Expert: Chris Davis, Workforce Advisory Senior Manager, EY Facilitator: Caroline Burkart, Aon
- The traditional workplace is still very much in flux and there is ongoing potential for more change to come
- Life in wealth management from a workplace perspective will continue to change and the business will look different going forward
- There is a growing sense of people asking ‘What am I doing and why?’
- With all the changes to the work place it is evident that there is a future skills gap, both in WM and the wider market
The industry has traditionally been a low safety/high anxiety environment compensated for by high remuneration – ‘people will put up with a lot if they are well paid’ – and you don’t see many people leave the industry because they commit to a certain lifestyle that it’s hard to back out of unless you are prepared to make a lot of changes.
Some firms have experienced much higher turnover since Covid. Millennials are growing up; they’ve been told to challenge the norms and are doing so. There is a much greater balance expected now between work and well-being and people have concerns and see the potential for change.
Hybrid work is largely working well and is the new long-term trend but positioning it can be challenging across the workforce. Different age groups have had different experiences of it both during and after the pandemic and the challenge is how best to balance it, particularly among different age groups and seniority.
People are now back in the office but the experiences of senior versus junior staff is very different. ‘We have to ask why are we in the office and how we are organising ourselves’. We trusted everyone to work from home overnight when the pandemic started, so why doesn’t that trust endure now?
The question of productivity was key and it was questioned if this can be sustained in the long term with all these different ways of working. However, it was felt that it was also an issue of creativity and interaction with others and the benefits of experiencing different types of working environments e.g. working abroad for an agreed period.
It was also agreed that people who showed up in the office were likely to progress faster as they were more visible and were likely better known, both personally and from a work perspective, and that it is important to gather people in on the same days to create those water cooler moments and to be able to plan deliberately with the team as a whole to get the most impact from gathering people together in the office.
There needs to be a balance between digital and in-person interactions although it was pointed out that Gen Z are frequently texting across the table to someone in the same room as them.
It is very much a question of trusting teams to do the right thing and what is best for the team, given the different ways of working. It was shared that at a law firm, the younger team members very much wanted to be in the office and enjoyed the peer group interaction, and it is easier for law firms to demonstrate productivity due to billable hours.
It was also pointed out that although the younger generation in wealth work differently to the older generation, they will eventually be advising clients who are their peers in age and they will also be communicating in a similar way, so it won’t be unusual.
The concept of the metaverse was also raised and the advances there that will also contribute to the flexible working environment.
All these changes go hand in hand with the development of psychological safety for employees at all levels. As part of the future of work we need to be able to reassure people and be conscious of their mental health.
While there is a lot of focus on the younger generations, the older generations are feeling the pressure also and there are new demands on them and role displacement. They are also anxious and grappling with the demands of working hybrid and how to manage their employees. They need to both be able to make decisions and be accountable for them, but also be in the learning zone themselves and many businesses are experiencing a higher level of anxiety at the mid-manager level than anywhere else.
In WM, traditionally if mistakes are made, you get fired, partly as a consequence of making errors within the regulatory environment. There is a line between the learning and anxiety zone - the comfort zone. No-one wants to be in the anxiety zone for long and if you make errors, you may be fired.
It was pointed out that there is a difference between an error and a failure and one delegate highlighted the need to talk about these openly as ‘issues’ and depersonalise mistakes so that learnings could be taken from them. This creates a safe zone.
The openness needs to go all the way down – what did we and did we not accomplish, did we fail, did we learn something? It was pointed out that the SMCR was designed to push senior managers from the comfort zone to the learning zone, but they are not feeling it and are more in the anxiety zone. This makes it difficult to create the right environment for their teams. The regulated environment in which we all operate also makes it more difficult to separate out the anxiety of daily work.
One delegate pointed out that they worked for a software company but couldn’t remember the last time they hired a UK developer. Product development is done in the US, developers sit in India and the tech is then rolled out in the UK.
Where skills are across the globe will have an impact on onshore v offshore models. STEM subjects are way behind in the UK – we may train in them but people go elsewhere to apply their knowledge.
Outside of the immediate tech skills, it was queried to what extent the skills gap really exists. Examples were shared of the basic abilities to write and communicate in a ‘non-text’ way and communicate confidently both verbally and in person.
As an industry we need to get much better at embracing people who are non-neurological or more neurologically diverse. Our clients are showing a new diversity and we need to show more flexibility to embrace this, and there were examples given of how this is being embraced both at large and smaller companies.
One large bank is designing products from a neuro diverse perspective and leading from the front on this but more needs to be done by the industry as a whole. It was also mooted that while a safe space might have been created for the younger generations, the older generations were having as much difficulty in finding the right ‘learning’ environment to make decisions.
Most firms have mental health agendas and programmes but it is difficult to know what the results are at this stage for these programmes.
- The three points of hybrid work, psychological safety and future skills are highly interlinked and the challenge is to ensure that all individuals are aligned across these to interact most effectively and productively
- It is not just about different generations or seniority levels of employees but incorporating a variety of different demands, experiences and cultures to ensure the right working environment for all
- We need the right skills to be able to lead our teams in a hybrid world and in a way that provides psychological safety to ensure organisations are productive whilst providing an excelling environment for people to work in