Blog post

Rethinking Leadership Behaviors for the New Normal

By Benjamin P. Seesel | November 30, 2021 | 1 Comment

Financial ServicesFinancial Services Talent Management, Leadership and Culture

The financial services industry is in the midst of an escalating war for talent. Top contributors across sales, product, technology, and operations are highly sought-after by industry competitors and firms in other industries alike. And post-COVID-19 dynamics only exacerbate the problem. Financial services employees have grown to enjoy remote work and the flexibility it provides, and will look elsewhere if their current firm attempts to take it away. Gartner research indicates that 61% of financial services employees would consider leaving their job if forced to return to the office, while 49% would actually accept a pay cut if the reward were the ability to work from anywhere.

Many financial services leaders want to bring their teams back into the office in order to reboot collaboration and sustain their organizational culture, but this office-centric approach will only exacerbate employee fatigue, burnout, and risk of attrition. The better way forward is human-centric work design – the best way to maximize employee engagement and retention amid the ongoing war for talent.

Human-centric work design involves three main differences from the old, office-centric approach to work:

  • A more flexible work experience that lets employees decide where, when, and how they work
  • An intentional approach to collaboration that involves changing work schedules, breaking down silos, and finding new ways to onboard new hires
  • A more empathetic management style that assesses employees by output, not by input; and helps team members make progress on personal, not just business priorities

Financial services firms that embrace human-centric work design achieve a 44% decline in employee fatigue, a 45% improvement in employee intent to stay, and a 28% improvement in performance.

Behavioral Change – The Missing Link

But to become a truly human-centric financial services firm, it’s not enough to embrace this new approach to work in theory. Concrete actions like revamping policies, procedures, and workflow are better, but also insufficient to become genuinely human-centric. If the journey toward human-centric work design is slower than you hoped, the sticking point might be your own behavior as a leader.

Behavioral change by senior executives is among the most critical but overlooked success factors for organizations to adopt human-centric work design. Leadership behaviors – defined by Gartner as what leaders say and do – must evolve as firms move toward human-centric ways of working. This is not an easy request of a leader. Your legacy behaviors got you this far, and helped you and your business succeed. But now the industry is in a new normal. Continuing to engage in legacy behaviors – emphasizing in-person work, rigorously tracking productivity metrics, and driving to commercial outcomes above all other priorities –  mean that you’ll continue to manage your teams in an office-centric way. And this will result in burnout, fatigue, and attrition, with all the predictable spillover effects on your clients.

Gartner recently hosted a roundtable of senior financial services leaders across consumer banking, wealth management, commercial banking, and operations to discuss new leadership behaviors necessary to support human-centric work design. Attendees highlighted the following behavioral changes they plan to embrace moving forward:

  • Reimagining schedules and meetings to facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous work
  • Redesigning physical office space to improve collaboration
  • Actively encouraging team members to work from anywhere
  • Being attentive and empathetic to employees’ disparate home situations that impact their work
  • Collecting more continuous feedback on team member engagement and responding more quickly to red flags

Schedule a call with a Gartner expert to discuss how we can help you adopt the right behaviors to drive your firm toward human-centric work design, and capture all the associated benefits for your associates and customers.

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1 Comment

  • You said, regarding leadership behavioral changes, “Actively encouraging team members to work from anywhere.”

    Perhaps it’s noteworthy the CEOs of several large FSI firms have been very outspoken about their belief that all work must be performed in the corporate offices. The notion of supporting the needs and wants of their employees who value flexible working arrangements seems at odds with publically stated policies.

    Are you hopeful that some of these senior executives will reconsider their position on this topic? If so, why?