Banks are good at updating tech for customers but need to do it for employees

As the coronavirus pandemic shook the world, workplaces have been subject to a rapid technological evolution that many financial services organizations were underprepared for, despite advancements made in fintech.

The future arrived almost overnight — what could have taken 10 years to materialize happened in less than one year — and brought with it an urgent need to implement intelligent technologies that create value within this new reality.

Investments in digitizing the way products and services are brought to market will continue to be critical as competition intensifies, but this year also underscored the importance of using such investments to attract and retain the right people with the right skills.

This major shift occurred at a time when access to quality talent and in-demand skills sets was already difficult. In addition, banks are not just competing against their peers, they’re fighting for talent on multiple fronts across sectors and against big-tech companies with attractive employer brands like Google and Apple.

Meanwhile, the need for tech skills has never been higher at a time when the sector itself has become less attractive to the talent they are seeking.

This brings another challenge of increasing concern for financial services: the employer brand. An employer brand encompasses an organization’s mission, values, culture and personality, and directly impacts recruitment of new employees, retention and engagement. And there’s some work to do be done, based on our latest research.

Only 14% of Americans surveyed said that the financial services industry is among the top three most appealing to them for future employment, regardless of skillset, according to a Ceridian survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Other data tells a similar story on the sector’s employer brand woes. According to PwC, 70% of financial services CEOs see the limited availability of skills as a threat to growth, more so than disruptive shifts in consumer spending and behavior and competition from new market entrants.

Altogether, this highlights a need for financial services organizations to focus as much on modernizing the employee experience as they do on customer experience. This will mean fundamentally shifting away from outdated human resource approaches and adopting advanced people strategies driven by modern, intelligent technology.

Here are a few places to start:

Employees are driving corporate policy — make sure you’re listening. The internal practices and policies that shaped workplace culture were traditionally delegated down, from the corporation to the employee. Today, these practices are beginning to flow in the opposite direction.

We see this in the requirement for diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace cultures. And we see it in the new technologies being integrated into the workplace, such as on-demand pay.

However, without a dynamic channel to listen and engage, it’s difficult to meet these demands. Where a positive employee experience was once relegated to a nice-to-have workplace perk, it is now inextricably tied to the basic resilience and sustainable growth of businesses.

Employee surveys help decision makers capture first-hand feedback from the workforce at any time, and leverage the data to improve engagement and drive value for the business.

Companies should also consider how to “consumerize” the employee experience. Meaning, how workers interact with technology throughout the entire employee lifecycle, including onboarding, learning and development, and performance management.

While financial institutions have invested heavily in the digitization of the consumer experience in the last decade, the corollary investment in the employee experience has not kept pace. Research has shown that companies that invest in the employee experience not only have more highly engaged employees, but are also more profitable.

One example is focusing on wellness. Leveraging an online tool that provides recommendations that help employees get the most out of their benefits. This can make it easier for employees to enroll in the company’s benefits program with the right package for their individual situation, while improving the experience along the way.

Financial services companies should also take a more holistic approach to employee well-being by infusing flexibility into their culture. The winners in the new workplace reality will be our people. The way they want to work and the way they want to live will come together. Organizations that lean into this on-demand, employee-led workplace will discover new opportunities for value creation and competitive advantage.

Organizations that adopt some of the tech sector’s modern workplace practices will find themselves at a distinct advantage: They can build an employer brand that blends the stability and work-life balance of traditional business with the flexibility of forward-thinking employers.

Tomorrow’s top talent doesn’t want to work at yesterday’s financial institution. To beat the competition, organizations will have to reinvent their approach to work and the employee experience. Change must start now, and the next step must be seismic.

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