Monthly Archives: June 2014

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Innovation, Smart Sourcing

A Smart Approach to Learning Solutions

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learningIn a recent post, we discussed how smart sourcing has helped Boston Financial align the right resources with the right work at the right time. In Core Operations, our hybrid model includes full-time, part-time, flexible, seasonal, and long-term contractual associates, as well as weekend and off-shift schedules. This dynamic shift in the workforce has precipitated a change in our approach to the development and delivery of “learning” solutions.

In today’s workplace, traditional classrooms and standard curriculum are rendered obsolete. Learning in this new environment needs to be targeted, just in time, and practical. At Boston Financial, we introduced three critical elements to this equation:

  1. A learning lab environment grounded in practice
  2. Peer educators
  3. Virtual learning tools

Our experience has proven that flex workers require training that is agile, relevant, vivid, interactive, and engaging.

In our Lawrence, Kansas facility, we hire and train flex college students who work anywhere from 12 to 30+ hours per week, and we are successfully deploying production ready flex core processors in four to six weeks. These flex students receive condensed, targeted new associate training and move directly to a learning lab with a peer trainer where they learn job specifics and demonstrate their proficiency on real work.

Learning labs provide a supportive and supervised environment allowing workers to learn at their own pace, practice what they learn, and self-determine their individual progression. The learning lab provides two valuable elements: time to practice and a safe place to learn through action.

learning labDeveloping smart workers in this new smart sourcing environment is an evolution. This sourcing approach allows us to more effectively meet our business needs, while requiring us to challenge the traditional approach of how we deliver and transfer learning. Smart workers in this new hybrid model tend to be independent, self-directed, and motivated when it comes to their learning and development needs.

Future associate development efforts will be portable with greater access to content in smaller increments. Leveraging technology will be the gateway to such delivery, providing knowledge workers with relevant, just in time, high-value information that is accessible and a vital component to their success in the workplace.

What creative ideas do you have to deliver high-quality learning experiences to tomorrow’s smart workers? Join in the discussion and share your comments.

Category: Event Center, Innovation, Smart Sourcing

Who Do You Call When You are Faced with Business Unusual?

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dilemmaIn 1984, one of our mutual fund clients, who was also in the insurance business, had a dilemma. They were faced with a class action settlement, but didn’t know where to begin. Boston Financial jumped in to help them, and that was the start of our Event Center. Since then, our Event Center has provided solutions to clients when they have been faced with business unusual challenges. In a perfect world, clients would be able to focus their resources on day to day priorities and core businesses, but inevitably, unique situations present themselves. These include things like corporate actions, regulatory mailings or special notifications, inbound and outbound call campaign needs, class action settlements, mass distributions, inactivity or low balance notifications, just to name a few.

When one of these occurs, a client is faced with a number of questions. Do I try to handle it internally with existing resources or temporary staff? If I divert existing resources, what is going to give? Who can plan and manage it? What’s the best way to handle it quickly and cost effectively? Should I outsource it? Have other firms faced this challenge?

Over the past 20 years, numerous companies have chosen to outsource these situations to Boston Financial’s Event Center and continue to do so. In many cases, they are existing clients of ours, so we are already an approved and trusted provider, eliminating the data security, legal, and subject matter expertise concerns normally associated with an unknown third party vendor. Due diligence needs are minimal, so the time to implement a solution is greatly reduced.

Leveraging our flexible staffing model to volume match resources with client needs, we are able to offer timely and cost effective solutions to address their challenges. We have deep expertise in executing these types of events, developing best practices that have led to greater efficiency and high quality service delivery.

call center reps

When our Event Center began, we were mainly providing services for class action settlements and unique events, but needs have changed based on what has been happening in the industry. Over the past few years, regulatory changes and concerns have really been driving the areas where companies need support. For example, a few years back we worked with many clients on cost basis notification and solicitation projects, and more recently on initiatives to make contact with inactive shareholders to safeguard their assets from escheatment.

Companies recognize the value in strategically outsourcing work, especially for one-off types of situations, and our Event Center has been here for 20 years to support them.

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Conferences and Events

This is What I Want

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Sometimes I have the best conversations with myself. I’ve coached myself through challenges, solved problems, figured out next steps. Even shared a few laughs. Studies have shown that talking to yourself can boost brainpower, increase concentration, and benefit overall thinking. 

But when we assume our actions and behaviors speak for themselves, we do ourselves an injustice. Have you been in a situation with friends or family and were surprised that they didn’t realize what you wanted? “I’m not a mind reader,” is the proverbial comment back. Yet it was so obvious to you.

When this scenario plays out at work, the repercussions can impact your career.

Declare what you want is Alison Quirk’s advice. As executive vice president at State Street Corporation and chief human resources and citizenship officer, Quirk knows a few things about engagement and communication. And she speaks from personal experience.

One time Quirk was interested in a position. Her performance and experience positioned her for the job, and she talked to herself about the opportunity. But her boss never knew her intent because she never said anything to him until it was too late. For Quirk, it was a defining moment in her career.

Quirk along with Linda Connly, senior vice president, Global Inside Sales, EMC Corporation; and Marcy Reed, Massachusetts president, National Grid, recently spoke on the topics of leadership and career as part of an executive leadership panel sponsored by the Boston Chamber of Commerce.    

Like Quirk, Connly and Reed also had defining moments in their careers. For Connly, it was the realization that it’s ok to “pause your career” as long as you’re finding and gaining value during this period. A meaningful pause can often catapult you to the next phase of your career.

For Reed, it involved taking a position outside of her “comfort zone,” causing her to challenge her appetite for risk taking. It also highlighted the power of relationships for Reed.

