have to manually track and adjust the schedules as these requests came in. 

Ann Mowry, EVP Sales at IHMVCU, described their situation by stating, “We knew our staff was spending a lot of time manually doing scheduling and we had an idea that our tellers were dictating their hours regardless of how it would impact the branch’s performance numbers.  These were major factors that drove us to find a more efficient process”

The web-based TMS scheduling engine not only significantly reduced the scheduling preparation times for the IHMVCU team, but it also put an accountability process in place that allowed for the optimization of their workforce.  Kim Brozovich, Branch Manager at IHMVCU, explains how the branch employees initially interacted with the solution, “We habitually wanted to schedule tellers from 9:00-5:00, but the scheduler showed us when we actually needed to be at a window processing transactions.  There was an adjustment period where we all had to familiarize ourselves with the new process.”  To help this transition, IHMVCU empowered their assistant branch managers with handling the FMSI program.  The branch employees were more receptive learning about the program from their peers — as opposed to something coming from corporate.  The successful adoption of the program has been a contributing factor that impacted their 72% drop in excess labor costs over the past two years.

Another benefit of the system that IHMVCU experienced is an improved work ethic by their tellers.  Brozovich explained, “Our vanishing tellers that go for coffee and to the restroom to chit-chat are no longer doing that because we hold them accountable to the numbers on the report.”  This improved focus on productivity decreased their errors and has ultimately resulted in what she described as “better tellers.”
Scheduling Tasks & Managing Employee Preferences
The real-time online scheduling engine allows IHMVCU to assign non-processing tasks during natural downtimes throughout the week.  Based off historic transaction volumes for a particular branch, the user is able to simply point and click over the identified slow periods on the scheduler and to assign activities such as balancing the vault and managing the overnight bags. 
“Prior to using FMSI’s scheduling solution we would often work on non-processing tasks during inopportune times, says Regional Branch Manager at IHMVCU, Teresa Pearsall.  “It has been very helpful for us to see the forecasted lulls during the day and delegate tasks appropriately.”

Furthermore, during the scheduling creation process, IHMVCU can quickly react to time-off requests or specific shift requests by employees – while continuing to optimize the branch’s workforce. 

“With using the scheduler, we have been able to effectively communicate to our employees – with validated forecasted data – when would be an appropriate time to be away,” Jennifer Lazenby, a Branch Manager at IHMVCU, states. “They appreciate the flexibility the system enables and it has provided a more cost-effective schedule.” 

Best Practices from IHMVCU

  • Use the absentee management report to recognize patterns for problem employees who are missing too much work. 
  • Use the TMS forecast to plan and determine the right time to process night drops or other tasks.   
  • For us it makes more sense to give our employees the morning off instead of the afternoon.
  • Require your employees to give at least a 30 day in-advance notification for time off request. 

Mindsets can be extremely difficult to change – especially in a traditional retail setting where service levels can be impacted by change.  By transforming their mindset on how they prepare and manage their schedules, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union has been able to dramatically improve their workforce optimization.   With a more lean operating business and the tools in place to successfully manage their retail branch network, they are consistently recognized by FMSI as a top performing client.

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