Not enough attention paid to the impact of COVID on our people 

One of the greatest underrated impacts of COVID-19 on our wealth and funds management industry is the effect it is having on our people.

Not enough attention paid to the impact of COVID on our people
Cathy Doyle

It has become increasingly apparent that more of our C-suite and human resources leaders need to skill and tool up to better deal with the long-term impacts of the pandemic on employees.

For example, how do organisations ensure they are getting the best from employees working from home? How can they better support them? How can they determine which next potential hires will work best from home? 

The future, as demonstrated by a handful of managers here and overseas that are thriving through the changed environment, suggests that many wealth management organisations need to become more humanistic.

This requires an increased focus on the people, the human aspects of business; rather than the processes and operations. For example, informing your people of processes they need to follow to meet social distancing requirements of COVID-19 reporting is a start. It is not the end.  

How do you engage the hearts and minds of your people? Humans crave belonging, acceptance, touch, interaction, belonging and empathetic leaders can and will provide that. Having a job only holds people for so long and it doesn’t always mean they are doing their best work if that’s all it is to them.  

Once a vaccine is introduced, there will be a wider range of inputs to consider – further increasing the operational and engagement challenges.

The future now

Transforming to become more humanist requires the combination of a step back and wider approach to developing wealth and fund management organisations of the future. C-suite and HR leaders and their departments are key to this. 

Ironically, we find an independent and unbiased artificial intelligence (AI) review of social perceptions of your organisation is a good first step. Once you know these pubic perceptions you can do something about them.  

You can determine how much they align, or more often than not are mismatched, to what culture the organisation is seeking to develop. This AI approach also provides practical suggestions as to what can be done.  

One of the first things is to develop a social purpose, a vision and direction that unify the organisation, its employees, customers and stakeholders. Why does it exist? What does it seek to do (that others might not do as well)?

From these keys, processes, procedures and operations can form spokes under the umbrella. In many organisations, often many of these actions and current processes need to be refined.

For example, as many superannuation funds have brought some fund management in-house, so too have some HR departments sought to recruit themselves. And so they should. External recruiting should be declining – which is why Super Recruiters believes and focuses on transformation of recruiting. Do you have the tools and capability to do this? 

Yet, many HR departments can hardly be considered best practice recruiters. That is why partnerships are so important. Can you partner with capable organisations and people to assist you as the future of work breaks things into tasks.

For instance, a hint as to what additional skills to look for candidates today who can succeed in working from home includes flexibility, self-motivation, resilience and more. 

Every hire is crucial today

Some people aren’t going to be successful working from home, be it full or part-time. Aspects to look for in potential employees include higher levels of:

  • optimism,  
  • self-motivation, 
  • resilience, and 
  • mental agility. 

By mental agility we mean the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely. 

Employers are also seeking people with not only suitable experience but also resilience. Many of us now work in constantly connected, always-on, highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are widespread. It’s more important than ever to build resilience skills to effectively navigate your work life.

One of the most overlooked aspects of the resilience skill set is the ability to cultivate compassion — both self-compassion and compassion for others. According to research cited by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships, and increases cooperation and collaboration.

How do you hire while maintaining social distancing?

Social distancing practices mean that many wealth, super and fund managers’ hiring processes need to be transformed to be more successful. 

For example, it has been proven that traditional resumes and job interviews alone are poor predictors of actual job performance, as interviewees give rehearsed answers and interviewers pick candidates they like rather than those who have a proven track record of delivering results. 

Research by LinkedIn found that traditionally the majority of candidates hired are selected on “gut feel”, despite the fact this is successful in only one in seven hires. These are low odds for success and investment owners and managers would not invest in a stock or other asset with those odds. Yet this remains how most financial services HR departments hire. 

Almost two-thirds of HR teams also admit their traditional interviews failed at assessing candidates’ soft skills, according to the LinkedIn research. Now is a good time for HR departments to refine their recruiting practices as they engage more employees who will work, unsupervised, from home.

The solution

LinkedIn also notes that over three-quarters of candidates find their next role through a contact. 

In-house HR, which is rightly increasingly undertaking their own recruiting, needs to recognise this fact and harness it. This means that upon receiving a role brief, HR departments should search for candidates that would be most suited to the role, all the while remembering the importance of evaluating the soft skills of resilience and compassion.

Wealth management organisations, now more than ever, need the best in the industry and those in the industry know who they are, those who can deliver results. The only way to assess that is through referrals as to potential candidates’ ability, what we call their previous proven performance. 

Wealth management firms should start this referral process BEFORE advertising and seeking resumes.

This is not the “old” pay your own employees for referring a successful candidate, but a much more dedicated process of determining who are the best candidates in the industry for that role and enticing them. 

After all, there will only be limited budget for recruiting and you want to make every new hire as best as you can in today’s COVID world.

We all need to rally behind enticing the best people to join the best organisations – which is Super Recruiters’ purpose, why we exist. Now we are transforming, partly due to COVID, to help other organisations in our industry be the best at this – among many other processes and procedures. 

Humanised HR leaders who can adapt and transform are our industry’s future. 

And don’t expect technology alone to be the solution. Amazon spent millions on trying to develop online and artificial intelligence for recruiting. It recently disbanded that project. It still requires the human touch.

Cathy Doyle is Chair of industry specialist search firm and consultants Super Recruiters

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