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Keeping Bank Staff Engaged During ‘Take Flight’ Cycles

By Jackie Hudson

As the economy rebounds, organizations should expect to see an increase in employees “taking flight” for new and different opportunities. This can be especially damaging to banks that are under enormous pressure to deliver and differentiate themselves through superior customer service. In addition, as banks transition branch operating models from a transaction/service orientation to a sales and relationship management orientation, having tenured, experienced employees becomes even more critical.

So what can banks do to help keep employees engaged, especially when there’s little capital available for salary increases, incentive pay and benefits enhancements? Research shows that a key factor in retaining employees is the individual’s direct manager. A June 2009 McKinsey & Company survey of just over 1,000 executives, managers and employees from a range of sectors revealed that the number one, non-financial incentive for retention and job satisfaction was “praise and commendation from an immediate manager, at 67 percent.”  It also revealed that general comments, such as “nice job,” are not enough.
In another study by Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, “53 percent of employees say that when their boss does praise excellent performance, the feedback does not provide enough useful information to help them repeat it. And 65 percent of employees say that when their boss criticizes poor performance, they don’t provide enough useful information to help employees correct the issue.”
Today’s banks must provide their front-line managers with the time, tools and skills they need to keep employees engaged and motivated. Staff development should be prioritized, and managers provided the executive support and resources necessary for focused coaching and training.
Take for example a large regional banking customer of  Verint Systems. As part of a branch-wide workforce management initiative, the organization is allocating 20 minutes per employee, per day, for coaching for teller and sales staff. The bank is investing significant time in teaching employees to have better relationship conversations with their customers. It recognizes that investing now in building these relationships will position it favorably for short- and long-term impact in terms of its ability to increase wallet share and revenue, advance relationships and improve customer satisfaction.
In a recent Contact Center Pipeline article, “Retaining Top Performers,” Patrick O’Shea, senior vice president of Comerica Bank’s Customer Contact Center, said that at his bank, “supervisors play a critical role in agent development and are expected to be on the floor, not at their desks working on reports.”
Workforce optimization (WFO) software is among the core technologies enabling managers to spend more time with their employees and make those interactions more productive. WFO technology is designed to reduce the amount of time spent on administrative and reporting tasks, thereby freeing managers to focus on employee development. Such software suites include workforce management functionality, along with a performance management component that provides quantifiable data to enable specific, constructive feedback that ties key performance indicators (KPIs) to overall individual and company performance. That, along with the solution’s coaching functionality, takes employee development a step further. It helps managers and HR departments track training sessions and advancement, along with milestone achievement of performance development plans.

Liberating Managers from Administrative Overhead
Automating administrative activities, such as workforce forecasting and scheduling, long-term resource planning, workload distribution and service-level reporting, can go a long way in opening up a manager’s time for direct coaching and one-to-one development of resources. Next-generation WFO solutions – which include forecasting, scheduling, strategic planning, performance and quality management, desktop analytics, eLearning and coaching software – can help, and have been adapted for application across the enterprise. In back-office operations departments, for example, these solutions reduce, if not eliminate, the burden of measuring and tracking individual work items, leaving those tasks to the solutions themselves – and include proactive alerts should compliance, service levels or volumes fall out of standard. Leveraging technology helps managers focus more on rising trends and improvement areas, and directing more of their time to mentoring, coaching and working alongside direct reports.

Enabling Specific, Actionable Performance Discussions
Automated performance scorecards can compare individual performance against goals and peers, highlighting areas of excellence, as well as coaching needs in the areas of knowledge acquisition, skill proficiencies and sales/service skill refreshers. Such scorecards arm managers with specific data points for meaningful praise, versus generic “keep up the good work” comments, and can be used as the foundation for performance discussions and to construct development plans. The KPIs measured and displayed on the scorecards also provide role-specific and organization-specific views, allowing management to align individual goals with strategic company objectives. As the May 2010 Harvard Business Review article “How to Keep Your Top Talent” points out, to keep your most promising talent engaged means “explicitly linking their individual goals to corporate ones.”

Achievement of Personal Development Plans
Coaching solutions work in tandem with performance management scorecards to monitor performance. They can even be set up to automatically send alerts to managers on coaching opportunities based on pre-defined thresholds. Within the solution, managers can schedule sessions and attach relevant information, such as recorded interactions, KPIs and/or performance evaluations. During the coaching sessions, they can provide one-on-one feedback that’s substantiated by the attached documents, providing staff with their own real-world work examples. This approach not only helps expedite sessions, it also provides employees with specific behaviors or skills that are commendable or need of improvement. The net result is typically more objective, meaningful sessions that help employees better focus their efforts. At the conclusion of each, managers can enter comments into a coaching form to underscore key points covered during the discussion, as can employees. Follow-on, progress tracking sessions can then be automatically triggered, allowing managers and staff to gauge uptake of skill proficiencies, knowledge and customer sales/service skills to determine coaching results and areas to be incorporated into future sessions and performance reviews.
As stated in the McKinsey Quarterly survey report, the “lack of interaction between managers and their people creates a highly damaging void that saps employee engagement.” Technologies such
as workforce optimization solutions, along with associated supporting business processes, are helping managers counter this gap, arming today’s bank managers and personnel with the tools they need to gain newfound efficiencies and, as a result, more dedicated time and focus on employees relationships, development and career pathing. Taken further, they help ensure interactions are productive and constructive, and incorporate a balanced view of manager and employee feedback on training and development plans.
These are important first steps today’s banks can take to help ensure their top talent remains engaged, and to get ahead of the “take flight” mentality that will soon be felt as the economy rebounds.

Jackie Hudson serves as director of the retail bank workforce optimization practice at Verint Witness Actionable Solutions, part of Verint Systems Inc. Contact the author at

Posted on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 (Archive on Tuesday, January 18, 2011)
Posted by Scott  Contributed by Scott


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