Chris Zaske Mar 9, 2015

Workforce management models for sales improvement

Managing a decentralized branch network presents challenges for banking executives. They have no real visibility into what their employees are doing on a daily basis, yet they rely on these same employees to deliver greater results and provide high-quality customer experiences. In this distributed environment, managing productivity is critical to ensure branch employees are focused on the right metrics and activities to drive sales and revenue, while also providing exceptional service.

Author H. James Harrington is known for saying, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” To achieve higher branch performance, retail banking executives should take heed of Harrington’s principles. We suggest that they emulate their counterparts in the contact center and back office and adopt the following three-step methodology: 

Utilize activity-based staffing models. Build workforce management models based upon discrete activities that are deemed critical for branch employees to perform. In contrast, some organizations have developed staffing models that focus solely on volume forecasting and/or very high-level time allocations – forgetting the importance of using a model to establish what functions should be performed in the branch and evaluating the associated resource expense of each of those functions. Activity-based modeling allows the organization to ask and answer critical questions including, “Is this activity worth the expense? How much am I funding for proactive versus reactive sales? In what branches should I place sales specialists versus generalists?”

Many organizations are now adding a higher level of precision to their activity-based models to reflect individual branch differences relative to market opportunity, customer demographics and employee roles. These models, which are particularly helpful in staffing “universal banker” positions, can be used to not only determine full time employee (FTE) levels and more accurately allocate resources but also to educate branch sales staff on how to best focus their time – time that we all know can “get lost” and needs to be spent performing the right activities that are going to grow the business and strengthen the customer relationship.

Incorporate clear activity performance standards into scorecards. Organizations can leverage their workforce management models to establish clear activity-based performance objectives.  For example, they can specify allotted daily or weekly hours for outbound calling for each branch in the same manner as they establish unit sales goals or customer satisfaction targets.

They can also establish activity-based key performance indicators (KPIs) for each individual employee based upon their specific skills, responsibilities and role. These KPIs can then be made available and visible via scorecards so everyone throughout the branch network understands how they are expected to spend their time contributing to organizational goals.

Compare actual employee behavior against activity performance standards. Once activity performance standards are set, organizations can monitor what is occurring in the branch to understand differences between expected behavior and actual behavior. Through desktop analytics software, data about the actual activities employees are performing and the time spent completing those activities can be collected and automatically fed into scorecards, not just on a monthly or weekly basis but daily, intraday and even near real-time if desired.

With this capability, managers and executives across the branch network can have the visibility and ready access to information to more effectively manage their employees and impact business outcomes. They can view time spent on activities compared to goals, compare actual employee utilization to expected utilization and quickly identify gaps in productivity to determine where they need to take corrective action. This information can be used in conjunction with other key scorecard metrics, such as units sold and cross-sell ratio, for a comprehensive view of performance.

For example, the document management group supporting all consumer lending functions at a Top 10 bank in North America was able to identify opportunities to improve employee utilization by 25% and overall productivity by 20%, according to the institution. By making the necessary changes, the group was to absorb growth without adding headcount and meet its turnaround goals for internal constituents.

With these proven tools, retail banking executives can eliminate previous limitations in visibility across their distributed branch network and can manage productivity much like their counterparts across the enterprise.

Mr. Zaske is global vice president, Enterprise Workforce Optimization, for Melville, N.Y.-based Verint Systems Inc. He can be reached at chris.zaske@verint.com.

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