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Cost-effective Alternatives to Market-based Staffing

January 5, 2018

There’s a new twist in the longstanding challenge of staffing branches cost-effectively while meeting customer expectations for prompt service—the view of branches as sales centers rather than transaction hubs. How should this impact staffing levels? Should banks and credit unions continue to schedule employees to meet current demand, or instead aim to expand personnel to meet ambitious sales goals?

The latter is sometimes referred to as market-based staffing, or as I like to call it, “The Field of Dreams Strategy”—since it seems to be based on the idea that if you build a branch, customers will flock to it. That is typically not the case. Even in the most successful execution of new branch deployment, lobby traffic builds over time. And for existing branches, setting high sales goals and then staffing to meet them does not often translate to success. Frontline staff can only sell to accountholders who walk through the door.

With market-based staffing, the scheduling and deployment of staff is aspirational, based on the demographics of the market and the goals for tapping into the customer base. The branch has a goal to produce 50 mortgages and 500 new accounts, so you’d better have the staff on board to handle all the customers required to make those sales goals a reality. But if those customers don’t materialize in the branch in short order, what you have instead is idle staff and unproductive operating expenses.

A more efficient, commonsense approach capitalizes on technology advances to track branch transaction patterns so managers can schedule employees for the current volume of interactions, with the flexibility to staff up quickly as demand picks up. Think of it as “just-in-time staffing”—assigning the right financial professionals in the right branches at the right time. Several strategies, data sources, and automated tools support optimal staffing across the branch network, including:

Apply demographic data where it makes sense. Age, household size and income, employment patterns, and your organization’s current market share and growth potential are valuable data points in scouting branch locations and planning and honing marketing. By all means, use this business intelligence to develop opportunity profiles of existing and future branch territories. But market-based staffing goes a step too far in scheduling employees based on demographic potential—in effect, putting the proverbial cart before the horse by staffing for expectations rather than reality.

Frontline employees should be out in full force for the grand opening of a new branch to greet and serve existing, new, and prospective customers. But on a regular basis, aim to right-size schedules with sophisticated scheduling approaches to meet the current volume of customer interactions. Rather than staffing to handle sales goals, mine your core processing system and rely on staff scheduling software to track evolving transaction volume and service patterns across your branch network so managers can more accurately forecast where employees should be stationed when customers come calling.

Build demand and simultaneously staff to meet it. There’s good news and bad news in the 2017 Teller Line Study from FMSI, a Kronos company. For the first time in 25 years, the rate of average monthly transaction volume per branch is trending up, from 7,000 service interactions in 2012 to the current average 7,700. Transaction volume will likely never return to the 11,700 posted in 1992, but that 10 percent increase in recent years indicates that banks and credit unions are right-sizing their branch networks and staffing to meet current demand more efficiently.

The same study indicates that there is still much room for improvement, with average number of transactions per teller hour continuing to decline, from 15.6 in 2012 to 14.9 five years later, as labor costs per transaction rose from $1 to $1.19 over the same period. Staff scheduling and lobby tracker software provide valuable data to chart current and recent branch volume and types of transactions to guide smart scheduling so that frontline employees are staffed appropriately and can provide the services accountholders request as efficiently as possible.

With the help of these digital assists, you can also identify typical idle periods and time-block schedules for secondary duties such as sales calls to new and prospective customers. Adopting a nimble, responsive approach to scheduling holds down staff costs without sacrificing customer expectations for quick service.

Get a heads-up from customers in scheduling to meet demand. Offering accountholders the option to schedule an appointment via a convenient mobile app does double duty in meeting their needs and providing crucial data to optimize scheduling. When customers take advantage of the ability to schedule a consultation, branch managers know what services accountholders want and when and where they will arrive, so well-trained financial professionals can be scheduled to be standing by to serve them.

Watch the numbers that really matter—the bottom line. Overscheduling branch staff beyond demand unnecessarily increases what is already the largest non-interest cost category for financial institutions. Better track this expense with sophisticated analytics tools that help manager visualize the impact of possible overstaffing. The old saying, ‘what gets measured, gets managed’ applies perfectly here. Regardless of the scheduling strategy you choose, whether its market-based staffing or staffing to demand, you should keep track of this information to help understand the return on investment per approach.

Instead of staffing your branch to meet service goals, consider investing in marketing campaigns to drive traffic to your branches instead. Perhaps use messaging around having convenient locations staffed by knowledgeable professionals who can help you manage your money to achieve your financial goals. If you sell your branches and staff them efficiently, people will come—and that’s when staffing should be expanded to meet demand.


This article originally appeared in CB Insight

A Strong Corporate Culture Regains Your Employees Trust

December 18, 2017

Sometimes credit unions can be put in the unfortunate position of being the brunt of negative headlines, angry complaints on social media, or data breaches. When that day comes, the immediate focus for any organization is often not only on rebuilding trust with members, but the equally crucial priority of delivering on employees’ expectations to be able to take pride in their work.

Corporate culture remains a top priority for any financial institution, and before it can restore its public reputation, the executive team and frontline managers must look inward to evaluate whether their culture supports a positive and productive environment with open communications and ambitious but reasonable performance goals. In a recent survey by Kronos and Future Workplace, it was revealed that an organization’s commitment to operate with transparency, provide meaningful work, and support philanthropy were among the issues that matter most to employees of the financial services industry.

The importance of workplace culture holds true to current and prospective employees, as 76% of respondents said they consider more than salary when job hunting, and 73% want to know what a company stands for before accepting a job. A majority (52%) emphasized the need for their employer to maintain a strong philanthropic mission.

