By Graham Twaddle, Chief Technology Officer at Corporate Modelling, the workforce management technology provider.
Whilst the latest GDP growth figures may give the impression that the British economy is on the road to recovery, the bigger picture is more complex. Although it is obviously encouraging to see that the UK economy and labour market are growing, it is worth noting that labour productivity actually decreased by 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2013.
The discrepancy between these figures makes one thing very clear: even though the economy is generating more UK jobs, productivity is still falling behind. The good news, however, is that greater innovation is already helping to address this disconnect between growth and productivity.
The vibrant financial technology industry offers the perfect example. Not only is this sector creating many new jobs, but it is also developing new ways of helping our workers produce more. New developments in workforce management software, for example, are already helping businesses to make better and more effective use of their time by allocating specific tasks to those with the relevant skills at the right time, regardless of their location
Using technology to improve productivity
Allocating tasks more effectively is just one area in which UK financial services companies can use technology to become more productive and competitive. The old adage of ‘if you can’t monitor or quantify it, you can’t manage it effectively’ has always proven true, workforce management systems provide a dashboard showing everything you need in order to manage your team(s). These dashboards also give insight into the actual and expected volumes of work for the day week or month, the resources you have, the skills required and available and the all-important service levels or goals.
Traditional approaches make it extremely difficult for firms to make accurate predictions in this area, especially given the vast amount of product variations, policies staff capabilities and customer expectations. After all, some activities will require a lot of administrative work, others less so. But how can these differences be identified on a case-by-case basis, so that firms get the best possible outcomes on throughput and quality from their back office?
First, firms need to understand their processes, staff skills and competency in both process and product and their organisational roles and responsibilities. These and their current throughput, client and product information can be loaded into the workforce systems.
The workforce systems after a few days or weeks will identify the average handling times by variations in products, processes or customer types and using this, work out the required and expected capacity to meet the servicing goals. This is then display in real time as the workload changes during the day, providing information on work being completed and new work being added.
Armed with this information, senior management can quickly obtain a bird’s-eye view of individual processes or product books, which is vital, while administrative team leaders make the system automatically allocate the right work to the right people in their teams at the right time. Over or under capacity at a skill level can be identified in real time and the human resource utilisation and productivity calculated and continually updated at individual and team levels. After all, understanding all areas of the business and drilling down to grassroots information enables firms to make much more accurate evaluations on the cost to outsource policy administration and spot where inefficiencies lie.
By using historical and current data to analyse individual policies and products in this way, and via one clear dashboard, companies can quickly gain a unique understanding of their processes and products. This invaluable business intelligence will not only help them recognise which products are most profitable, but will also highlight which areas of the business are most efficient. This way, firms will be much better able to predict the performance of their business in the future.
A boost for the back office
Improved workforce management can also provide significant benefits for companies operating various back office functions. For example, by using web based dashboards, managers in the back office can now obtain a clear view of their employees’ workloads in order to keep track of day-to-day task progress and service level agreements.
A key factor is providing the administrative teams and their team leaders with productivity and utilisation reports, not just occasionally, but continually. If you show people where they are performing against their peers, then they have the chance to change.
As a result, tasks can be completed more quickly and to a higher standard, employees are happier and more motivated, and workers are given the chance to focus and develop in the areas where they excel, while understanding their weaknesses. When used in this way, workforce management systems can identify any issues in real time, escalate as needed, highlight any over or under capacity across teams or continents, and give managers full visibility of their team members so that they can move them around effectively to fill in any gaps.
Business enhancements like these have never been more important, as Britain’s financial services sector is currently competition from other global financial centres like never before. In fact, for the first time since the Global Financial Centres Index was published in 2007, New York has overtaken London as the world’s foremost financial hub.
The good news is that financial services companies and their outsourcing partners now have the chance to work together more closely in order to gain competitive advantage. By using workforce management software as a business intelligence tool that enables more accurate costing, as well as an operational tool for more efficient processing, firms will not only be able to improve productivity, but also spark the cultural change that is needed to deliver a better ROI and long-term, sustainable growth.