A fear of change, a lack of capability in the ‘new’, regulation and rigid organizational structures are holding back FS firms in their quest to design a more adaptive workforce.

Accenture research shows that FS organizations are aware of the pressure they face to become more adaptive and to build a workforce that reflects this ecosystem ethos—the theme I have been examining in this series of blog posts. Eighty-seven percent of FS executives in our Technology Vision research agreed that their organization must innovate at an increasingly rapid pace to keep a competitive advantage.  

Yet only 20 percent reported that their organization has a predominantly fluid or adaptive organizational structure. The challenges many FS firms face in improving their adaptability include a lack of capability in areas such as data science and artificial intelligence (AI)—44 percent of executives say a lack of digital skills is a key barrier to transformation.   

This situation is exacerbated by the challenge financial services face in attracting top young talent to replace workers who are approaching retirement age. What’s more, most FS organizations continue to maintain organizational structures with hierarchical command structures, specialist skills housed in inflexible departmental silos, and an outlook focused on fixed costs and fixed skill sets.   

Local and global regulations or, in some countries, trade union opposition, may limit an FS organization’s ability to recruit skills from talent sources such as labor-as-a-service platforms. Many FS HR practices, too, have not evolved from the days of a job-for-life. 

For example, many managers and HR teams focus on developing detailed, rigid job specs that assume the employee’s role will remain fixed for the long term—when they should be envisioning employees shifting roles and projects throughout their careers. They should also focus on the employee experience, and developing career mobility. Currently, they look to the same recruiting agencies or internal resources, rather than scouting for talent in new grounds.  

Finally, with many FS organizations resizing and reskilling their workforces as they focus on digital channels rather than brick-and-mortar and contact centers, workers have already endured profound change over the past five years. Fear of further change runs high among many FS workers and it is a tough ask for them to become adaptive. Around 74 percent of FS executives in our Change Survey said that fear is a barrier to change.  

Shifting this picture will demand that senior executives and HR partner to reshape the culture, implement appropriate collaborative and knowledge sharing platforms, and examine their own biases. In my next and final post in this series, I’ll discuss how business leaders can implement an agenda for the adaptive workforce.  

To find out more about this topic, please see our full reports: Shaping the Adaptive Financial Services Organization of the Future and Shaping the Agile Workforce 

For more discussions on the adaptive workforce or to join us at the Change Directors Forum and People Innovation Forum in London, please contact me here or on Twitter @knott_nic. 

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