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A Two-Pronged Strategy for Scheduling Float Employees

October 23, 2013

By Kip Sweeney, Vice President Client Relations at FMSI

Certainly, actions have consequences and when it comes to scheduling employees capable of working at multiple locations across a branch network, also known as float pools, there are numerous possible pitfalls.  However, the challenges of managing frequently-changingemployee availability and last-minute schedule requests, render it next-to impossible for workforce administrators to minimize staff hours while simultaneously providing excellent service to customers or members, without a float pool.

1) Know When to Use a Float Pool

The first step to evaluating a float deployment strategy is to determine whether a float pool is warranted for a particular region.

Typically, an employee within a float pool will work at several locations within a single month and possibly, even more than one location within a given week. In some organizations, the floating employees are not assigned to a ‘home branch’, but rather roll-up to a regional level for scheduling purposes.

The float pool provides a way for a central scheduler, administrator or region manager to mitigate understaffing risk within regions characterized by wide fluctuations in available personnel. Float pools are costly as most staff require a certain minimum number of weekly hours and oftentimes, are comprised entirely of full-time employees (FTEs).

Due to the complexity of creating multiple branch schedules at once, float pool scheduling is typically performed using a sophisticated scheduling engine, as opposed to being created manually by a branch or region manager. The scheduling engine accounts for absences, forecasted demand, and other elements in order to build schedules for the region.

The characteristics of regions and branches that benefit from the use of float pools:

  • High density of branches within close proximity to one another.
  • Wide fluctuations in available personnel such as branches with above-average annual vacation allotments per employee, or branches with consistently high rates of employee turnover.

2) Measure Branch-Specific Output Per-FTE 

In several institutions I’ve visited, regional managers are unable to explain why they would send a resource to a particular location, except to say that the branch manager claims service will suffer if they don’t get another resource for a particular day. Essentially, the most persistent branch managers will get the resources. However, the ‘gut feel’ approach doesn’t provide a way to measure actual staffing needs.

Knowing where to place floating resources depends on having a solid understanding of branch-specific output-per-FTE within a region. By looking at output, a scheduler can validate which branches need extra resources and on what days.
To measure output-per-employee, simply divide branch transactions by number of FTEs.  This is most effective when done consistently and broken out by region or individual branches to see which ones have relatively low transactions-per-FTE.  On the platform side, a lobby tracking system could be used to aggregate the total sales and service transactions, which could then be compared to platform FTEs.

Consider the following hypothetical scenario – Listed below for a region in Atlanta are FTEs, aggregate sales & service interactions (output), and output-per-branch. Employees of all three branches can work in any location.

The Atlanta region manager receives a request from the Woodstock branch manager for a platform employee to cover an unexpected employee absence. The Atlanta region manager reviews the number of sales & service interactions, per branch, within his/her region and determines that the Woodstock branch has the lowest platform traffic, and can handle their traffic being down an FTE. Borrowing a resource from either the Atlanta branch or the Alpharetta branch could jeopardize service at these branches given the considerably higher demand. By measuring output-per-employee, the region manager has a defined method for evaluating requests for float staff.

Conclusion – Float Employees are Essential

Floating employees are an essential ingredient in minimizing overstaffing caused by unexpected FTE absences. Institutions that are not currently using floating resources would benefit from developing a strategy that more effectively and dynamically matched staff to demand.

Managing float pools and location-flexible employees is certainly challenging and it’s important that decision makers, regional managers, and staff administrators have adequate business intelligence, as well as reliable reporting tools to add a layer of additional validity to any decision.

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