By Mark Devereux, CTO, Scalable Software
It’s been a tough couple of years for financial services. The pandemic saw the narrow lanes and boulevards of the Square Mile and Canary Wharf empty out, as thousands of workers were sent to work from home. Working life will never be the same again. Yet what is emerging has the potential to be even better, for employers and their staff.
As hybrid working practices become the norm in financial services, with the City welcoming workers back for at least some of the week, care must be taken to ensure digital transformation initiatives deliver as promised. More money spent on new technologies doesn’t always translate into increased productivity or happier employees. A more intelligent analysis of how technology is used by financial sector workers will have a huge impact—on both the bottom line and employee wellbeing.
A new world of work
On paper, hybrid working offers the best of both worlds: an opportunity to catch-up in person with colleagues in the office, whilst preserving work-life balance. That’s good news for employers looking to drive collaboration and boost retention at a time when many workers are mooting a career change. It’s no surprise that 85% of UK hybrid workers polled last year said they expected to share their time between their usual place of work and remote working in the future.
Yet, the reality is more nuanced than this. In the world of hybrid work, technology plays an outsized role in connecting employees at home and in the office. Technology must be reliable and fit for purpose. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Our research found that hybrid employees in the financial sector waste an average of 4.43 hours each week because of technology that doesn’t work, runs slowly, or has poor design and workflows. That’s nearly a whole hour more than the average hybrid worker.
Where’s the pain?
The hybrid world of work relies on technology to enable a seamless transition between the home office and company headquarters. But there are many points of potential failure and friction—from faulty hardware to workers unable to access critical systems or information to do their job. If they’re not in the office, staff can’t simply knock on IT’s door for help with a slow-running device, or ask a colleague for help because an app has crashed. Some 85% of financial workers we surveyed said it’s more difficult to do their job from home because they don’t have access to all the tech they need.
In the hybrid workplace, users may also be working with non-approved applications, further sapping productivity. Moreover, many companies purchased and licensed multiple applications in the same category to fill short-term needs, such as having Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams in place. But if half of a team are on Slack and the other half on Teams, there will inevitably be communication breakdown, not to mention the cost of unused software.
This isn’t just about maximising productivity, it’s also an issue of staff wellbeing. More than half (54%) of employees across all sectors told us that poor digital experiences have left them feeling frustrated and nearly two-fifths (38%) reported reduced job satisfaction. There is also a knock-on effect on retention. Nearly a third (30%) said a below par digital experience has either made them want to leave a job or has actually led to them doing so.
How strategic insight can help
By thinking more strategically about the impact hybrid workplace technology can have on the user experience, IT leaders in the financial sector could put a lot right. The key is to spot the early warning signs that failing systems are putting undue pressure on employees. They may end up working longer hours simply to compensate for inadequate tech—impacting productivity, wellbeing, retention, and eventually the bottom line. But finding out what’s going on isn’t as simple as asking for employee feedback. Users have often been working with digital friction for so long that they don’t even notice it anymore.
Instead, IT needs to collect objective, data-driven insight to see where problems are. That means granular, intelligent workplace analytics to deliver real-time visibility into technology usage and performance. Metrics should be collected from across hardware assets like laptops and the software running on devices, to gain a holistic picture of employee working patterns. Financial service organisations will do best by picking the KPIs that matter most to them, such as app usage or stability, and tracking them over time. With this insight, they can identify which individuals and teams are doing best and treat them as exemplars for others to learn from.
Most importantly, IT leaders will be able to see where technology should be enhanced, extra training provided, or processes adjusted to reduce friction. And where and how employee wellbeing may be suffering. Too often digital transformation initiatives focus on the customer experience. But by gaining insight into employee experience and technology use, financial services firms can improve the business, from the inside out.