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The changing nature of office design in financial services

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By Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, EMEA at Logitech

 

Four years ago, the right to request flexible working became UK law. Since then, flexible working has become more prevalent, to the point that half of the UK workforce is predicted to work remotely by 2020. This year PWC introduced a ‘work when you want’ policy, giving new recruits the opportunity to choose their hours worked. This action was taken following a study the firm commissioned which found 46% of workers prioritise flexible working and a work-life balance when searching for a job.

 

This huge shift in working culture has also meant office design trends are changing. With more employees working remotely, businesses are finding new ways to utilise their office space to facilitate modern working practices, such as hot desking and video calls.

 

While many people consider this sort of setup to be part of start-up culture, we are increasingly seeing large enterprises embrace new-age office design. For example, UBS recently commissioned WeWork to redesign their New Jersey office, as the banking giant looks to move away from the usual aesthetic that financial institutions tend to adopt. London-based fund managers are also starting to move to more open, collaborative spaces to facilitate agile working, accompanied by music rooms and restaurants.

More companies are looking to redesign their spaces, and so it’s important office managers are on top of trends and aware of the latest technologies that can help with any desired change in office layout.

 

The impact of technology on design

Anne Marie Ginn

 

Advancements in technology and changing corporate cultures have helped the flexible working revolution. The advent of cloud technology means that workers can access their files online from virtually anywhere, across all their devices. Collaboration software has made communication between employees effortless, even if they aren’t working in the same building. As a result, we are seeing more employees working away from the office, whether that be at home, a coffee shop, or on the road.

 

Research from Gensler has shown that in the average workplace individual workstations are only occupied 55% of the time, likely due to the introduction of flexible working. Because of this, many companies are reluctant to move into large office spaces, and instead actively plan for a reduced desk to employee ratio looking for smaller spaces that can facilitate flexible working practices. With this comes open plan offices, huddle rooms and hot desking policies, all with the aim of making more efficient use of space and meeting the need of an agile, mobile workforce.

 

Spaces are evolving

 

One example of changing spaces in modern offices are meeting rooms, due to the shift to video calls. According to a recent survey by research firm Frost & Sullivan, most C-level executives prefer video calls to audio-only, finding that they boost productivity, accelerate decision making, and improve customer experience. Video meetings are becoming increasingly common, and so companies are investing in huddle rooms optimised for video calls rather than just large meeting rooms designed for face-to-face meetings.

 

There are a wide range of different conference cameras available for these spaces, so it’s important office managers and IT buyers know which type is appropriate for each room. A smaller, portable conference camera like Logitech’s Connect could be shared between huddle rooms, whereas a large meeting room may need a more advanced fixed conference camera, with additional microphones and speakers depending on the size of the room.

 

Portable peripherals are having a big impact on office design trends too. For example, the deployment of tablets can completely change the customer experience. A customer of ours in the financial sector replaced all desktop PCs with tablets on their customer service floor, so that their consultants could better interact with customers when talking about loan or mortgage applications. Considering the kind of cases and keyboards you use is important with this type of deployment, and products like the Folio case, with an integrated keyboard, can be a good bet. Feedback from the bank has been positive, who report a better, slicker experience for its customers.

 

More employees want to be able to work away from their desks, and so companies are investing in transforming different areas of their offices into breakout areas suitable for both work and meetings. For example, Alphabet’s offices in London use its reception area as a workspace, with the large reception desk doubling up as a desk for workers in the building, and other large tables and chairs available for use.

 

The benefits of new office design

 

Many of the new office layouts also help to bring about increased collaboration between employees. Open plan offices and break out areas are designed to promote discussion between workers, while rooms designed specifically for video calls can boost productivity in meetings.

 

When office design is done well, it improves employee satisfaction, which in turn helps to boost employee productivity. As a result, it is also beginning to play an important role in employee recruitment, where a great office layout can be the difference between hiring an outstanding candidate and losing them to another company.

 

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Finance

The Importance of Experienced Customer Service Advisors in Finance

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If there is one thing which can be said about the finance sector, it would be that as a customer-facing industry, the most important skills within any job position would be customer service skills. However, what would those job skills in customer service be? And what is the experience required for customer services positions? Let’s look at that in terms of the finance sector so that you can see just how important it is that customer services responsibilities are monitored closely.

What Does a Customer Service Advisor Do?

There are actually two kinds of broad categories of customer service jobs. The first, and probably most well-known, is a customer service representative who takes incoming calls or chats from a chat box. In other words, a customer service rep takes queries and handles incoming communications. A customer service advisor is more likely to initiate communications to:

  • Advise on any changes to financial terms, such as due dates and amounts
  • Follow up on late or missed payments
  • Keep the lines of communications open to maintain a positive CX, Customer Experience

While not exactly sales reps, customer service advisors can often upsell on these courtesy calls. It is one thing that basic, entry level customer services reps aren’t really trained to handle. Sometimes, they can pass calls up the hierarchical customer service ladder to be handled within the tasks of a customer services advisor who can add services or upsell financial products. However, basic level customer service reps cannot handle those kinds of services.

General Customer Services Job Description

So, what then are some job description examples for customer services? As noted above, customer service duties are mostly limited to incoming queries and contact points. Customer services skills include, but are not limited to:

  • Exceptional communication skills
  • Ability to be an active listener
  • Knowledgeable about financial products and services
  • Ability to read into a customer’s intentions
  • A calm and quiet presence
  • Ability to think on their feet for unforeseen situations

And those are just some of the skills and responsibilities in customer services. It should be said that although a job applicant has had experience in customer services, most jobs will provide training based on their company’s best practices and policies. Therefore, customer services qualifications may require entry level experience for customer service jobs, but the onboarding process will prepare them for work at that company and within the job for which they are being hired to do. During that onboarding process, they will also be made aware of very specific responsibilities of a customer service rep.

