Boosting Employee Productivity in Collections
We often hear leaders discuss increasing productivity and boosting performance. Irrespective of the role and designation, every employee in an organization struggles to stay productive during their eight-hour workday. This causes most to work extra hours and weekends, ultimately creating a work and life imbalance leading to financial problems. Time Magazine states, “On a typical day office workers are interrupted about seven times an hour… 80% of which are considered trivial.” Many times, these trivial activities take up close to 35% of their work hours.
Productivity in an ARM operation is usually measured based on some of the common KPI’s - the total number of accounts worked, total dollars recovered, total number of payments processed, total number of settlements, and active connect time with the right parties (debtors or co-guarantors), etc. Though every operations manager has this data at their fingertips, most frequently report they struggle to find ways to simply boost these numbers. Many end up adding additional resources to improvise the performance.
It becomes difficult for the employees to focus and spend maximum time towards these core activities when they have other trivial work which defocuses them. Wasted time and disengagement costs millions of dollars for organizations. In collection environment, employees are often loaded with data and required to do many trifling tasks before they get to their main activity. For example, reconciling data is needed before loading accounts to the A/R management system. Due to such overload, their ability to perform tasks is hampered leading to lower productivity, overtime, stress, frustration, and imbalance. According to Gallup, 24% of the employees “are ‘actively disengaged,’ indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work.”
When employees are appraised based on the standard KPI’s, they often struggle to meet the set expectations and continue to struggle to find ways to do meaningful work that would help them to present their skills well in meaningful work and scale. All repetitive work carried out by the employees are considered insignificant and often cause staff burnout leading to high turnovers. Employees like to get involved in more engaging and creative tasks and they tend to outperform themselves on such tasks. According to Gallup, US businesses are losing a trillion dollar every year due to voluntary turnover and the turnover rate is 26.3%.
Are we good at repetition and multitasking?
Collection managers need to sit down with their staff and identify activities at every desk that could potentially distract them from achieving their goals and scope those processes for automation. Some of those could be well-defined and might yield immediate returns. By deploying a bot, one could save a mere few minutes to many hours a day. Every automation has a direct positive financial impact to the organization and managers need to see an aggregate picture of the benefits. Like repetitive tasks, people tend to lose productivity on multitasking. Stanford University professor Clifford Nass explains, “So-called ‘Heavy multi-taskers’ have trouble tuning out distractions and switching tasks compared with those who multitask less. And there's evidence that multitasking may weaken cognitive ability.”
How do we fix?
We know the way to get there, it’s only a matter of taking steps in the right direction to achieve a productivity boost. With tapering margins, it is inevitable that ARM industry considers ways to bring in efficiency and boost staff performance, because scaling by adding more employees to achieve the desired productivity is not a wiser solution.
The existing operational practice needs to be reevaluated to bring in the efficiency and provide the necessary tools. Combined with creating a more engaging work environment and cultural changes, automation can address these problems in a methodical way allowing managers to yield maximum returns.
Here is a simple guideline that could give a jump start:
1. Identify repetitive tasks at every desk and evaluate them for automation.
2. Reevaluate the skill sets of your teams and match them with more engaging and creative tasks.
3. Shuffle employees between teams at set time intervals (6 month to 1 year) to give them a variety in their work to avoid stagnation.
4. Revisit the processes and identify the ones that could be either eliminated through automation or simplified.
5. Rather than multitasking, encourage employees to prioritize and look for ways to take use of RPA tools to augment their efforts.
6. Communicate the KPI metrics and set the right expectations and priorities.