Employers within the financial services industry have unique time and absence needs. While other industries, such as manufacturing, may be saddled with union rules and the need to track multifactor labour distribution transactions, financial services has its own share of challenges.
In order to explore these issues further we recently held a roundtable discussion with senior HR executives from ten of the UK’s most influential financial services firms to better understand emerging best-practice strategies for developing a happy, healthy and committed workforce.
With experience managing a collective total of more than 300,000 employees across more than 100 countries, the issues shared among the HR professionals present provide an insightful look at the challenges and opportunities facing today’s leading financial services organisations.
Our guests agreed that one of the biggest challenges facing large financial services organisations is managing multiple branches across multiple locations. As several pointed out, this can also mean tracking time and attendance for employees assigned to multiple branch locations working under different managers.
They agreed that organisations had to look at timekeeping solutions capable of automating time and attendance processes for all employees, across all locations, even those who are part-time, under contractor status or who work multiple jobs with different timesheet approvers.
Other issues identified in this area included the fact that, as many financial services organisations include call centres, the ability to integrate with Call Management systems for time and scheduling is also critical. Furthermore, attendance point tracking was seen as key to help manage the precise staffing levels needed to handle high call volumes and ensure sufficient coverage at all times.
Another concern was the issue of monitoring time and costs related to billable hours for shared services teams. Robust time and attendance solutions that can handle all of these timekeeping challenges without resorting to manual workarounds for distinct employee groups were seen by the group as a key requirement.
An automated solution can help spot trends in attendance, as well as individual and team performance across different regions or products and, as one delegate pointed out, crossing over quality and productivity data allows HR to manage individuals, teams and products more effectively.
Our guests agreed that one of the biggest challenges facing large financial services organisations is managing multiple branches across multiple locations.
Presenteeism vs absenteeism
For some of our financial services guests, presenteeism is a key challenge where sometimes a strong work ethic causes employees to feel they need to go to work even when this could actually be counterproductive and worse than being absent.
Delegates agreed that flexible working did help but were unanimous with regard to the problem of presenteeism when employees are on leave when they don’t switch off and are continuously ‘in touch’. This was seen as a serious cultural issue that often stems from the top of the organisation and a very real challenge.
Accurate time tracking prevents payroll errors and our guests stressed the importance of allowing flexibility in how and where employees enter time transactions. Often, there is a need for more than the traditional desktop and mobile solutions and, in cases where there is a high number of employees clocking in and out at once, kiosks were identified as being able to accelerate the process.
Optional biometric verification through USB fingerprint scanners could offer additional security – seen as a plus in the financial services industry.
Multi-branch offices often need to track time against different holiday calendars as well. Several delegates reported issues with solutions unable to handle all of their requirements in this area without resorting to customisation.
While such practices can resolve the issue in the short term, they often delay deployment and result in the need for expensive maintenance over time as the customised code proves to be incompatible or insufficient. Our guests agreed that selecting a system that is capable of addressing all of an organisation’s needs – and can be configured to include each holiday calendar that impacts the business – would save time and protect their organisation’s bottom line.
With regard to employee absence, the benefits of an automated solution that offers the transparency to address absence patterns before they become an issue was discussed. Several delegates experiencing high employee absence rates suggested mandatory return-to-work interviews as a means of reducing absence levels.
Furthermore, adequate training for line managers, paired with accurate attendance data, could ensure that these conversations are more productive than punitive. Often, what comes to light is the need for more flexible scheduling – an issue that can be brought to the surface and resolved more readily through accurate, reliable attendance data.
Particularly in those financial services environments where employees have the option of flexible work hours, mobile access to time tracking and self-service tools was seen as crucial. Through a web-enabled smartphone or tablet, employees can enter time transactions, check time-off balances and submit time-off requests.
Likewise, mangers can review those requests and approve or deny them – without having to be tied to a desktop application. Ease of use and simple, uncluttered screens are also essential. As our delegates explained, the point is to give your employees convenient, accessible and reliable time tracking options. If the technology itself is cumbersome, employees simply won’t use it.
The ability to personalise content so that each employee – from individual contributors to senior managers – is presented with the options they need to use on a regular basis was also seen as key. Likewise, given the ongoing issues around M&A growth in financial services, it’s anticipated that any effective solution should be easily configurable to manage a growing workforce.
Labour law compliance
Labour law compliance should be a concern for every employer. But it is of particular importance to financial services organisations whose entities span multiple countries. While pay codes and time keeping processes may not be what you would consider ‘complex,’ demonstrating compliance with hundreds of wage and hour and absence laws across multiple geographies is rarely simple.
In actual practice, there are many subtle differences in how labour laws are interpreted across different countries; and even different locations within a single country.
Delegates pointed out that potential solutions need to help employers keep up with changing labour laws and be able to handle all employee groups, from full-time salaried employees to full and part-time hourly workers and contingent staff. The moment you have to manage a single group outside your system for any reason, you’ve introduced the possibility of costly calculation errors and non-compliance risks.
As mentioned, the financial services sector is renowned for a high level of M&A activity relative to other industries. This means that potential solutions should be able to handle all employees – even when they are subject to different labour laws or internal rules and processes.
For example, our delegates discussed the fact that it’s is not uncommon for legacy rules and procedures – that in other current situations would have been disallowed – to be permitted for some employee groups during a merger. This minimises the impact of the acquisition, which can be quite important to employee satisfaction and retention.
Yet, they agreed that what’s right for employees isn’t always easy for systems. Multiple delegates shared the importance of exploring workforce management solutions that can be configured to allow for those legacy exceptions and streamline acquisition processes across the entire organisation.
Flexibility and wellbeing
The very real issue of wellbeing – especially when it comes to mental health – will remain a key area of concern in the financial services sector and one way that it is being addressed is through a more flexible and personalised approach.
As we have mentioned, many of our guests are now offering flexible working opportunities which, of course, present their own issues with regard to monitoring productivity and effectiveness. Although it needs to be monitored, it’s not necessarily a problem.
One of our guests with 6000 employees aims to have 500 home workers by 2017 and is already seeing higher productivity levels from those already home working. Other companies claimed that as well as reducing workplace costs, offering hot desking environments had also added to a more conducive and productive working culture in the sector.
As well as flexible working patterns, there is a consistent demand in the sector for more flexible benefits; although that varies enormously across the various areas of the financial services sector. For instance, in investment and corporate banking high salaries were key to attracting and retaining talent.
In the insurance sector, employees were attracted more by other benefits such as healthcare and remote working whilst in retail banking recognition and reward schemes are increasingly popular.
The financial sector has long been known for long hours and highly pressurised work environments. Yet, as the delegates at our roundtable discussion emphasised, employers have the power to choose ‘employee-first’ solutions and polices that allow better communication around time off, absence and compliance.
The result is a more engaged and healthy workplace culture across the entire organisation – in addition to more dependable protections against payroll errors and non-compliance risks for the organisation.