Which Side of Customer Services Would You Like to Work Within?

It often takes a certain kind of personality able to initiate calls and contacts with customers. With so many unsolicited sales calls being received daily, many consumers are put off before the conversation can even begin. It can be frustrating, to say the least. Since they are already customers/clients of your financial products, they don’t realise that customer service advisors are simply making courtesy, follow-up calls. Are you patient in nature? If so, this might be the exact job for you!

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Financial Services Makes Gains In Employee Engagement

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By Phil Chambers, GM Workday Peakon Employee Voice 

 

A new report shows that the financial services industry improved in almost all elements of employee engagement last year. Can such momentum be sustained?

After more than two years of change, one thing is certain: keeping workers engaged has become more challenging – and more urgent. Record numbers of workers have left their jobs in the UK. And, as turnover has increased, employee engagement – people’s mental and emotional investment in their work and workplace – has been tested. In today’s climate, engagement isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative – especially as companies with engaged employees are known to reap benefits including higher productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

The financial services industry hasn’t been immune from the so-called Great Reshuffle. But, according to Workday’s latest State of Engagement Report, it did make measurable gains in employee engagement during 2021. Of the 17 industries analysed, financial services’ engagement ranking jumped from ninth to fifth place.

The report analysed nearly 9 million employee responses from almost 2.5 million employees throughout 2021. It compared the engagement scores given by employees working in different industries over the 12-month period, as well as scores for the 14 drivers of engagement – including autonomy, goal setting, meaningful work, reward, and recognition.

Organisations in the financial services industry have been considered less   quick to evolve than others. PwC recently characterised insurance companies, for instance, as “traditionally risk-averse and slow to change”. But, as the report shows, financial services clearly made some improvements. It is noteworthy given the enduring pandemic-related economic turbulence of 2021 – and the fact that during that time global engagement scores overall slightly declined.

 

Where The Financial Services Industry Improved in Employee Engagement

Remarkably, the financial services industry saw increased rankings and scores in all but one of the 14 engagement drivers that the State of Engagement report measures.

Of all 17 industries analysed, financial services took top place for goal setting by the end of 2021 (up from sixth at the start of the year) and landed among the top three sectors for strategy and recognition too. These strong results indicate the industry provided clear direction to its people at both individual and organisational levels, and appropriately recognised employees when they met their goals.

The improvement in the industry’s overall engagement, however, was driven largely by a sizable increase in its environment driver score in 2021, suggesting that a significant number of employees responded positively to having more freedom around where they worked during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for financial services firms to offer flexible options at all. But, in 2021, more than ever before, many firms’ employees were working remotely or enjoying a hybrid of both remote and in-office work – as and when offices started to re-open. This unprecedented choice in where, how, and when they worked was appreciated, as the report indicates, by many workers in the sector.

 

Where There’s Room For Improvement

As the report found, many employees feel the amount of work they have is increasingly unmanageable. Workload continues to be a pain point across all industries globally, with workload satisfaction scores dipping slightly in 2021. At the end of the year, financial services received its lowest engagement-driver score for workload and ranked 11th among the 17 industries analysed.

This indicates employees in the financial services industry found their workload less manageable as the year progressed, which is perhaps unsurprising when considering the pandemic’s ongoing toll in many parts of the world, and the fact that remote working can lead to ‘always-on’ work lives.

To help mitigate burnout risk and diminished engagement going forward, financial services leaders and managers will need to stay close to their employees in the months ahead to find out how they can best support them, whether that’s with additional resources, greater work flexibility, or updated benefits. By regularly staying abreast of people’s needs and taking the necessary action, organisations can spot potential problems before they lead to resignations.

 

What The Industry Should Avoid Going Forward

In recent months, we’ve seen some financial institutions try to take a “return to normal” approach, requesting their people go back to working onsite five days a week. But, as the report shows, this approach may not be the best one for everyone, particularly as the past two years have revealed that many employees appreciate and benefit from a greater degree of flexibility.

Of course, not all organisations will be able to provide hybrid or remote arrangements for all their people. But greater flexibility doesn’t necessarily have to mean working remotely. It could mean more flexible scheduling options, or a shift in working hours to enable a greater work-life balance.

Either way, to retain the engagement gains achieved in 2021, the financial services industry should resist the temptation to look back, and must instead take learnings from the past two years. Amid so much economic and societal change, and with employees continuing to shift jobs in record numbers, companies cannot simply go back to before, but need to continue moving forward, listening to the needs of their people, and leading with empathy.

Specifically, leaders and managers in financial services will need to stay closer than ever to employee feedback, going beyond listening and working fast to implement change accordingly.

For the industry to continue making positive gains in employee engagement, it will need to: consider how to retain a degree of flexibility – updating models to reflect evolving employee needs; continue to provide clear individual and organisational direction to those working remotely and on site; create and maintain more manageable workloads through prioritisation and automating repetitive tasks; and continue to reward and recognise employees for their hard work and achievements.

While great strides were made last year, it’s more important now than ever that leaders in the financial services industry determine and understand how employees are feeling so that organisations can explore and shape a future of work that works for everyone.

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