What is HR in financial services focusing on?

As it turns out, most companies did a solid job of addressing their employees’ basic needs of safety, stability, and security during the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis. However, those needs are evolving, calling for a more sophisticated approach as financial services organisations enter the next phase. 

McKinsey recently surveyed more than 800 UK-based banking employees on a wide variety of topics related to employee experience. They found that employees working remotely see more positive effects on their daily work, are more engaged and have a stronger sense of wellbeing than those in non-remote jobs with little flexibility. Parents working from home appear to be faring better than those who are more isolated, and fathers working remotely seem much more positive about the experience than mothers. 

But those statistics belie a more fundamental truth about employee experience; even when faced with similar circumstances — more than 80 percent of respondents said the crisis has materially affected their daily work lives —people have widely varied experiences, perspectives, and outcomes.

HR is expected to take the lead and drive the opportunity presented by the return phase for financial services companies to rethink the employee experience in ways that respect individual differences — home lives, skills and capabilities, mindsets, personal characteristics, and other factors — while also adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. 

This was the basis for the release of our much-anticipated 2021 employee experience predictions, following which Future Worx hosted an interactive webinar with a number of HR executives in financial services to further explore how they are manifesting within the industry. In this blog, we will take a closer look at some of the outcomes of this session. For financial services, by financial services. 

From siloed pockets to a joint approach – led by HR

Historically, employee experience has been looked at as a discretionary spending area within most financial services companies. As a result, HR, IT, Internal Communications and Business Leadership have never been connected as one team — creating pockets of value rather than a single vision and strategy for execution.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the need for closer alignment between these groups, with the lead typically taken by HR to work towards a common goal.

Co-creation is not just a “nice to have”

Most HR executives in the financial services industry are working with IT, communications, and business to reimagine the future of employee experience in their organisations. However, this is no longer a stand-alone activity only at a leadership level. The big shift is that this is now being created with your people to ensure that the right problems are solved, for the right people, to drive value for both the employee and the business. 

On a data-driven journey 

With a renewed focus on employee experience, financial services organisations are appreciative that as the new-normal sets forth, employees continually have new needs and requirements. In order to keep pace, leadership is looking to enable data-driven insights that can provide ongoing visibility of where the key areas of investment should be.

This is leading to many HR executives being part of analytical pilots with technologies such as Microsoft’s workplace analytics.

Health and wellbeing are critical focus areas 

For financial services organisations, the crisis has been a big test of the employee benefits they provide that are designed to promote employee wellbeing. Yet how will these benefits respond to the new challenges facing employees in this new working environment, particularly as businesses move on from the initial react phase and into the recovery and reshape phases of their pandemic response? 

HR executives are exploring how these emotional needs can be addressed given how remote working can exacerbate depression, particularly for those extroverts not used to working in more isolated environments. At this stage of the pandemic response, it feels like the initial novelty of working from home is beginning to wear with no return date yet in sight for many office workers.

New technology solutions are being investigated by IT to promote emotional fitness, whilst innovative ways are being considered to connect people outside of work — whether it is through virtual watercooler moments or using other ways of encouraging verbal communication and feedback.

Fighting digital fatigue

Whilst there is a very big focus on bringing the physical office into the new digital world in order to fight the feelings of loneliness, digital fatigue is also painfully real and growing, and the effects of conducting our business lives in two dimensions, when we relied on three in the past, are palpable. This is an issue that most financial services HR executives mentioned they are dealing with. 

Those who have been successful in adapting to these altered conditions have committed to listening diligently to colleagues and clients alike, and to hearing the meaning in silences. They have let go of the jargon and business speak to focus on clarity and concision. Ultimately, they have recognized that business is, and always has been, about fostering relationships through meaningful communication. The pandemic has made us deeply aware that engaging with and caring for each other is vital to getting business done well, both now and in the days ahead. 

Maximise existing investments 

Together with HR, IT is driving large scale technology transformation to cater to new ways of working and new digital experiences. As part of this transformation, the core approach is to create a Lego Brick enterprise and focusing the spend on creating a living digital platform with existing technologies such as MS Teams that provides a modular approach to supporting new demands and work modes.  

Funding is therefore being allocated to enablement of technologies rather than new implementations. 


The key outcome from our session was that in the world of a new normal, HR has a new role — to drive business success and the work experience. They are leading the way in supporting financial services organisations to rethink, reimagine and reconsider how they foster talent, deliver services, and strengthen their businesses through a forward-thinking HR strategy.  

But most importantly, they are focused on making it easier for their employees and making it easier across the entire employee journey.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the right HR strategies to undertake in a remote-working world or want to take your digital workplace to the next level, talk to us today by booking your free consultation.

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