June 29, 2021 – More and more companies are announcing their plans for workers to return to the office. So it is that reorganizing their approaches to hiring and new working environments has been high on the agendas of business leaders and HR professionals everywhere. Among the challenges that these changes pose are the practicalities of the physical space (how much is necessary and how it is best shaped to be most effective), the future approach to flexible working (splitting time between the office and home), and the question of how this might impact on the culture of an organization and the development of colleagues.
“HSBC has grabbed the headlines with their CEO announcing that the whole of the executive floor has been made open plan and implementing a hot-desking approach,” said JP Hibbert, who leads the human resources practice at U.K.-based Sainty, Hird & Partners, in a new report. “This followed news that they would be reducing their global office space by nearly 40 percent under the expectation that employees will adopt a more flexible approach, splitting their time between working at home and in the office. On the other hand, Goldman Sachs seem to be taking a different stance, with CEO David Solomon wanting to ‘correct’ the current working from home arrangement.”
Mr. Hibbert said that this seems to be coming from a place of valuing colleagues and their development along with realizing the power of collaboration, especially in innovation. Yet this view appears at odds with the direction that Nationwide, for one, has taken. “Surveying their staff, they found that 57 percent of them wanted to work from home permanently with a further 36 percent wanting a mix of office and home working,” Mr. Hibbert said. In response, Nationwide is initiating a “work anywhere” plan for 13,000 of the company’s previously office-based employees.
Mr. Hibbert said: “From my own observations, it appears that a slim majority of financial services organizations are making adjustments to their physical environments (beyond making adjustments to allow for COVID safe working), not only a reduction in the amount of space they use but also reshaping that space,” typically taking a more open plan and hot-desking approach. “In addition to this they are creating more, but smaller, meeting rooms with good video conferencing capability to allow for greater collaboration between colleagues both in the office and working remotely.”
A ‘Seismic’ Shift
The overall shift in approach to flexible working, he said, “does appear to be seismic at this point,” the pandemic accelerating the way in which we work significantly.
“Most organizations in financial services are gearing towards two or three days in the office, for roles that can be carried out effectively from different locations,” said Mr. Hibbert. “Typically, businesses are phasing this in from June with a target of operating to the new norm from September.”
Despite the benefits, this more flexible approach creates significant challenges: “In particular, building, changing or simply maintaining an organization’s culture, the development of colleagues, especially those at an earlier stage in their career or those taking on new leadership roles, collaboration and innovation and finally risk management all need to be carefully thought about,” said Mr. Hibbert. “There are, of course, good solutions available to enable and enhance our remote working experience. Whether it is technology, creativity or simply being mindful of the ways our colleagues are working, but this does require us to develop new skills and capabilities further to what we have all already been doing over the last year.”
If a truly hybrid model is going to be successful, Mr. Hibbert said, it is critical to invest further in both infrastructure and people. “These unique set of challenges being faced by organizations present a wide range of opportunities to reboot a company’s approach to the office environment and to culture,” he said. “With the right leadership, with investment in its people and an enabled and empowered people and culture (HR) capability an exciting and very different vision for the way we work, I think, can be realized.”
JP Hibbert, who joined Sainty, Hird & Partners last year, focuses on human resources roles in financial services. Previously, he built out the senior and search offering of a global HR recruitment specialist. Mr. Hibbert has delivered on mandates across all areas of financial services including banking, asset management, private equity, hedge funds, insurance, re-insurance and fintech. Supporting clients across multiple locations, placing CHROs, HR directors, heads of HR and strategic HR BPs as well as leadership roles in all of the specialist areas of HR including talent, recruitment, development, employee relations, compensation and benefits, organizational design and people change.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media