Insight

Employee Wellbeing Could Be Your Firm’s Biggest Benefit

Sep 2, 2021

First published by wealthmanagement.com on September 2, 2021.

We’ve been through, and continue to experience, a pandemic that has completely changed the way companies do business –– digital is king. Remote work is everywhere. Staying competitive is much more multifaceted than it was before – it now includes being able to retain top talent.

“This is the way we’ve always done things.” “It’s too costly.” “We don’t know where to start.” These are the top reasons we’ve long heard from wealth management firms who haven’t yet implemented new technology platforms they desperately need to help their businesses thrive in today’s market. And they’re the same reasons we’re hearing now when firms are pressed to address team member wellbeing.

It is understandable that companies are reluctant to change. Change is hard. However, much like technology, team member wellbeing has become a critical component of a firm’s success. Whether your firm is a new start-up, midsize firm or large global institution, we all must put aside our hesitations and restructure how we view human capital.

We’ve Always Done It This Way

The familiar concept of work-life balance is outdated. It’s a numbers game of how much time you spend in one area of your life versus another. On paper it makes sense, but when put into practice it doesn’t sync with team members’ real-world needs. The newer concept of work-life blend is fluid and allows team members to move back and forth through all the elements of their lives as they need to. This merges into wellbeing much more easily than balance. Wellbeing is multi-dimensional—combining employees’ physical health, mental and spiritual health and family needs. Everyone has a unique blend; therefore, firms should strive to deliver benefits that work on an individual level.

It’s Too Costly

Not if you want happy clients and the ability to attract and retain top talent. A 2019 study by the Harvard Business Review, The Key to Happy Customers? Happy Employees, identified a strong correlation between happy team members and happy clients. Similarly, recent polls show that most team members are involved in the “Great Resignation”. According to a recent Monster.com report, 95% of workers are now considering changing jobs, and 92% are even willing to switch industries to find the right position. So, the question is not how can we afford to do this, the question is how can we afford not to do this?

We Don’t Know Where to Start

Read the studies about the post-coronavirus workplace for answers. Motivators for team members’ satisfaction have shifted. They have new priorities, new locations and more opportunities than before the pandemic. Whereas it might have been a question in 2019, work from home has been proven to work in many instances and a Gallup poll shows five out of 10 employees want a hybrid work environment in a post-Covid world.

Putting It into Practice

At F2 Strategy, our leadership team has spent 2021 thinking intentionally about building a workplace that delivers on team member wellbeing. As we work to build a strong corporate culture throughout our remote workforce, here’s what we see as critical in wealth management:

Leadership must understand what team members need to succeed in building a work-life blend in real-time, implement those policies and champion them from the top down (lead by example). Address what the current moment requires. For example:

  • Do they need the option to attend meetings virtually rather than require in-person events? Build that option into your meetings and corporate retreats and advocate that choosing to attend virtually doesn’t set them back.
  • Do they need screen-free days? Let them know that it is OK to turn cameras off when they choose. Or build in “No Zoom” Fridays or “Walk n Talk” meetings.

Leadership must build a remote culture that includes a blend of virtual and in-person connection and collaboration. The work from home versus the work from office debate is not black and white. Most people are in the middle and want a hybrid option that offers flexibility depending on what’s going on in their life on a given day or week.

To do this, firms can use a community-based technology that is structured intentionally for team members to do their jobs effectively and be a part of the company, as well as establish local small group in person activities in safe ways. Leadership is also responsible for helping their teams set boundaries and take time away from devices and work. The bottom line is to treat team members like responsible adults. Allow them to prioritize what matters to them and work in a place where they can keep those priorities openly.

Finally, leadership can also change the dialogue around paid time off (PTO). While maybe less common in the financial setting, many technology firms offer “unlimited PTO” which sounds great, but in the tech world it really means you’re working all of the time. Rather, set expectations for minimum time off each year (not maximum) and celebrate it.

One way is to encourage sharing vacation or wellness day photos on your team collaboration channels. At F2 Strategy, we have a Watercooler group chat on our social collaboration platform that lets team members share what they’re doing outside of work, ask questions of their expert peers and maintain connection throughout the day regardless of location.

Build Wellness into Business-as-Usual

Setting new policies is not enough. Making team member wellbeing policies successful requires open and ongoing communication as well as leading by example. Regularly reiterate the policies around screen time, PTO or in-person meetings. Empower your leadership team to bring their authentic selves to work and show them to their team. Some will be open and extroverted while others will be more reserved and introverted. Respect team members’ privacy preferences. While it's good to encourage team members to share their personal lives, some might not want to; demonstrate that’s ok too.

With so much of the workplace world in flux, wealth management firms of all types must grab the opportunity to set fears aside and deliver a new environment for your team. Investing in a culture that respects their wellbeing will pay dividends in bringing top talent to your firm and delivering clients an exceptional experience.

Liz Fritz is co-founder and chief commercial officer at F2 Strategy

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