It’s that time of year again — summer ends and the return-to-office mandates begin.
Nowhere is that tension between employer and employee more evident than in the financial services industry. Leaders of some of the largest global banks, in particular, continue to champion the idea that banking, trading and dealmaking hinges on face-to-face interactions with clients and colleagues. A long-held belief is that a five-days-a-week, in-office work model is the best way to foster culture and collaboration.
While some of that thinking may be true, strict return-to-office policies could backfire.
According to a Kyndryl survey of 300 managers and staffers at large financial services companies, 86% said it is important or extremely important to work remotely at least some of the time. Even more telling: 75% said they would consider looking for another job if they weren’t able to work remotely on occasion.
“Some of the demand for people to get back to the office has been more around a need to control — concerns about whether people are really working the hours they say they are,” said Robert Turner, GM of U.S. Financial Services at Kyndryl. “Some banks continue to hold on to traditional methods of engagement. And what leaders need to understand is that financial services employees consistently crave agility and flexibility in their workplace.”
Here, Turner and Ivan Dopplé, SVP and Global Practice Leader of Kyndryl Digital Workplace Services, talk about the benefits of hybrid work models for financial services employees.
What is the financial services industry getting wrong about return-to-workplace mandates?
Turner: Financial services professionals generally want more workplace flexibility, not less. In fact, hybrid work models — a true mix of in-office and remote work — are overwhelmingly preferred by employees in financial services.
Kyndryl’s survey found that some people would quit their job if they couldn’t work remote occasionally. Talk about the impact here.
Dopplé: While retaining talent is a large factor in determining whether a bank thrives — or dives, in some cases — a hybrid work model can also help banks find and attract the very best candidates, even if they live far away from corporate headquarters. The best of Wall Street can hire the best from Main Street.
What are the benefits of tapping into a larger talent pool?
Turner: Several banking customers tell us that there is a considerable gap right now for top technical talent — network architects, site reliability engineers and skilled professionals who can help with a financial institution’s IT modernization strategy. And in a highly regulated sector, it’s also important to have experienced people who know how to improve resiliency and ensure regulatory compliance.
Dopplé: If you don't have the right talent, you're not going to have higher levels of employee satisfaction or retention no matter how much technology you have. When you look at the talent in the financial services industry, they’re saying they want to be in a hybrid environment.
Speaking of talent, how can hybrid work help financial services companies bring in people with diverse experiences?
Turner: We’re having workplace conversations with our customers all the time, and they’re telling us how hybrid environments are creating more inclusive and diverse cultures. Obviously, in a remote culture financial firms can tap into a global talent pool, attracting people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Hybrid work has the power to level the playing field. In remote environments more people tend to speak up on video calls than they do when sitting around a table with 20 people of various levels in the organization.
Dopplé: That sentiment is backed up by data, too. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents say virtual meetings make it easier than in-person meetings to contribute ideas, and 58% agree or strongly agree that virtual meetings make it less likely that a single person will do most of the speaking than in-person meetings. I understand why the drumbeat for returning to work is getting louder, but it is important for financial services leaders to take note of the data insights and what their employees are saying.
In what other ways can the financial services industry benefit from hybrid workplaces?
Dopplé: A common concern from leaders about remote work is that it’s bad for business, particularly for team productivity. However, our research shows that hybrid work models fuel productivity. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that hybrid work arrangements enable them to get more work done. Similarly, 83% agree or strongly agree hybrid work models make it easier to meet deadlines. When tasks are completed faster (thanks to fewer distractions or unnecessary in-person meetings), such productivity boosts can benefit a financial institution’s bottom line.
Turner: Similarly, when financial services employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere, they create a better work-life balance — and that often leads to higher job satisfaction, company loyalty and, ultimately, higher productivity.