As individuals and businesses face new financial challenges amid the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an outpouring of questions from the consumer and business banking community. The need for banks and credit unions to step up and provide digital support is greater than ever.

With that, the very core of how people bank in the pandemic situation has changed, as is how community banks and credit unions operate and respond. As much of the banking world focused on the needs of banking customers, the needs of banking employees in an ever-changing environment have never been higher.

At Engageware, we are uniquely positioned to work exclusively with financial institutions across North America. With over 400 bank and credit union customers with whom we check in weekly, we have insight into the information banking employees are most in need of now, and every day, as well as the strategies financial institutions are employing to navigate these uncharted territories.

Because of our niche positioning, we have developed industry best practices and technology to provide the knowledge and support that every bank and credit union employee needs right now to be a universal banker.

We want to share these with the broader banking community so that you can deliver better support to your banking employees in these challenging times.

4 Ways to Support Banking Employees Right Now

Just like everyone else, financial institutions have had to quickly adapt to social distancing measures, meaning the very nature of how their employees work and service customers was all too quickly turned on its head.

In the first weeks of social distancing, financial institutions faced staffing shortages, branch closures, cut back financial services, and scrambled to figure out how to enable employees to work from home. IT infrastructure was put to the test, as was accessibility to policies, procedures, and other documentation banking employees rely on daily.

Management teams found themselves in a tough place, trying to strike a balance between continuing to service customers while also supporting their staff. These conditions quickly revealed four distinct ways bank and credit unions need to better support their employees in these trying times.

1. Use your employee portal to spotlight important information and updates.

In times like these, communication and accessibility to information are now more important than ever before, for both banking consumers and the employees who service them.

With so many banking employees working remote, a central portal – be it an intranet, knowledge base, etc. – is critical to centrally manage and deploy information in a timely and consistent manner. 

Many credit unions and banks we work with have centralized information relating to the Coronavirus outbreak in a single space, accessible from main screens such as the login and home pages of their internal portals. Draw attention to this with a bold call-to-action button, like the one displayed below.

Example fo an employee intranet using a bold call to action to highlight important information

This should link out to critical information like:

  • CEO’s daily updates
  • Updated hours of operation and branch closures
  • New or updated procedures
  • Employee assistance information such as sick time, PTO, and other employee benefits

Whether it’s on your intranet, or an external website /web page make sure to have one central go-to place employees can reference for the latest updates, and answer their questions like the initial questions around cash withdrawals to the more timely questions around the SBA Paycheck Protection Act and loan processing.

2. Clearly communicate time off, sick leave, and other employee benefit policies.

When schools, public spaces, and business closures took effect across the nation, individuals and families found themselves simultaneously juggling jobs, childcare, and education all from home. 

Bank and credit unions across the country faced unexpected staffing shortages as employees needed to stay home with children. The shortage of staffing was compounded as financial institutions took proactive measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, prompting the partial or full closures of many branches. As banks and other financial institutions are deemed essential businesses, many had to quickly shift to ATM or drive-through only operations.

Graphic displaying common employee benefits including childcare, healthcare, time off, and sick leave.

With this unprecedented change in lifestyle and threat of deadly illness, many employers were suddenly flooded with inquiries about human resources and employee benefits such as paid time off, sick time, short-term disability, and unpaid leave. As such, financial institutions have found that proactively communicating and /or updating such policies was among one of the first actions they needed to take. 

3. Centralize policies & procedures to enable staff to assist cross-functionally.

There has never been a time more appropriate for the role of the universal banker than now. With the temporary closures of branches, the traditional function of frontline employees like bank tellers is — for the time being — obsolete. 

The demand for call center employees and customer service staff, on the other hand, has skyrocketed, as banking customers have been forced to turn to digital banking

According to The New York Times, Bank of America has reported thousands of new hires in the month of March to “face a surge in customer service demands amid Coronavirus concerns.”

With more people relying on online and mobile banking, many for the first time ever, the need for technical assistance has skyrocketed. Many sources have reported endlessly long wait times for banking call centers.

We’re hearing that many financial institutions have had to “re-purpose” staff members to meet the new demands of banking consumers. Frontline employees have been asked to assist with the contact center. This rapid change in job duties leaves little to no time for training, so the need for all staff to quickly access training manuals and easy-to-follow policy & procedure documentation is a necessity.

Decentralized vs. Centralized

decentralized policies and procedures versus centralized

If you are a financial institution finding yourself in the same boat, you may find yourself either well or ill-equipped to enable your employees to pivot on their job duties. A
centralized knowledge base and training strategy can significantly assist in the need for rapid job transitions by reducing on-boarding time, engaging employees even while working remotely, and ensuring consistent how-to information (such as easy-to-follow, step-by-step procedures) across your entire organization.

4. Empower banking employees to encourage consumer adoption of digital services.

graphic showing the how banking has changed, where people used to go to the branch to bank but now they can do mobile banking on their phone wherever they are

For millions of consumers across the globe, the safest way to bank while limiting exposure to the outside world is via online and mobile banking. As the fundamental way people bank is changing, financial institutions need to be positioned to help support this shift to digital.

Make sure your bank and credit union employees are well-educated about the various remote banking services available to customers. This includes, bill pay, direct deposit, money transfer, and peer-to-peer payments. Not only should employees be knowledgeable about these digital offerings, they should be able to educate and assist first-time digital banking customers.

Other Tips and Best Practices

  • Train employees on how to respond to certain situations / events
  • Communicate to employees daily
  • Encourage use of online services among customers/ members
  • Practice safe hygiene – make sure there are adequate disinfecting supplies on hand for employees who continue to operate in public spaces
  • Consider staffing a central operations center where remote and frontline employees can call in for assistance as needed.
  • Schedule employees to work in shifts / rotations so they are consistently working with the same coworkers so as to limit exposure 
  • Inform customers who are dialing into call centers that they can find answers to their questions on your bank websites or in a specially designated FAQs. Consistent reminders to customers that they can self-serve online via your website, mobile banking or chatbot can help reduce call volume.

Helping Banks and Credit Unions Support Their Staff

We’re all in this together. Engageware is finely attuned to what is happening in this industry in response to this crisis and our customers get the benefit of the shared experience. Engageware is uniquely equipped to support you and partner with you during this challenging time so you can continue to be the financial institution of choice. Schedule a meeting to learn more. 

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