Charles Schwab Corporation, based in San Francisco, is one of the largest banking and brokerage firms in the US, with more than 18,000 full-time employees and 345 branches. The fast-growing company attributes much of its success over more than 4 decades to sustaining a strong workplace culture that differentiates it from the competition. Keith Mattioli, a Principal in KPMG's US Management Consulting group, who has been working with Schwab's HR team for the past 5 years supporting their transformation efforts, sat down with Katie Casey, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, to discuss the company's current ambitious initiative to create the workforce of the future and remain a recognized `employer of choice'.
Keith Mattioli (KM): What does the workforce of the future look like and how will it differ from the traditional workforce?
Katie Casey (KC): For starters, tomorrow's workforce will be more diverse than ever. Not only will we have five generations working together by 2025, 75 percent of those employees will be millennials, who are more ethnically diverse than any group we've ever seen in the workforce. Beyond that, many of the tasks people do today will be automated. Automation, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence will foster major changes that enhance employee productivity and business efficiency. Jobs and work processes will be redefined and employees will be freed up to focus on tasks that deliver greater value to the business. Meanwhile, workforce data and analytics will accelerate our ability to make rapid, informed, evidence-based business decisions on service, productivity and efficiency. It's exciting to consider what the future holds overall for workforces and organizations in this digital era.
KM: Does Charles Schwab see itself as a forward-thinking organization by fully embracing the challenge of digital change and workforce transformation?
KC: Yes, we've moved very quickly to look at digital capabilities and what the future workforce looks like. We want to respond to what our clients ask for and expect from us, so we're very engaged in enacting change. For example, we created a group we're calling Digital Services. This business unit is focused on finding modern ways to operate the business – evolving it beyond our traditional approach to a model that's digital, agile and design-thinking based.
KM: What are the competitive advantages for businesses embracing transformation and redefining the employee experience?
KC: This is a critical concept for any service business today. Our brand, and the trust that our clients place in us, are directly related to the positive interactions and enabling relationships that we create and foster among our employees. How employees feel about the company they work for - the employee experience – will always come through to a client. Clients want to know that our employees are treated fairly, that they are engaged in what they do, that they enjoy their work - and that comes through. The total experience that our employees have really matters.
KM: How do young employees' expectations compare with the realities they're seeing in today's traditional workplace environments?
KC: One of the really big shifts we've seen with more young employees entering our call centers, branches and other areas of the business is their expectation and desire for continuous, in-the-moment feedback and coaching. It's not enough to get a traditional performance review and rating once a year. They're much more attuned to knowing how they are doing now and where they stand in the group setting. They want feedback much more frequently and that process needs to be fluid and going in both directions – meaning they're not shy about giving us feedback about how we're delivering the feedback! The ongoing exchange really does help people do their best work.
KM: So hearing feedback from employees is a valuable part of your efforts to develop the workplace of the future?
KC: Absolutely, yes. We've been spending time encouraging our managers to have regular coaching sessions and conversations with staff. This is probably a shift that almost all employers are going through right now. And it's going to be interesting to see what the benefits are once this kicks in as more of a business-as-usual response to employees. I can tell you we are listening closely to what employees tell us.
KM: With 345 branches and more than 18,000 employees, your HR strategy to evolve the operating model and redefine the workforce is ambitious. What's your outlook in terms of progress versus objectives – how are people responding to change?
KC: We were able to implement our new structure in March so we are moving pretty fast. But we're also implementing and integrating new technologies and that takes time. Our goal is to create a fully digital, self-service HR platform. The good news is that we're constantly refining things as we progress and working very closely with our business partners to ensure we're meeting their needs. It's a thoughtful, purposeful and iterative process. And our people are excited – today's talent really embraces companies that demonstrate strong, clear, vibrant belief systems. Our message to employees is: “Own your tomorrow.” Create your own destiny.
KM: Can you discuss the role your C-Suite leaders have played as partners in the journey to create a workforce of the future? And any advice for other businesses?
KC: Actually, the workforce of the future effort started and was led by the business initially so we have really strong partnership and support, which is why I'm so excited about it. Change is challenging for any organization; however, if everyone clearly understands the 'why' regarding change, you should be able to flex your HR resources and model to support it. That requires true partnership – the opportunity to sit with leaders as they make strategic adjustments and to think about what the employee impact will be. We have an amazing leadership team here at Schwab.
KM: How important will data and analytics be in enabling HR to deliver new value to the organization via evidence-based insights and strategic decision-making?
KC: Data and analytics capabilities are extraordinarily important for strategic workforce planning. When we sit down to talk about where a new team or workforce should be located, and how to develop an appropriate recruiting strategy, we start with data. For example, we're building a very large campus in Westlake, Texas, and exploring which business functions should be based there. We've used data to inform us on what types of roles are most easily filled in and around Westlake. With competition for good talent increasingly fierce, data and analytics will play a huge role.
KM: Digital self-service is obviously a big part of workforce transformation. What will employee self-service mean for your employees, managers and the business?
KC: We have a geographically distributed workforce, so we see digitally based employee self-service as a way to create a consistent and efficient experience across the company. For example, the way an employee learns about or selects their benefits, or how an employee posts for a job opening or transfer, or accesses information. There's a very practical side to digital self-service. We need to leverage scale and new capabilities to streamline processes and advance information sharing. We want the HR team focused on helping business leaders run a highly efficient and productive organization and that requires an information-exchange process that employees can access easily and reliably through a self-service platform.
KM: What are future areas of focus for your business and the significance to the organization, whether data and analytics, recruiting, staff retention, staff satisfaction?
KC: In terms of focus, we are actively pursuing the kind of workforce transformation that will fuel growth. Investable wealth in the US exceeds US$30 trillion today – that's just mind boggling. Schwab is now serving US$3.5 trillion in client assets and we've still got room to grow. The opportunities are enormous and we're better positioned than ever to capture a growing share of the market. To succeed, we'll need HR to go out and find the right talent for our culture and get them on-boarded and assimilated in a way that optimizes productivity and drives growth.
About Katie Casey
Catherine 'Katie' Casey is executive vice president of Human Resources at Charles Schwab and she is responsible for all HR functions. She leads Schwab's investments in building a capable, engaged and high-performing workforce focused on helping Schwab clients attain their financial goals.