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Putting the Staff Idle Time in Motion

July 10, 2013

Productive Teller Idle Time Management

IDLE (i·dle)

By Kim Edwards, SVP, FMSI

Idling is running a vehicle’s engine when the vehicle is not in motion. This commonly occurs when drivers are stopped at a red light, waiting in a drive-thru lane, or waiting while parked outside a business or residence. Getting the engine back in motion requires putting your foot on the gas pedal and moving the vehicle forward.

When a Financial Institution (FI) has tellers not in motion (idling engine), or in this case not needed to process the volume coming through the door, typically they are tasked with completing a multitude of open ended duties. How often are these duties completed?  Even the most seasoned and most valuable tellers will admit they commonly stand around waiting for the next account holder to walk in the branch—and who can blame them?  Leaving the teller line to complete secondary duties can put service levels at risk.  Serving that next person is their primary job and they have no idea of when that individual will arrive.

This type of standing around, or what we like to call “teller idle time,” has a quantifiable excess labor costassociated with it.  When an organization makes a decision to utilize a workforce management scheduling tool to better handle teller idle time, they can take this excess labor cost and improve sales, service and productivity.

So how do FIs fill their branch idle time throughout the day with meaningful and productive tasks that provide a value proposition? How do they put the engine back in motion?

When a decision is made to specifically schedule and fill idle time with productive tasks, FIs are providing an environment where their staff feels empowered. Staff sales and product training can benefit by scheduling specific learning tasks during idle time.  This targeted training can improve an FIs sales and service culture.  Furthermore, idle time can be filled with scheduled outbound follow up calling, outbound visits and setting sales appointments for new loan and new account relationships.

When held accountable for staffing decisions and the efficient use of idle time, branch managers will present a more cost effective and productive branch.  Engaged staff produce fewer errors by spending more time focused.  Encourage active participation and solicit input from the teller staff regarding the “wish list” of activities they would like to have available during idle time. You might be surprised at what tasks they see as adding value to the organization!

Create your idle time tasks based on what is most important to the organization.  Ask yourself, what brings value to the account holder, the branch, and the bottom line?  The following are idle time tasks ideas for your staff:

  • Taking regulatory online courses such as Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) training
  • Courses for product training and service knowledge development as well as sales skill honing
  • “Think Outside the Branch” regarding other departmental projects tellers may assist with and learn from, like back office data entry projects
  • Branch growth opportunities through a well-defined on-boarding process (follow-up phone calls with new customers/members) , with a focus on cross-selling
  • Cross-training and job shadowing to identify those staff that may be a good fit for future positions within the branch (Is the job a good fit for the person and is the person a good fit for the job)?
  • Career Path Development; through dedicated employee conversations about where they want to be in five years and offering a series of online skill set development courses—instills career growth opportunity in staff and promotes loyalty to the organization
  • Call Center Back-Up; set up a phone station in empty offices to provide back-up (during idle time) for Call Center staff

With staff being the most costly resource for an organization and with costs that continue to rise, the decision to use idle time to your advantage ensures you are making the best use of those resources.  The possibilities are endless and the ROI is a productive, well-oiled engine when you put your foot on the gas pedal and put the idling engine in motion!

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