Like many industries, the issue of burnout was common among financial services employees, with 74% of women and 59% of men saying that they’ve suffered from mental and physical exhaustion caused by overwork and stress. The top factors linked to workplace dissatisfaction were unreasonable workloads and performance expectations, work–life imbalance, lack of flexibility, low compensation, poor management, and negative workplace culture. Millennials and members of Gen Z especially favored more flexible work arrangements.

Strategies to Adopt

These findings suggest several strategies managers can adopt to bolster employee engagement:

Provide meaningful work assignments. Forty-five percent of respondents said their jobs are most engaging when they can see that their work contributions make a difference, and 53% called for a freer flow of ideas to promote employee involvement in innovation. Giving employees more discretion and flexibility in how they do their work enhances feelings of control and supports innovation, notes Paul Zak in a recent Harvard Business Review article on “The Neuroscience of Trust.”

Develop and encourage direct reports. Rather than saddling employees with aggressive sales goals that lead to desperate measures, work one on one with direct reports to develop clear career paths. Half of survey respondents emphasized that opportunities for career advancement play an important role in how they feel about their work and employer, and 41% called for more training and development.

Communicate openly and honestly. Financial services employees, especially those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, want more frequent and objective feedback on their performance. Demonstrate to staff how they fit within your organization, and help them define their roles. Workforce analytic systems such as lobby tracker software can be deployed in the branch to provide clear and measurable performance data that frontline employees can rely on to monitor their progress on meeting the goals they have set for themselves in collaboration with managers.

Support the whole employee. “High-trust workplaces help people develop personally as well as professionally. Numerous studies show that acquiring new skills isn’t enough; if you’re not growing as a human being, your performance will suffer,” Zak writes. “Assessing personal growth includes discussions about work-life integration, family, and time for recreation and reflection. Investing in the whole person has a powerful effect on engagement and retention.” One avenue for this investment is giving employees time to volunteer for their favorite charitable causes, which also enhances your credit union’s philanthropic standing with the public.

Provide better training for managers. Managers have the single biggest impact on an organization’s employee engagement and performance. Establishing a manager effectiveness program within your credit union helps managers take accountability to improve, while employees feel empowered that their manager cares about them and is invested in their success.

Offer workplace tools with a consumer-grade experience. Employees want control over their work-life balance and expect technology, driven by mobile capabilities, to help manage their own day-to-day work environment. For example, if a teller realizes she can’t make her shift tomorrow, she can request a shift swap in a unified HCM and workforce management system, immediately opening the opportunity to other employees that may want to pick up the extra hours.

Based on his extensive research on the impact of trust in the workplace, Zak concludes that “employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.” In short, high-trust organizations reap the rewards of a positive, productive corporate culture. The most effective path for your credit union to emerge from a crisis—and to head off future setbacks—is to build trust with employees who serve as ambassadors for your brand with both consumers and prospective new staff.

This article originally appeared in Credit Union Today.

Optimizing the Branch in a Digital World Webinar Recording

December 14, 2017

Watch this recorded webinar, featuring leaders from Kronos and Community First Credit Union of Florida, to learn how your institution can deploy digital technologies in the branch to deliver a better experience to account holders-and valuable feedback for your organization.

Optimizing the Branch Webinar Image

Where banking technology has been and is going: New Infographic

November 27, 2017

NCR recently published this infographic titled 50 Years of ATM.  An interesting piece showing where banking technology has been and where it’s going.

See the infographic here.


Webinar: Optimizing the Branch in a Digital World

November 17, 2017

Register for our webinar taking place on 12/13/17 at 2:00 pm EST to learn how your institution can deploy digital technologies in the branch to deliver a better experience to account holders. Allowing account holders to make appointments ahead of time, monitoring lobby activity to ensure prompt service, and capturing feedback quickly and easily can give your organization the best of both worlds.

See how branches are reinventing the branch with digital technology. Our experts will explore how you can:

  • Make appointments more convenient and effective
  • Put the branch lobby to work for you
  • Capture feedback with a simple smile or frown button
  • Nurture an engaged, productive workforce
  • Schedule for productivity and optimal service

Register now

Account Openings Without Going to a Bank Branch

November 8, 2017

Banking apps have made many people’s lives simpler.  Checking balances on the go and remote deposit capture have been a great time-saver, but when it comes to opening accounts consumers still generally have to visit a branch.

Wells Fargo recently announced a new standalone mobile-first app, called Greenhouse, that is designed to change this.

“Combining personal finance management tools with Wells Fargo banking, the Greenhouse experience will help consumers pay bills on time, spend confidently and start to build a savings cushion,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.

An ideal app for the under-banked and the younger generation, it’s an innovative step into the future and other bankers and fintechs should take note.

“Whether you are new to banking, don’t have regular paychecks, or typically manage money with cash, we believe the Greenhouse experience can help you manage day-to-day spending while planning for the future,” Wells Fargo added.

Time will tell how apps, like Greenhouse, will change the mainstream customer journey, but in the meantime the branch is still a major channel for most institutions.  Learn how banks are optimizing the branch in a digital world in our latest white paper—a free download here.

White Paper: Optimizing the Branch in a Digital World

October 27, 2017

asset-thumbnail-sd0258New white paper reviews how successful financial institutions deploy digital technologies across all areas of the institution, reinventing the branch for account holders and employees.

See how digital technology can improve branch sales, productivity, service, and employee engagement.

A free download here.