By Charlene Quaresma
While the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is finally visible, it’s clear there will be no simple return to the pre-pandemic normal. The nature of work has changed since March 2020, and financial services firms are no exception to this global shift.
Different practices will strike different balances of in-person and virtual elements of work post-pandemic, but most will retain at least some aspects of their current remote workspaces. By adopting best practices now and having an open mind to the future, advisors can ensure that their post-COVID work policies contribute to a productive, fair and growth-oriented office culture.
Finding And Hiring Talent
Over one year into the pandemic, advisors have realized they do not need to limit themselves to finding local or move-ready candidates for office jobs. Instead, they can utilize national networks to find top-level talent, no matter where in the country that talent lives. Industry groups, whether professional or intra-company organizations, are often excellent places to start.
Facebook and LinkedIn groups also contain plenty of qualified candidates for many positions.
Virtual interviews, which were already common in many industries before the pandemic, should now be standard procedure for all firms, with a couple tweaks.
Virtual interviewers often used to neutralize the space around them, but now a virtual interview may be the only chance to ensure a candidate is a good cultural fit. Advisors should make sure their physical environment reflects their practice’s personality and aesthetic. As the hiring manager, the space around the interviewer should reflect what working with them would be like.
A remote working environment makes many preexisting hiring lessons even more important. Candidates who are self-starters with a sense of urgency are more appealing than ever. New hires should be motivated by learning and growth, and managers should be able to train them in a virtual setting.
Complementary skillsets enrich offices even more when employees are geographically dispersed – doers vs. thinkers, introverts vs. extraverts, data-driven vs. emotional, etc. Of course, remote hires will also need to be okay with lots of screen time.
Keep in mind that when hiring remote workers, advisors still need to have a physical office address for tax and compliance purposes. They will also need to ensure they can provide health insurance and other benefits to all employees no matter their location.
Working outside a physical office allows for unprecedented flexibility with workplace rules, but that doesn’t mean advisors should let remote workspaces become a free-for-all. Employees need not adhere to a standard 9-to-5 schedule, but they should still designate office hours and stick to them as much as possible. This often means advisors will have to enforce out-of-office hours and PTO for their employees, even if they bend the rules for themselves.
Find replacements for standard features of in-office life – office pop-in’s, filing cabinets and quick meetings. Programs like Skype, Teams and Slack allow for quick communication that can easily be segmented by purpose. CRMs and digital files will likely require manual clean up, as these are the filing cabinets for remote employees.
When working with remote employees, having video turned on during meetings should be mandatory. This is not to snoop around employees’ homes, but to keep everyone engaged. Video also helps create real bonds between coworkers that are difficult to forge if nobody can see each other.
Two new types of meetings may become necessary for remote offices: non-working meetings and feedback sessions. Normally, camaraderie naturally builds up in an office and this facilitates a free, open flow of feedback. In remote workspaces, that can’t happen, and both the camaraderie and the feedback require some artificial setup.
Once the pandemic ends, some employees may need to move or find new jobs to comply with revived in-office requirements. But even then, offices will not need to follow the same rules as they did prior to March 2020. Since many client meetings will continue to take place virtually, offices will not need to be in a central location. Instead, they can be in a city’s outer neighborhoods or even a suburb, depending on what works best for employees.
Employees should also be allowed to work from home a couple days of their choosing each week. While COVID-19 will hopefully become history before too long, the changes it brought to the workplace will never entirely go away.
Both advisors who hired during the pandemic and those who put it off can set themselves up for success by planning now for a continued remote work environment for the years to come.
About The Author
Charlene Quaresma is a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual in Portland, Oregon. She is a global speaker and three-year MDRT member. Contact her at email@example.com and www.planningwithcharlene.com.