home / About Us / News

Overstaffed vs. Understaffed - Perception vs. Reality

By Gordon A. Williams IV, Executive Vice President of FMSI

How many times have you found yourself walking into your branch offices to see a number of employees ready to serve your account holders, yet there are hardly any account holders to be found?  How much money would you have if you received a dollar for every time that you heard “Every time you show up in our office there isn’t anyone here, but you just missed our big rush!”?  Talking with management teams at community banks and credit unions… it sounds like there is a lot of money to be made if that were the arrangement! 

The good news is that you are not the only manager that is hearing this feedback.  One of the greatest struggles organizations seem to face regarding their staffing is the perception of what busy means in a particular office, versus the reality of how busy an office actually is, and how that translates into their staffing needs.

While we often hear management teams suggest they are overstaffed throughout their retail offices, we also often hear employees in the branches suggest that they could not possibly do more with less.  What is interesting about this conversation is that we usually find out both parties are actually correct, and there are analytics to justify both sides!  How is it possible to be right about being overstaffed, and understaffed at the same time?  It all depends on what particular time interval during a given day or week is being analyzed.   Consider this day of week analysis:

In the above example, just over 12% of activity is happening on Wednesday compared with Friday that has almost 31% of the activity.  If this were your branch network and you were to dive further into the information, do you think you would find that the scheduled hours of your employees would mirror the same percentages of activity level by day that exist in your branches?  Financial institutions utilizing workforce optimization applications, like FMSI’s Omnix solution, are able to optimally schedule their staff to the fluctuation demands—oftentimes using part-time employees to cover peak periods.

Many organizations have solved the puzzle of developing their flexible workforce with some key programs to recruit, hire, and retain part-time employees.  Some suggestions based on how our clients have been successful include:

  • Premium pay: Limiting the hours of your part-time employees to mirror the branch need allows you to reward those employees with a higher hourly rate while still decreasing overall cost
  • Retention bonuses when employees celebrate their anniversary: Once you’ve found the right employee, make sure to reward them for their loyalty, as this bonus is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of recruiting and training a new employee
  • Recruiting bonuses for employees that refer new hires: If you’ve found a particular “niche” with a part-time employee (college students, retirees, etc.) tap into that network by offering a recruiting bonus for other candidates that employee recommends

One of the biggest challenges that the financial services industry faces in finding these employees is awareness that there is a need for part-time positions to work in the branches.  People that traditionally flock to part-time jobs are often thinking about retail stores and restaurants as the only options that they can consider.  If you focus on getting the message out there through all possible channels that your institution is looking for these employees as well, the results will follow.
Organizations that develop the right programs to grow and maintain a flexible workforce will see significant gains in not just efficiency, but also in service levels provided to account holders, by having resources ready to serve them when your account holders need them.