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The transformation of the retail branch with workforce management


How will retail banking’s changing service model define the branch of the future? With adoption of online and mobile banking on the rise, customers are visiting branches less frequently. But when they do, they’re looking to conduct high value transactions that require more personalized service. Results of a 2014 GenPact and YouGov online survey confirm this trend, indicating that younger bank customers are migrating to digital channels while others are demanding more consultative services at the branch. But even as digital channels expand, branches and the people who staff them will continue to play an important role in complex product sales and relationship building with consumers and small businesses.

Along with changing customer habits, technology is a major factor driving transformation at the branch. Retail banks are moving toward video tellers, specialist-ondemand services, and universal agents to supplement branch staff and improve service delivery while controlling costs. In light of these changes, engaging employees to embrace evolving roles, technology, and service expectations is critical to success moving forward. 

Employee engagement: an essential strategy for success

Employee engagement is more than just another HR (Human Resources) buzzword; it’s a proven strategy that organizations are employing to attract and retain top talent and drive higher workforce performance.

How important is employee engagement to competitive success? Studies show that organizations with an engaged workforce often have higher profitability and a stronger brand than those that don’t. Consider these findings:

  • Organizations with top scores in employee motivation are about 60% more likely to be in the top quartile for overall business health.
  • Companies with sustained employee engagement have demonstrated operating margins three times higher than those of companies with the lowest levels of engagement.
  • Organizations with a high ratio of engaged employees to actively disengaged employees in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share compared with their competition in 2011-2012.

A multigenerational workforce presentsnew challenges

Today’s employee engagement challenge is complicated by the fact that five generations – each with different experiences, cultural milieus, and economic histories – are now co-existing in the workforce.

The business implications of managing such a diverse workforce cannot be overestimated. In PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey, 60 % of respondents indicated that shifting demographics will transform their business in the next five years.

For retail banks prepared to manage an increasingly varied and complex workforce, this transformation can be immensely productive – and profitable. But a thorough understanding of generational differences is required to develop and execute long-term workforce management strategies that effectively target and promote employee engagement.

Operationalize employee engagement strategies 

What can retail banks do now to develop and sustain a truly engaged workforce that optimizes branch performance – even as sales and service delivery models continue to change? They can start by leveraging workforce management technology to operationalize their employee engagement strategies.

As consumer behavior drives branches to shift their focus from traditional transactions to more consultative, revenue generating services, trying to guess the correct number of employees needed to cover a shift – or the best worker to fill an open one – is rife with complications. Technology-based forecasting and scheduling solutions eliminate guesswork by automating processes to help ensure optimal labor coverage. Scheduling the right person with the right skills in the right place at the right time puts all employees in position to do their best work – a scenario that directly improves engagement. Technology can also improve scheduling fairness by automatically applying rules that balance business needs with employee preferences for shifts, hours, jobs, and roles.

When managers try to enforce corporate policies manually, retail banks run the risk of treating some employees differently than others, which can have a negative impact on engagement. Imagine the effect on morale, and subsequently performance, if a branch manager regularly overlooks certain employees’ absences, long lunches, and early departures, or assigns the best shifts to a favored few. Workforce management technology can put an end to such preferential treatment
by automatically enforcing policies rather than leaving them up to the interpretation of each manger or group.

Consistent, equitable rule enforcement helps create a positive work environment that fosters employee loyalty and engagement. Today’s workforce management solutions – combined with a culture of trust – allow retail banks to give employees greater autonomy without sacrificing corporate governance. Using mobile technology, for example, employees can take advantage of self-service solutions to check schedules, swap shifts, adjust availability and preferences, communicate with peers and managers, and more. By empowering employees with more freedom and control, self-service helps nurture an emotional connection to the organization that is essential for achieving high levels of engagement.

The Future Won’t Wait

The branch of the future, with its increased focus on consultative services and high-touch transactions, will require a highly engaged workforce that’s ready, willing, and able to adapt to change and meet escalating customer expectations. By implementing workforce management solutions, retail banks can create a work environment in which employees are engaged and empowered to embrace new challenges, better serve the customer, and drive business results – now and into the future.

Ms. O’Connor is the industry director of Financial Services at Chelmsford, Mass.-based Kronos Incorporated. She can be reached at [email protected].