Key takeaways from Boyden’s virtual roundtable event with leaders across UK’s Financial Services industry
Boyden UK’s Financial Services Practice recently hosted their latest virtual roundtable event which was attended by CEO’s, NED’s and Leaders representing businesses across the Financial Services industry.
The topic under discussion was “In the current climate, health and wellbeing of an organisation’s workforce is one of the key priorities for leadership. How are you building and maintaining wellbeing and resilience within your business?”
The session was facilitated by Andy Wolfe, architect of Boyden’s Leadership Consulting Practice who discussed some of the key mindsets leaders have displayed going through this challenging period. We then broke into small groups where guests shared ideas and experiences as to how their businesses are developing and maintaining wellbeing and resilience in the workplace. The conversation moved on to how they, as business leaders, continue to lead though the current challenges. Some key takeaways from the discussion, are presented below.
It’s All About the People
One of the main lessons learned by leaders has been that, at the start of Covid-19, most individuals thought that this crisis was “All About the Operations”. This included managing the shift to working from home, logistics, and making sure organisations could continue servicing clients with no interruption in service. Twelve months into leading through significant change, and reflecting back on the challenges and learnings, leaders agreed that it is not all about the operations, rather it’s “All About the People”.
Participants discussed how employees are still seeking certainty; a constantly changing and uncertain future leaves people unsettled. Most employees in our leaders’ firms quickly adapted to home-working, but as the country moves out of lockdown there is a new, uncertain future, such as returning to the office, the shape of the organisation, and new technologies, which requires leaders to provide new direction and motivation. Staff are asking “Where are we moving to as a business?”. Attention needs to be paid to take employees through these difficult times carefully. One strong statement was made that “this pandemic has yet to show the full impact on people’s wellness and wellbeing”.
It was agreed that it is important to spend time and invest resources to understand how employees are really feeling. On one level, uncertainty is causing anxiety and a level of exhaustion in society. On the flip side, the solidarity is an opportunity to be part of a wider cause and to produce a better and lasting positive outcome for business and society.
One strong point was made and agreed on that uncertainty creates solidarity. Some of the leaders have learned that this uncertainty can be leveraged to talk to employees more, involving them in the business, which thus creates a strong and positive culture of belonging in an organisation.
More Opportunities to Connect and to Build Trust
There was a real sense that the current working arrangements, despite the initial challenges, have brought a lot of positives and many valuable learns. One of our attendees commented about how employees and several teams have become a lot closer to each other over the past year than ever before. We have seen that through video conferencing creating virtual rather than in person team meetings, employees from different offices around the globe have been communicating more, creating a more global team. It has also meant that senior leaders get additional time to dedicate to their more junior employees, who in turn get to spend more time with their leaders and grow a deeper relationship of trust.
Another attendee shared the real focus on junior leadership care and development in their business, which has helped them to navigate through today’s changes and challenges; this has led to a lot of people in their business showing their “bigger self” and therefore growing in confidence.
Communication has changed over the last twelve months and there has been more open communication between the more junior members of a company and the leadership team. With everyone facing similar challenges, such as internet failure, outside disturbances in meetings (doorbells ringing, pets visiting etc) it has created a leveling of how colleagues perceive each other and “we’re all in this together” and bringing whole self in the workplace.
How will Working Arrangements be in the Near Future?
There was general agreement that it has almost been easier to manage people during lockdown with everyone forced to work from home. However, businesses are now facing further challenges as we move out of lockdown, caused by the difficulty of creating a strategy around the still uncertain future of flexible ways of working.
Leaders are being mindful to consider the new life/work balance that employees have got used to, need and want to continue having in the future, but it will be inevitable for some businesses to create a form of “work from the office rota” to avoid employees getting into silos and never meeting with their peers, or there being an excess demand for space on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but empty offices on Monday and Friday.
It will be challenging to find stability for some time and businesses will need to continuously review these arrangements. A balance needs to be found: businesses need to be more flexible with listening and hearing what employees need and supporting them, but ensuring that the business agrees on the overall benefits of being in the office to collaborate and for training and development.
Finally, leadership care emerged to be front of mind for some businesses, while others got there a little later on. A Chief Executive explained how their institution has put a particular big focus on leadership care, by giving back time to their employees. Examples have included, no internal meetings at lunchtimes, and a “no Zoom Friday” policy to tackle the fatigue and exhaustion from a full week of video conferences. It was raised how Chief Executives and their Exco need to be role models of leadership care to get their direct reports and employees to really follow suit, leading from the front.
It was a lively interchange of ideas and experiences that could have carried on long beyond the allotted time. However, a few key points stood out for our guests.