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Engaging Employees and Customers in a Remote Working Environment

COVID-19 changed the face of the modern workforce in a matter of weeks. While banks might not have yet faced the brunt of the economic effects due to their essential nature, the need to mobilize the workforce to protect the health of customers and employees required leaders in the financial services industry to make major shifts to their processes and procedures virtually overnight.

In response to the pandemic, a variety of industries were required todeploy remote workforces, with the National Bureau of Economic Research reporting in June 2020 that of those employed pre-COVID-19, about half are now working from home. It also found that states with a greater portion of the workforce in management and professional occupations were more likely to see large shifts toward working from home and had fewer employeelayoffs or furloughs. This is especially true in the finance and insurance industries, whichthe U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found, “thus far [has] been resilient to the layoffs and furloughs impacting other industries.”

Six months into the pandemic, most financial institutions have successfully handled the initial transition to remote work. However, as the pandemic continues, banks mustaddress the long-term needs of engaging employees and customers in a remote working environment.

Fortunately,virtual meeting technology and cloud-based data make it easy to maintain constant communicationand engagement with colleagues, managers and customers.Asthe need for remote work continues, bank leaders must be intentional in engaging employees and customers to ensure a healthy, productive environment.

Capitalizing on Technology

Technology has been critical as institutions adapt to the new normal during the pandemic. Without it, companies would struggle immensely in remaining connected and ensuring business continuity.

When developing long-term strategies to engage employees and customers, bank leaders mustdetermine if their organization is stocked with an arsenal of solutions that provide the same services available in physical locations.Are colleagues and leaders within the company reachable in a remote environment? Banks have turned tosolutions such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to facilitate conversations, and most organizations have been able to attain a similar level of communication as they had before COVID-19.

Virtual and video-based technology platforms enable productivity and communication for work-related tasks and provide a way to connect on a more personal level. Some organizations have utilized these platforms to host companywide meetings, covering topics related to the week or initiatives and goals across the organization. These platforms have also enabled employees to host virtual social gatherings or meetings to catch up with colleagues on subjects other than work, including their families, vacation plans, hobbies, etc.

In addition to staying in touch virtually, some organizations have utilized video messages to keep employees informed on how the organization is performingand to communicate any changes resulting from the pandemic. Organizations can also use video to educate and train employees on more personal topics around mental health and nutrition.

Incorporating Training to Adapt to Changes 

The amount of changes implemented in processes and procedures over the past few months has beenvast, and banks have adapted quickly. And training has been an integral part of the transition to a remote workforce.

Successful financial services companies are leaning into additional training to ensurethat employees know how to do their jobseffectively when working from locations that may not be optimized for conducting business. This is a great opportunity to utilize webinars, roundtables and other knowledge-based activities to allow employees to learn as well as inquire onrecent changes.

During the pandemic, institutions have also seen an increase in new methods of crime and fraud,and  employees must be trained on what to look out for and who to call when they encounter something suspicious. For example, there is a greater risk of breaches occurring on devices that are logged into home networks. Banks can train their staff on how to avoid browser-based software and how to use secure channels when accessingsensitive data.

Outside of institutional training, many organizations have gone the extra mile to provide mental health support and training for employees since work and home life have become entangled due to the pandemic, which can be overwhelming for many. A key component of mental health is keeping employee morale up and providing assistance inbalancing work and home life whilemaintaining a positive headspace.

Improving Workforces for the Future

Although many employees have been working remotely for months now, there is still an opportunity for improvement and incorporating solutions that help employees do their jobs more effectively.

One tacticfor leaders isregularly surveying employees on their needs, concerns and challenges related to working remotely. This is a way for banksto determinewhether their employees are struggling in certain areas and excelling in others. Through surveys, employees can voice their concerns on the status of business activities and provide feedback totheir leadersonopportunities to enhance the work-from-home experience.

By obtaining feedback from employees, organizations can identify ways to better support their workforce, whether it’s changes to processes and procedures or providing useful tools that enhance productivity.

While remote work is acurrent option for many institutions, employees are likely wondering how things will change when offices begin to re-open. While some positions can continue working remotely, there are many positions for financial institutions that require an in-person approach. Institutions should address topics including the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), the organization’s plans to ensure safety of employees and customers, and how a branch or office will ensure employees remain safe when non-employees enter facilities.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to financial institutions, many have thrived and will continue to do so as they evaluate methods and procedures to effectivelyengage with employees and customers. As the circumstances surrounding the pandemic evolve, successful institutionswill continue to adapt and improve to meet the needs of employees and customers alike.

Charmaine Smith serves as CSI’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). In this role, she acts as a steward of CSI’s Best Place to Work culture, while providing the best employee experience and strategically aligning Human Resources to business needs.

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