Employee Experience in Financial Services Part 1: How to Engage a Changing Workforce

  • September 16, 2019
NTT DATA Services FSI CX Blog1

With more than half of the American workforce reportedly unengaged with their jobs, according to Gallup, employee engagement has never been more important. As the director of the customer experience practice at NTT DATA Services, Megan Geyer helps financial services organizations create experiences that engage employees and the customers they serve. While employers know that engaged employees reduce the high cost of turnover, studies also show that companies with highly engaged workers report better customer experiences and satisfaction.

Through her work leading design thinking workshops, creating CX and EX strategies, conducting audience research and building customer-centric employee cultures, Megan knows how financial services organizations can overcome the obstacles that prevent many firms from achieving engaging customer and employee experiences.

In part one of this two-part blog post series, Megan discusses the connection between better CX and engaged employees, how to engage a diverse workforce and the most important areas to improve to make financial services employees feel more engaged.

In part two, she reveals the biggest obstacles to improving employee engagement (and how to overcome them) as well as what companies can leverage from their employee engagement initiatives to benefit their customer experience initiatives. She’ll also share an example of how she worked with a top 5 bank to create a best-in-class IT experience.

Q: Studies show that companies that excel in CX have 1.5 as many engaged employees as do CX laggards. How do you explain the connection between better CX and engaged employees?

A: When a company shows that they care about their employees, that is reciprocated. Employees who feel valued, heard and supported will feel more connected to their workplace and have more drive to excel at their jobs. The impact of this is both directly and indirectly visible to customers. One can easily imagine an engaged retail salesperson providing excellent customer experience. Because of this, companies often focus most of their efforts on ensuring high levels of support and attention to their customer-facing employees. However, employees in supporting operational functions of a company often do not get the same attention. This is an oversight. Even when employees in support functions that are out of sight of the customer are more engaged, those functions run more smoothly. For example: IT systems recover from errors in a timelier fashion, internal HR processes are more quickly executed and finance transactions are completed more reliably.

New hire onboarding is a perfect example of a consistent challenge for our clients. Onboarding a new branch manager at a bank, for instance, is a complex process involving many different support functions that need to work together efficiently to ensure the new employee is productive and engaged on Day 1. Unengaged hiring managers may be less communicative about their new hires’ needs. If HR doesn’t have highly functioning tools to process new employees, they’re slower at completing onboarding tasks. And if IT is dependent on faulty business processes, they can avoid responsibility for delivering technology on time. All of this would lead to a branch manager being unable to fully support their customers and branch operations on Day 1. Creating engaged internal support employees reduces complications and increases satisfaction for customer-facing employees which in turn yields a more positive customer experience.

In addition, there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and retention. In the recent study conducted by NTT DATA, “Decoding the Modern Workplace,” 85% of companies that say they give strong consideration to employee experience in their workplace services reported improved talent retention as a direct benefit, with the banking industry reporting slightly higher retention benefits than all others. While most companies see the benefit of retention as reducing the cost of turnover and re-training, there is another benefit. Retention is directly linked to customer experience (and revenue) because of the knowledge that is being retained. An employee who has a longer tenure will have more tribal knowledge, be more experienced in the softer skills of the job and be able to more effectively navigate the company’s structure and policies. All of these factors that come with employee engagement and retention will enable an employee to either better support customer-facing colleagues or better support the customers they are interacting with in their day-to-day jobs.

Q: Are changing demographics (enter the Gen Zers) making it more difficult to keep employees happy?

A: In my work as an Employee Experience consultant, I see firsthand how the entrance of Gen Zers and Millennials into the workplace has been causing challenges to more established companies who have traditional views on their relationships with employees. Younger generations tend to place higher value a sense on meaning in their work, flexibility in how they get their work done and autonomy while feeling like part of a group. They also have much higher expectations for the technology that companies provide for them—i.e. speed, quality, availability, intuitiveness should all be comparable to technology that is available to them in their non-working lives. On the other hand, the Baby Boomer generation generally places more value on traditional attributes of a job — seeing long-term prospect and upward trajectory and valuing financial rewards over intrinsic ones. State of the art technology are less motivating to them than having a job that they can turn off at the end of the workday. While catering to these varying needs is challenging, all employees will benefit from competitive compensation and having a stronger sense of connection to their workplace. These varying values are not contradictory; they simply have different weight to different employees. With such a wide spectrum of employee values and expectations, companies can no longer create a rigid model that accommodates the majority of their employees. They must create a more flexible employee support model that accommodates all of them.

Q: What are some of the most important areas FSIs can improve to make their employees feel more engaged?

A: Empowering employees to make decisions about where they work and what technology tools they use is critical to engaging the changing workforce. Traditionally, companies selected standard devices and packages to deliver to employees, possibly with some variance based on role. Today, tech savvy employees have more say in what products they use in their day-to-day jobs.

This type of flexibility is also trending in HR policies regarding where and what hours employees work. By enabling employees and their direct managers to make decisions on matters that impact their daily lives, employers build trusted relationships with their workforce and increase employee engagement, retention and productivity — all of which lead to reduced turnover costs and increased revenue driven by an engaged enthusiastic workforce. In fact, over 78% of the respondents to the Center on Aging and Work study reported that having access to flexible work options contributes to their success as employees. And work flexibility ranked first in a recent survey of Gen Z and Millennial workers.

In order to enable this flexible working model and increased employee engagement, senior leadership must have a real understanding of their employees’ needs, expectations and culture. This understanding can be gained from conducting research with your on-the-ground employees above and beyond the typical survey approach. Develop empathy for employees through one-on-one conversations. Understand their daily lives through observing them in their workplace. Design solutions tailored for them by including them in the design process. Fostering employee engagement starts with truly getting to know your employees and their day-to-day lives working for your company.

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Tom Mataconis

Tom Mataconis is senior vice president leading NTT DATA Services’ Financial Services Business Consulting. Focused on growing the practice into a global market leader, Tom develops integrated consulting and delivery solutions that drive differentiation, business value and thought leadership. Tom has more than two decades of business and IT transformation expertise with many leading North American retail and wholesale banking institutions and is a former managing partner with Accenture.

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