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Enabling Workforce Management Solution in Bank Branches: Recommendations

In my last blog, I had posited that, a bank's branch channel transformation is incomplete without a robust technology-enabled Workforce Management (WFM) solution. This blog looks at how a bank can enable its WFM implementation.

1. Driver: Operations and not HR should drive WFM implementation initiatives. This is because, Operations has a better understanding of the channel's service delivery, productivity, and costs imperatives. It is important to note that Human capital management (HCM) and WFM are not one and the same.  While HCM is concerned with hiring, compensation management etc., WFM is all about the execution and optimization of the staff's efforts and productivity on a daily basis. To enhance ownership, all levels of branch operations should be involved from the early phases of a WFM implementation.
2. Technology: Enabling a robust WFM solution that has strong technical capabilities underpinning is crucial. Many WFM solutions that are still guided by archaic principles, lack optimal automation (e.g. manual data entry is required), require long lead-time for insights generation, have interoperability issues, and lack integration capabilities. The system's usability, flexibility, and agility are all key requirements for a robust WFM solution. The solution should be quickly deployable and require minimal training. It should integrate well with the General Ledger, HR, Origination, Marketing, Sales, CRM, and other systems, to allow for easy linking of the bank's branch performance with the workforce models and the staffing levels. Web-based WFM interfaces are also important for allowing the branch managers to forecast the staffing models according to their requirements and as per their convenience. Mobile enablement of WFM is also desirable in order to allow branch/division managers to review their workforce forecast and metrics on the go. Mobile capabilities would also let branch staff view and confirm their weekly schedules on the go.
3. Structured and phased approach: Basing the WFM business case on empirical evidence is crucial. In addition, the ROI assumptions must be validated against the results, post-implementation. A phased approach for WFM implementation is recommended - for example, a bank could first enable the core WFM functions around attendance and time. In the next phase, functionalities around scheduling, absence management, demand forecasting etc., could be implemented. Beyond that, eLearning, workforce analytics, desktop analytics, mobile self-service, and other advanced capabilities could be enabled.
4. Resource pooling strategy for branches could be considered. In this, a pool of regional branch staff is maintained by the bank - over and above its dedicated branch-wise staff. The resource pool staff can be deployed to different branches in the region at a short notice, and as per the urgent temporary demand (seasonal peaks, focused marketing campaigns, unplanned key staff absences etc.) thereby ensuring that a high service-level is maintained. The resource pool staff must be cross-trained on all applicable branch activities, services and products. WFM solutions should be capable of addressing the resource pooling needs.
5. Organizational Change Management is crucial for translating the WFO insights into tangible benefits for the bank. Leadership's establishing of the WFM priority is crucial. All stakeholders must be aligned upfront, with regard to its WFM strategy, objectives, and goals. A PoC trial at the onset is recommended, as it would help gain buy-in of all stakeholders; and help in understanding the key performance indicators, such as target staffing strength. The bank's initial staffing targets should be conservative. Once this is achieved with relative ease, they can revise the targets more ambitiously. Customer satisfaction measurements should also be kept track of diligently, at all stages of the WFM implementation journey - to make sure the WFM insights' implementation will not affect customer satisfaction adversely. Ensuring enterprise adherence to WFM is important. Banks must take due note of the WFM insights and take optimal workforce related actions. All branch aspects - service, sales, and operations - must be considered in the WFM model. For e.g. time tracking is just one aspect. Staff self-service capabilities, demand, and availability-based scheduling, customer service, and sales quality etc. are all important aspects. Outstanding staff performances towards achieving the WFM targets should be duly recognized. Communication and training aspects should also be focused upon. Banks can also consider having a "Workforce Management Chief" for driving continuous improvement on WFM strategy.
6. Leverage third party expertise: Banks should engage leading WFM solution vendors and consultants. Also, leveraging Cloud-based vendor solutions can help reduce the initial capital and in-house WFM expertise needs. Managed Services options can also be considered by banks - especially by the relatively smaller banks that are short of finances and staff. In Managed Services, the vendor enables the WFM solution in a hosted environment and themselves perform most of the day-to-day WFM analysis, reporting, and forecasting activities for the bank.

Where banks have taken a structured approach towards their WFM implementation, the gains have been immense. For example, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia could immensely improve its customer service by optimization of its consumer-banking workforce, leveraging the workforce optimization, desktop, and process analytics solutions from Verint. 

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