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Spans and fractures: Seizing the shift in employee experience in COVID-19

Dec 09, 2020

If the events of the past year have shown us anything, it’s that financial institutions need to be agile and adaptable. When organizations once said, “Nope, remote work will never be possible here,” we’re now seeing large-scale shifts to virtual environments.

COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation at an unprecedented pace. And that’s introduced a whole host of new (or heightened) employee issues: skill gaps (hard and soft), fear, burnout, isolation, work-life effectiveness, etc.

As talent managers, we can think of the employee experience like a spider web. Touch just one area and the whole web quivers. But COVID-19 hasn’t been a touch — it’s been an all-out tug. In response, many financial institutions are using this time of change to take a fresh look at the employee experience, from organizational structure to performance management, compensation and culture.

The employee experience is like a web, and COVID is the cloud.

Figure 1: The employee experience is like a web…and COVID is the cloud

Below are three of the things financial institutions are thinking about right now:

1. Job fracturing

This is a huge issue in community financial institutions because you have a lot of people wearing different hats. The challenge is to figure out whether you have multiple people wearing the same hat. For example, if you have five different people with 20% responsibility for some part of HR, the question becomes, would you be better off having one dedicated person?

Ask yourself: If you were to start this financial institution today and draw the ideal structure to accomplish your goals, what would that look like? Once you know that, you can start to build the transition strategy to get from where you are today to where you need to be.

2. Emergent roles

As talent leaders, we need to be looking ahead to what’s on the horizon. One of the roles we see coming, particularly in response to COVID-19, is a technical trainer.

In community financial institutions, the trainer is often aligned with retail. The function is typically inaccessible to other departments and may not be positioned to support leadership development. But now, with the amount of technical transformation that’s occurring, we may see the trainer role emerge as its own function.

The trainer will support people during times of change and drive ongoing optimization. Instead of one short training session during onboarding, for example, the trainer will continuously engage team members: “Here are the new tools. Let me show you how they work and when they should be used to take full advantage.”

3. Span of control

With the shift to remote work, it’s time to take a look at the span of control in your organization. Generally speaking, we advise that five to seven direct reports is about the most one working manager can handle. If you have a manager who says they could never handle calendar-based performance reviews (versus anniversary year), that may be a sign you have someone with too many direct reports.

In the days before COVID-19, managers could get a pulse on employee well-being and engagement by walking around. You could see people’s faces and read body language. Now, in a remote environment, managers have to carve out time differently.

They have to get intentional about checking in with people. They have to plan and schedule those conversations that before might have happened more organically in the workplace. That’s going to be a big shift for some leaders in terms of how they manage their time and their teams — and it could be a significant skill gap for some leaders.

Maintaining the manager-employee connection is important, not just in terms of productivity and work quality. We need to be thinking about how we keep remote employees connected to the organization now and after the pandemic. How will we make them feel like they’re a core part of the financial institution and not a gig employee?

How Wipfli can help

Community financial institutions bring a lot of generosity of heart to the table when it comes to issues like titles and responsibilities. Wipfli can help you see where that generosity is helping build relationships, and where it might cause fissures down the line.

We specialize in talent management for financial institutions, and we’re ready to help you grasp this moment. Engage your team in change while change feels like the order of the day. Contact us to learn more.

Related content:

5 employee compensation items that should be on your review list

4 ways behavioral data helps you improve employee engagement

4 ways to manage employees — and their goals — while meeting your organization’s changing needs



Julia A. Johnson
Director, Organizational Performance
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