COVID-19 has created a global shift in ways of working, impacting the entire workforce. Most firms, at the start of the pandemic, rightly prioritised the health and safety of their employees and managed risk in the short-term by switching rapidly to a remote working model.
For some, this happened nearly overnight; changing the ways colleagues interact with each other, putting a heavy reliance on technology and interpersonal skills operating via virtual platforms. In turn, this significantly impacted employee-employer relationships. Many firms have had to reframe ‘social contracts’ – when, where and how employees work – on a personalised level, to make sure they can work safely and sustainably around their own lives, as their dining tables replace their office desks.
What is becoming clear is that the changes made by employers during this time, which in March 2020 were short-term changes driven by necessity, are now having a profound long-term impact on how we work. Some changes will undoubtedly become permanent shifts in working practices, but we need to think carefully about how we structure work in the future. Retaining some of the practices that are now commonplace, whilst rethinking the role of office-based work and face-to-face interactions will be important.
The learning curve has been steep, but as firms begin to plan for their recovery, they must balance meeting changed employee expectations with operational continuity. This report references research from KPMG in the UK and the Financial Services Skills Commission, which surveyed 1,500 members of the UK’s workforce. The research aimed to understand how employee sentiment changed as a result of the sector response to the pandemic, how expectations of work have changed and key considerations for financial services firms to ensure they continue to attract and retain top talent moving forward.
We have seen long-term workforce trends accelerate significantly over the last six months, largely as a result of remote working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This period has pulled several issues that the financial services industry was already facing into stark focus, with remote working policies, changes to the nature of work, and how we structure our organisations and resourcing models to support this, as examples. Skills and learning are at the centre of this and will be key when it comes not only to retaining the sector’s prized talent but attracting new talent too. Those who are open to rethinking their operations based on the learnings from this period are setting themselves up for success in a new reality, whilst those who aren’t may be hankering to a return to a world that no longer exists.
The last few months have brought the skills challenges facing the UK financial services sector into greater focus. As we have experienced a huge leap forwards in digitisation and remote working, the need to upskill our employees in digital and technology expertise is more important than ever. Increased investment in our employees’ future skills, alongside a flexible hybrid working model, will help the UK financial services address the skills crisis it has been facing, attract the best talent and position for a successful future.
The Financial Services Skills Commission is an independent, member-led body, representing the UK financial services sector on skills. Through four workstreams, the Commission is addressing the major issues impacting the sector around skills, diversity and inclusion, and finding solutions to improve access to talent. Through our membership of the Commission, we are able to actively collaborate with other businesses, training providers, regulators and the education sector. Together we are working to create solutions that work for all stakeholders involved.