Insights & Opinions

Balancing the New Way of Working and The War for Talent

Mon, 30 May 2022

Rik Coeckelbergs Founder and CEO The Banking Scene

Balancing the New Way of Working and The War for Talent featured
Banks' priorities change constantly and this requires different skill sets. They need digital talent, data experts, artificial intelligence specialists, engineers, and more compliance officers.

We spoke to Jean-Philippe Thirion, Business Unit Leader of Financial Institutions at TriFinance, to learn how banks cope with these challenges.

Jean-Philippe: Talent attraction and talent retention is the top priority. This isn't something recent; I've heard this since I started my career. Change is complex and, in today's world, continuous.

A few years ago we discussed digitisation, a broad concept. On one hand, banks require technical expertise and on the other, good customer service skills are essential to accurately translate their needs into products and services.

This can affect the trust relationship between clients and their banks. Banks contact us to help their sales teams deal with the trust gaps that digital services create. Today, clients are forced to speak to a bot, or a person who works in a shared service centre in Morocco, Belgium or a place that is nowhere near to the bank. This results in an increased need for developing the necessary skills to put digital tools at the service of customers again. It involves a marathon track; a long-term path that should have started yesterday if you want to see serious results tomorrow

We believe that banks need to invest more in "intrapreneurial" skills to accelerate the acceptance of change within financial institutions. These skills are not evident in a bank's DNA nor in its culture, today.

With the tensions in the labour market, upskilling and reskilling have become even more important. What do banks need to do to make this happen?

Jean-Philippe: I consider the retention of people the new intake. It's better to invest in reskilling the existing employees instead of 'acquiring' new skills on the market – of course, in reality, it's a combination of both.

At TriFinance, we speak of people centricity and 'economies of motivation'. The delivery to our clients is better when our consultants are motivated and like what they do. Among other things, people centricity means that employers need to define employability tracks for their employees because organisational needs are constantly evolving, and people need to remain up to speed with these changes. Coping with change also implies tolerance for internal mobility.

This comes with a paradox: how can we foster internal mobility without creating instability in the teams? There is a fear of letting performant people go to another department. Organisations need to lift the commitments of their employees. Commitment should no longer be measured on an individual, department or process level but through the adhesion to a company's purpose, mission and strategy. People are looking for a bigger purpose and want to find a match between their individual purpose and the company's purpose. The potential instability in some teams must result in more stability across the organisation.

At TriFinance, we try out as many journeys and tracks as possible. People are encouraged to complete projects in different departments and environments to foster the acquisition of new skills that match the future needs of organisations. This allows our colleagues to further themselves and, at the same time, ensure continuous employability. This requires an open culture and a willingness of the leadership team to tolerate small mistakes if internal mobility should lead to some instability.

On top of internal mobility, COVID-19 led to more remote work. How should banks deal with this disconnect to avoid the mental stress of employees?

Jean-Philippe: Very good question. It's not only valid for financial institutions; we see this happening to many of our customers. The biggest impact of Covid-19- is the mental disconnect people have. Anxiety, stress, temporary unemployment or the threat of temporary unemployment, and health problems have created a lot of uncertainty in people's minds.

The middle management at financial institutions was not well prepared. They were instructed to give more space and build trust. At the same time, I noticed that even modern managers obliged their teams to be physically present at the office. Management doubted their intrinsic motivation - but that's not how it should be.

The message of 'trust first' is still a matter of culture. Better balanced remote work should allow a better fit with our way of life and new ways of working. This encourages professionals to realise their work and reach their objectives. We also need guidelines to disconnect. We don't have to be mentally connected all the time.

A remote working policy is so important today that it is considered part of the compensation and benefits package. At TriFinance, we give our colleagues the freedom to work from the office according to their own preference, without fixed days. We genuinely believe in a hybrid way of working.

What matters to me is that we reach our strategic goals, have good results, and work together as a team. This is a challenge too – people have different views and opinions, and alignment is essential. Guidance and guidelines are required, together with trust and the right tools.

I see many advantages of this hybrid way of working, especially for a consultant. For instance, we have assignments in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia open for colleagues in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Projects that we probably couldn't work on 2-3 years ago, back, when the physical presence of the consultants was a requirement.

How do you translate this in your own organisation?

Jean-Philippe: At TriFinance, we believe in 'do-how' (i.e. the combination of pragmatic advisory - 'know-how' - and operational support). Our true value proposition is not only what we do but how we do it, i.e. our operating model and philosophy. We place people centricity and intrapreneurship at the heart of what we do. All these concepts touch on the people aspect and Human Development.

It's important to know that at TriFinance, we do not use Human Resources terminology. Fundamental in our employees' first approach is the conviction that people should never be discarded or treated as resources. Employees are the architect of their own talent, skills and career. That's why we focus on HD instead of HR. It's all about Human Development.

Human Development as a philosophy is a perfect fit with our mission, furthering people for better performance. We truly believe in personal growth. Not because we are altruistic or philanthropists, but because we believe that a company's growth is based on the growth of the people.

How can TriFinance help financial institutions with these challenges?

Jean-Philippe: TriFinance operates broader than only the finance departments of financial institutions. We have projects covering operations, risk management, compliance and human development. In the finance department, the biggest challenge for tomorrow is not primarily linked to technology but rather to the culture of organisations and the skills of people.

We are not selling coaching models, but we propose pragmatic approaches positioning people in the centre. We combine the knowledge of the underlying processes and systems with the expertise of the necessary current and future skills people need to run these processes in a continuously changing environment. These skills include technical skills but for a significant part soft skills.

Think about an accountant and a controller who have their own style. We understand the personality of finance professionals and we understand the systems and processes. Good knowledge of these profiles combined with our insights into a finance department makes our service very compelling.

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