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Bringing culture to the boardroom: how financial services can embrace culture

By Ronni Zehavi, CEO, Hibob

The finance sector is changing. New technologies like AI and machine learning are reshaping both capabilities and job roles. But if there is one constant, it is the need for tech skills across the board.

Yet recent research shows that a limited pool of tech talent, further reduced by a decreased flow of EU tech graduates into the UK, is making it difficult to attract and retain the best and brightest. This has a direct impact on the ability to compete in a quickly evolving market. Understandably, both employee churn and recruitment costs are rising the ‘war for talent’. People and culture has fast become the make or break element for businesses across all sectors – especially a fast growing one like finance where pay cheques are already (relatively) high. But are boardroom conversations within the finance industry focusing enough on company culture?

Culture’s current position

According to recent Hibob research, looking at how C-Suite regard workplace culture, the financial service (FS) sector is notably less likely to discuss it at board-level than most verticals. In fact, only 66% of FS organisations regularly discuss culture here compared to a UK business average of 78%. Despite this, finance has one of the highest rates of any vertical trying to benchmark company culture, with 81% of companies currently monitoring culture. What’s more, finance is among the top industries where work-life balance is considered to have the biggest impact on company culture,with 25% feeling it impacts the most. In contrast, only 12% of companies see pay as having the biggest influence on culture – highlighting a need to prioritise employee wellbeing and lifestyle over material aspects such as pay.

It would appear that, despite the common opinion that culture is impactful and should be measured, financial organisations are still not prioritising it within the boardroom. It’s crucial that this changes.

The importance of workplace culture within the finance industry

Workplace culture is an especially pertinent issue in the fintech space, where companies are relatively new and scaling rapidly. Combine this with typically understaffed HR departments and you have a perfect storm of little-to-no concrete insight into workforce wellbeing.

Rapid scaling is practically synonymous with overworked staff, poor sense of community and rough company culture. Morgan McKinley recently reported that 94% of FS workers work beyond their contracted hours on a weekly basis, while nearly a third said there is an expectation that they work overtime.To add to this, almost half of financial workers do not leave the office or take a break at lunch time.

With research such as this revealing that the majority of employees within financial services feel overworked, the potentially negative impact of the industry’s ‘always-on’ culture comes under the spotlight. One thing is clear – more must be done to promote a positive work-life balance and, in turn, company culture within the financial services sector.

Driving Change

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of workplace culture and another to take proactive action, lead change from the top, and engage those below. FS leaders should make an effort to ensure the tools and measures to foster a positive culture are in place, if only for its impact on the bottom line!

In practical terms, technology can glean valuable employee insights, helping management develop an in-depth understanding of the workforce down to the individual employee. Perhaps an employee is regularly commuting long distances on top of long working hours? The correct HR tools would organically capture this data, allowing effective and informed decision making such as provisioning more agile working allowances for them. It’s all about people’s well-being. Letting employees’ voices be heard and listening to them closely is key for creating a transparent and positive culture, and in turn, for driving successful business results.

By creating and maintaining a central truth and having actionable internal – and external – insight that can be mobilised in a strategic and timely fashion, FS organisations can put their people front and centre. Ultimately, a positive culture can both improve workers’ quality of life and boost productivity and motivation, because at the end of the day, a happy workforce is a significantly more successful one.