Major economic and social factors today have dramatically impacted the type of work bankers do, as well as the type of employees banks need. From the employee's perspective, we are finding that a large percentage of the labor pool is increasingly loyal to employers that can offer flexibility in time and place of employment, as well as training and personal development. Organizations that put into practice common sense strategies and enable process and analytical technologies are poised to truly optimize the shift in worker and work patterns to remain competitive.

In the recent Harvard Business Review article "How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda," two college surveys revealed "remarkable similarities in workplace preferences between Baby Boomers and Generation Y - the oldest and youngest groups of the emerging workforce." Both are seeking flexible work arrangements and value social connections and loyalty to a company. In other words, they value their jobs and the work, not just the money.

Historically, the definition of "flexible" in the banking industry has meant a part-time (short week) workforce. In today's environment, flexible can mean 40 hours a week on evenings and weekends for students, or those wishing to supplement existing and primary commitments with employment. It also can refer to location - providing remote or at-home work options, which for banks could be contact-center overflow.

To migrate to more flexible workforce staffing, line management and human resources executives in banking will need to employ more modern perspectives surrounding the structure and nature of their workforce. Currently, we have the largest available part-time workforce that has existed in more than 20 years.

Managing part-timers and non-traditional full-timers is not an exception, but the rule. Managers need training on how to embrace the flexible and part-time worker to meet the demands of the workplace and expectations of workers. Branch management can more easily and cost effectively schedule resources to meet customer demand and employee preferences by utilizing branch workforce management software strategies, technologies and tools.

Banks also need to alter their development programs to accommodate the schedules of a flexible workforce. As such, they shouldn't hire someone to work evenings and weekends, and then expect them to participate in long-term weekday training courses.

Technology is also changing the way in which consumers interact with their banks.

Customers are migrating from single channel (predominantly the branch), transaction-based interactions to multi-channel, self-service transactions with a need for more personalized relationship support. They are taking advantage of online, mobile, and self-service options for deposits, withdrawals, transfers and bill payment. And they're then turning to their bank branch for more complex banking and financial advice needs.

The teller role is still essential to conducting branch business, but many bankers feel the tasks performed by tellers will become more complex and service-oriented, versus transaction-based.

The transition of moving tellers and sales representatives into multi-functional positions that require them to act in a financial advisory role goes hand in hand with training. This means that bank employees need to be trained across functions and will require advanced skill sets.

In addition, there's a growing need to provide advisory services to their branch customers.

Tellers, for example, will not only need training in relationship management as their service role grows, but also in sales process as they begin to take on simple sales transactions.

On the other hand, sales representatives will need in-depth training on relationship management and financial advice counseling. Frequent updates on the latest products and services being offered by the bank will need to be conveyed quickly and in a manner that assures comprehension and competence in the subject.

Fortunately, today there are e-learning tools available that can make the creation and distribution of quick lessons on new product offerings or services for in-branch personnel easily executed and maintained.

In today's changing times, banks will need to evaluate and evolve their branch workforce strategies to meet not only the changing needs and interaction preferences of their customers, but also the flexibility requirements of the available labor pool.

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