Deb Stewart_resize
Deb Stewart Feb 7, 2019

Making the most of mobile scheduling

Times have changed—and mightily so—since bank staffers had to check out a coffee-smeared wall calendar in the back office to find out their schedules, block out requested days off or leave a sticky note asking for takers on a shift swap.

Thanks to mobile scheduling, employees can use their tablets or smartphones to swap or offer shifts, request time off or ask for overtime. Availability of these cloud-based solutions and apps means employees can make these important requests wherever they are.

Why is this necessary for banks beyond running a smooth day-to-day bank operation? Simply put, an employee’s work schedule falls within the overarching schedule that runs all of our lives. Mobile scheduling decreases a critical pain point—and in the process, improves employee satisfaction. It also bolsters the currency of the workforce management (WFM) system and removes limitations of schedule juggling in the workspace during working hours.

It makes life easier for managers, too. They can view, approve or decline requests—saving time while facilitating staff collaboration. These features drive employee engagement and productivity, giving employees an element of control over when they wish to work.

What we can learn from retail

“We have seen a real shift in worker attitudes as a new workforce generation arrives,” explains Kerim Tumay, marketing vice president, Kiran Analytics, A Verint Company. “The expectation of flexibility has become the cultural imperative, often supported by state employment regulation. WFM functionality has increased to address this with vacation bidding, shift swapping and other functions supported by smartphone apps.”

Retailers know smartphone apps that provide this functionality are key to meeting those expectations. “My Walmart Schedule” provides more predictability and flexibility to manage family life—and work life. Associates can pick up additional hours to create a schedule that works for them. They can pick up unfilled shifts and exchange shifts with co-workers. The Gap saw 62 percent of their part-time hourly workforce post or pick up a shift in the first 30 weeks of their Shift Messenger program. Concerns about older associates participating were dispelled: 46 percent of workers over 50 used the tool.

How retail bank structural changes drive urgency

Changes in how retail banks run their branch networks make mobile scheduling important to coordinate an increasingly complex workforce:

  • Shared resources. Managers responsible for multiple branches and resource pools (a group of employees that move from branch to branch) have become common. These changes require more efficient ways to assess need and availability, as well as create, manage and update schedules.
  • Mobile branch managers. Branch managers spend more time out of their branches and in their communities to generate new business. Mobile scheduling allows them to manage schedules wherever they work.

Why have banks been so slow to adapt?

There are simple and complex reasons:

  • Wifi in branches. If workers use their own devices, wifi availability is important.
  • Establishing BYOD (bring your own device) policies. Banks are finding ways to balance state employment regulation and security with branch customer experience expectations.
  • Security. Security will remain a concern for banks as they innovate.
  • Regulation. California regulations require employers to reimburse employees for cell phone use when employees use their personal phones for business purposes.
  • Lack of priority by senior leadership. Senior management may understate the complexity of managing shifting schedules and the need to help employees do it.

How TD Bank made it work

“Everyone has their phone in their pockets, all the time,” says Laura Kilday vice president, senior workforce manager at TD Bank. “There’s an expectation that people can do nearly everything from their phones … and that includes employees checking their schedules whenever and wherever they choose.”

In that spirit, TD Bank introduced mobile scheduling. Says Kilday: “Rather than having to wait to go into the branch to get their schedule, they can access it anywhere and plan accordingly.”

TD mobile scheduling is presented as part of an employee app store that houses tools for HR and expense reporting. This approach saves time and confusion for users to download and access the new platform. An ancillary tool allows users to enter their number, which triggers a text sent to their device with a link to download the app. The app also serves as a prominent component of the new hire toolkit.

TD began offering this capability in April 2017. Today, 78 percent of eligible associates use it actively. “We monitor download usage and coach, sharing best practices across regions. This is not purely a millennial tool,” Kilday adds.

TD Bank did face some challenges at launch, though. Initially, there were concerns about overtime implications if employees accessed the app outside of business hours. This was addressed in three ways. First, TD made the app optional, having employees opt-in. Second, it was important to understand what an employee would do on the app; viewing their schedules on-the-go is a benefit instead of a work-related task and thus not eligible for overtime.

Finally, this was not the first app available to TD associates. They previously had access to HR tools and expense submissions before the introduction of mobile scheduling. This helped ease data security and authentication concerns, as they had been addressed with prior app store launches.

Kilday’s best advice for mobile scheduling:

  • Take a conservative approach.
  • Bring your stakeholders into the process early.
  • Early signoff from HR, legal and compliance will be key to getting this done.

What happens next?

"Mobile scheduling apps help banks improve workforce engagement in multiple ways,” Tumay concludes. “Ultimately, increased adoption of mobile scheduling apps in branches will depend on financial appetite for investments in physical channels; IT requirements such as network security and bandwidth in branches; and overall mobile HR strategies.”

Where will this technology go next? DenizBank, based in Turkey, may provide a preview. The goals of their Deniz’de (At the Sea) mobile app were to ensure prompt communication, provide easy access to HR platforms and to “wake up” the innovation potential of their employees. The DenizBank app earned a finalist spot at the 2018 BAI Global Innovation Awards in the Human Capital Innovation category.

The app features broad functionality—including human resource features such as locating the nearest hospital or pharmacy—and also posts employee ideas, comments by peers and subject matter experts, employee surveys, onboarding tools … even the daily cafeteria menu.

The future of mobile scheduling apps may grow well beyond scheduling. This only marks the beginning of meeting employee expectations for easy, flexible ways banks and employees can interact. Without a doubt, an exciting future full of possibility is right on schedule.

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Based in Charlotte, N.C., Deb Stewart is an independent consultant working for the financial services industry.

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