When it comes to leadership, the panelists all agreed that showing a level of vulnerability is extremely important as a leader. It shows genuineness and creates an emotional connection, helping foster engagement with your team. It’s also a sign of strength. Other insights from the session included:  

Understand your natural talents: Know them, cultivate them. They’re part of your personal brand. You’ll always want to leverage them regardless of the role you’re in.  

Confidence can be built. Work on it, don’t fake it. Confidence can be gained and practiced over time. You’ll become more authentic in the process.   

Have the courage to take risks. Put yourself out there. Whether it’s cultivating your career, working on a project, or growing the organization, taking risks are key to succeeding.  

One of the biggest takeaways was own your career. Whether you’re early in your career or a seasoned leader, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your career. 

I admit, I’ll still talk to myself. And that’s ok, as long as I’m also declaring what I want too.

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Innovation, Smart Sourcing

A Winning Partnership

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megan jayhawk

The Lawrence, Kansas operational service center at Boston Financial uses a student work model that provides area college students with employment flexibility, a reliable place to work, and valuable experience. In turn, Boston Financial gains flexibility, allowing the company to more easily adapt to changing volumes and business needs all while continuing to generate high-quality processing results.

The model uses a variety of schedules to accommodate students. Although full-time associates are still relied upon to process transactions daily, it’s the students who come in for short shifts on the days where volumes are expected to be heavy. Our flexible student workers are able to share computers and workspace, have a high aptitude for learning new processes, and provide high-quality, positive client experiences. Not only does Boston Financial benefit from this arrangement, but so do the students. Having started with Boston Financial as a Kansas University student, some of the benefits I experienced firsthand included:

  • Work while going to college. Boston Financial understands school comes first, and provided me the flexibility to manage both.
  • Earn income as a student. This allowed me to decrease loan needs for living costs and to earn a little extra cash. Every student deserves a break from ramen noodles.
  • Gain knowledge and experience. Working in the financial services industry has been great for my resume.

megan grad

But it doesn’t stop there. The opportunities within the company are varied. Along with many associates, I have found a home within the Boston Financial family and have grown within the company. Although some students explore opportunities in their field of study when they graduate, many (including me) have enjoyed their Boston Financial experience and continue working full-time after graduation.

Students are afforded the opportunity to gain experience in various roles to see where they excel, what they enjoy most. Some find that niche within the company and are able to leverage their schooling.

In addition to the opportunities provided, management helped me successfully transition into a permanent role. I was provided with training, support, understanding, and a comfortable atmosphere for a smooth transition from student to full-time associate.

Boston Financial has found a way to better use flexibility with schedules and leverage associate tenure to maximize company and associate resources. In my opinion, this is a winning partnership!

megan boxer

My boxer waiting for me to get home from work!

Category: Innovation, Smart Sourcing, Technology

Smart Technology – Smart People – Smart Sourcing

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command centerThere’s no blue print for guaranteeing optimal performance in an operational service center. Business is far too complex and dynamic, especially in today’s financial services industry. Plus each firm has a unique mix of characteristics, conditions, and challenges.

One of the biggest challenges to achieving operational efficiency is unused or underutilized resources. Underutilized resources, whether it’s technological, infrastructure, or human, often results when variations in volume throw the alignment of work and resources out of whack. Anyone running a large operation with lots of full-time employees understands the value of effective capacity utilization.

Leveraging technology, employing flexible workforces, and using a focused approach to workforce planning have certainly assisted Boston Financial with this challenge. At Boston Financial, we refer to this approach as our smart sourcing model.

Smart sourcing at Boston Financial involves aligning the right resources with the right work and scheduling resources in line with work availability. The right resources include a mix of schedules and skill sets and the infrastructure, training, and technology to support them in these roles. Successfully executing on this strategy requires organizations to understand which activities and resources aligned together to create the most value.

From an infrastructure perspective, we employ multiple sites, targeting locations with stable and consistent workforces. This helps ensure strong risk management and effective business recovery. We coordinate work assignments as well as the prioritization of work through a central “hub” known as our Command Center. Our Command Center, an integral part of our infrastructure, helps ensure the right alignment of resources and work. 

Along with infrastructure, technology plays a key role in our smart sourcing strategy. Customized tools with embedded controls support our approach to workforce management and oversight of our high volume and high complexity work environment. Technology also enhances our analytical capabilities, enabling us to gain better insight.  

command center 2

Our third and perhaps the most essential component in our smart sourcing strategy is people. Knowledgeable and supportive teams turn process efficiencies into service improvements. And having the optimal staffing model is key. At Boston Financial, we’ve experimented with various staffing models and have found that a hybrid model, encompassing a blend of people and schedules, best aligns with our environment.

Our hybrid model includes full-time, part-time, flexible, seasonal, and long-term contractual associates, as well as weekend and off-shift schedules. This approach allows us to be nimble and strengthens our ability to share available capacity across sites.   

At Boston Financial, our smart sourcing model is an example of process, technology, and people coming together in a winning combination. We’ve found that by using resources in a new way, and leveraging the right systems and the right people with the work leads to efficient and high-performing operation centers.

Our associates benefit from jobs and schedules that meet their specific work preferences and targeted training that supports their role. Fund companies gain through a high-value approach that gives them the control to further differentiate their service offering and keep the focus on the customer experience.

I’ve only touched upon the components of our smart sourcing model. Managers and associates from our operational service centers and event center will dig deeper into the topic with a series on smart sourcing. Is there an opportunity to optimize operational performance at your firm? Join in our discussion and let us know.