How can one build a compelling business case in regards to multi-skilling and cross-utilization?
I am interested in best market practice or succesful implementations of those concepts, especially for financial/banking industry back-office operations (underwriting, loan administration, payments & transfers, trade operations, compliance etc.), but also for call centers (if case).
My main focus is on what are the usual benefits and how do we quantify them? Such as increase in productivity or efficiency, minimize the gaps between demand and suplly, increased service levels (hence higher customer satisfaction), cost saving/avoidance or other.
I have several examples where implementation of cross-skilling and multi-skilling was successful and brought tangible impact, but I will focus on my latest and maybe most impactful one in Call Center.
In 2013-2014 I was responsible for Managing Call Center in Romania and I had under me several teams: inbound (100 FTEs), outbound (65 FTEs), retention and loyalty (20 FTEs), monitoring (4 FTEs) and others that are not the topic of this discussion.
The big problem we had there was with the main KPI of inbound team: Service Level (number of customer to start servicing within 20 seconds from the moment they called / total customers calling during the day) which was around 36% and our target was to have it at 80%.
My goal was to fix it in 3 months and one of the main initiatives was related to making sure we have in place multi-skilling and cross-skilling.
Being at 36% was generated by 2 factors: not enough call center officers during peak times and low performance of the officers (slow solution to customer requests). This problem would be further amplified by not having all officers multi-skilled, meaning having for certain requests just a limited number of officers that could take the specific call/ request.
So one of the goals was to make sure that all officers with the team can take any type of request and at the same time making sure that they are able to do it as fast as possible. The impact of having all your team members able to perform all requests is:
At the same time for extreme variations in demand I created a cross-skilling team, with members from outbound and loyalty, which had the purpose to help the inbound team when they could not handle high demand during specific days or moments of the day.
The advantages of having cross-skilled employees is that the benefits that you obtain through multi-skilling at team level you can now achieve at department or area level. There are for sure peaks for all teams working in a back-office and most of the time such variations in demand are at different periods from one team to another. Having cross-skilled employees will allow you to efficiently cover this situations but also other events such as: vacations, employees leaving or being sick etc.
The disadvantage of cross-skilling is that those employees would probably perform slower when moved from one team to another, as high performance needs constant practice, but you have to be aware that you use this resource on the simpler processes within the team they are moved and use the other team members on the tasks/processes that need higher expertise.
I hope this was helpful.