Roundtable insights: HR trends across financial services

Author Fay Phillips-Jones
March 1, 2023

At Frazer Jones, I’m responsible for engaging senior HR leaders across the industry and delivering high-profile retained searches to meet their hiring needs.

My role is to support businesses by offering effective and tailored hiring solutions based on a methodological approach and my HR practitioner experience. I coach and advise senior HR leaders on how to best present themselves in a competitive market. I offer market trends, salary benchmarking and practical advice.

To connect and create a space for like-minded HR professionals, I regularly host insightful executive roundtables across a range of topics and perspectives.

At the moment, we’re seeing continuing trends in the financial services HR space – from hybrid working, salaries and innovation to environment, social and governance (ESG). Here are some insights that are at the top of the HR agenda for many businesses.

There’s no one-size-fits-all for hybrid working

It’s clear there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to the question of hybrid working. Some businesses have thrived having employees largely back in the office and others fear their top talent will vote with their feet.

“Support functions are often forgotten in working policies.”

Authenticity in communications and commitment from senior leadership teams are key to success for any working policy. Roles that advertise a five-day day working week have been incredibly low on uptake with limited talent and diversity pools.

Support functions are often forgotten in working policies and are typically asked to be in five days a week to cover potential issues. Employers should be mindful when asking for full in-office coverage when in reality office levels could be low on certain days such as Fridays. Businesses should keep employees within these critical functions happy and engaged too.

Is hybrid working a generational preference?

It’s evident that younger employees have appeared to embrace and even welcome back the return of office-based working. This group may benefit from more office time due to increased learning opportunities and the ability to form strong office bonds through socialising activities.

“Middle management is arguably the most resistant group to a full or increased office return.”

Younger people may also prefer the office environment as it provides greater space and access to tools needed to increase productivity and engagement with their workplace. Incentives to this group have landed positively, such as reduced catering costs, free meals and social engagements.

Middle management – the path of most resistance

Middle management is arguably the most resistant group to a full or increased office return. This precedence is causing an incongruence amongst senior leaders who value their expertise and depth of experience and see them as critical to business success.

“A portion of these employees are working parents and have embraced their newfound flexibility.”

As a result, they are either taking a hard stance (and risk losing people) or allowing exceptions. This is causing confusion and creating an unfair environment to those abiding by the company’s working policies.

A portion of these employees are working parents and have embraced their newfound flexibility. They are balancing work and family life in a much healthier way and aren’t on board with a return to previous working patterns.

Some of these groups are technical experts and could therefore offer excellent mentorship and development to those around them. Businesses should consider how to tap into these experts when there may be limited presence in the office.

Are leaders practising what they preach?

Leadership teams have given mixed reactions to company working policies and are not always practising what they preach. Some have been viewed as missing the importance of flexible working to the employee value proposition and engagement.

“Businesses with working abroad policies have been highly rated by professionals.”

Some of this group were already working flexibly pre-pandemic due to international business trips and client meetings. They are critical to leading and setting an example to the rest of the business.

Working abroad policies increase popularity

Businesses with working abroad policies have been highly rated by professionals, allowing employees to tag on work to holidays. This has directly impacted engagement and retention.

Global businesses with localised policies

Global businesses have given mixed responses globally on stances for hybrid working practices. Localised policies are seeing more successful results and uptake.

“Some businesses wish they had returned to previous working policies sooner.”

Is there too much choice for employees?

Businesses who have communicated a firm stance on their working-from-home practices from the very first contact point with prospective employees (through communications, handbooks, contracts etc) feel as impacted as those with poorly communicated or optional practices.

Those businesses that gradually introduced a return-to-office policy appear to have had mixed reactions. Some say it’s been successful and others wish they had returned to previous working policies sooner.

What’s happening in the talent space?

Middle management crave more support

Middle managers appear to crave more leadership development support. It may be that continued home working and absence of regular in-person colleague engagement has left this group feeling rusty and wanting more support in this space.

“Some are feeling vulnerable and disconnected on topics such as diversity, equity and inclusion.”

This group appear to prefer bite-sized training opportunities rather than the more traditional and longer overnight team building sessions. Some are feeling vulnerable and disconnected on topics such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and ESG and require further insights and practical advice around this.

Middle management is key to enhancing business benefits for each other and potential investors. It’s critical to give them access to information, specialists, experts and disruptors in these fields.

Millennials and centennials

Generations Y (born from 1981 to 1996) and Generation Z (born 1997 or after) appear to be embracing technology-led learning and enjoy creating learning opportunities, such as recording learning sessions with colleagues or YouTube and other platforms.

DEI for the long term

Diversity is seen as a long-term goal. Some industries lack commitment to diversity across all levels within certain specialist areas, leaving it difficult to simply “buy in” or externally recruit diverse talent.

“Businesses are ready to welcome back interns and apprentices.”

Many are tying leadership reward around their DEI goals and seeing stronger results There’s also been great success in allowing employees to innovate and lead on the DEI agenda – as opposed to a single DEI leader within smaller businesses. Diversity hiring approaches such as all-female shortlists have been difficult to achieve in practice.

Diversity within the market needs to start from within businesses. This includes everything from talent attraction, hiring, their employee value proposition and the way they attract and retain interns and apprentices. 

What are businesses doing to build an inclusive culture?

Employees have welcomed spotlighting and talking openly and comfortably around topics previously considered taboo. These include:

  • Menopause
  • Caring for elderly parents: businesses are enhancing company policies and access to practical support
  • Neurodiversity in the workplace: different styles and relationships are being embraced
  • Parental leave: there are enhanced policies for working parents, higher uptake of shared parental leave from working fathers and emergency childcare support  
  • IVF leave

Apprenticeship schemes

Businesses are ready to welcome back interns and apprentices. There has been mixed success in diversity amongst this group, showing there’s still a lot of work to do in this space.

“Businesses are under huge pressures around salaries.”

There’s a potential for value in the uptake of psychometrics. Clearly communicated policies, practices and procedures around the application process for hiring relatives, friends or “someone like me” is still required.

What salary pressures are businesses under?

Businesses are under huge pressure around salaries, causing HR salaries in particular to significantly increase over the last two years.

“No” to buy-backs

Many businesses are taking a hard stance against “buying back” employees who resign for greater salaries in other firms. Those that have bought back employees have found there is a very high probability that retention in this group would likely be less than six months.

Buy-backs also push salaries above comparable peers and bandings – causing incongruence and unfairness among employees.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss our events, your hiring needs or your career.

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