Client & Digital

COVID-19: Embracing a new way of working and understanding the lasting impact

Nicholas Barbone, Laetitia Dodds
“A change in ways of working will be a key cultural legacy of COVID-19, which our industry should embrace”

COVID-19 thrust the Asset & Wealth Management industry into remote working quicker and more extremely than many of us thought possible just a few months ago. After a stressful few weeks for both leaders and employees experimenting with how to balance the COVID-19-related impacts on their personal and professional lives whilst working from home, many organisations are now successfully bedded into a remote way of life. As such, whilst we talk of ‘returning to normal’ as soon as possible, the reality of a post-COVID-19 cultural normal will likely differ from anything we have known before.

Working around the globe with a broad cross-section of clients across our industry, Alpha has noted four key areas to be considered as part of a thorough response to a more remote life. Whilst some of these themes have been on the C-Suite’s agenda for a period of time, COVID-19 has amplified their importance and expedited timelines in which they must be addressed.

Protect your employees’ wellbeing:

  • Routines: Encourage employees to disconnect and maintain their usual routine whilst working from home. Protect non-working time and set expectations around not being contactable or connected at all times
  • Health: Health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now – but, pandemic-aside, healthy employees tend to be more productive and effective. Encourage employees to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally
  • Wellbeing plans: Publish or refresh existing company guidelines and policies relating to employee wellbeing

Ensure collaboration and relationships thrive:

  • A sense of belonging: Employees may feel that their place in the organisation, and indeed the organisation itself, has hugely changed over the past weeks. Remind employees that whilst some rituals, interactions and ways of working have changed, they are still an important part of their same organisation
  • Motivation: Self-isolation should not equal loneliness. Build in regular touchpoints as a team, and on an individual level, to prevent this. Find ways to celebrate team and individual successes remotely – this foundation is more important now than ever to embed group culture and maintain employee motivation

Embrace employee empowerment:

  • Performance management: Many employees now find themselves with more flexibility, autonomy and trust in defining how they work. Formally support this by using performance management frameworks, with short-term objectives and longer-term career goals adjusted to benefit both the organisation and the employee
  • Management touchpoints: As organisations transition to this new way of managing performance, employees must understand the new expectations that come with it. Consider more regular touchpoints between managers and direct reports

Be visible as a leader:

  • Offer short-term security: The immediate actions and behaviours that leaders display during the current situation will be used by employees to assess whether leadership has met their expectations. Honesty and authenticity are critical given heightened uncertainty – employees look to their leaders to offer insight into what is happening; both within the business and the wider world around them. Employees will also appreciate displays of concern, understanding, and leaders sharing personal values openly. Not shying away from frank conversations, even on challenging topics, will offer a sense of security
  • Resulting in longer-term loyalty: If employees feel they can trust their leaders to lead them through challenging times, employers will be rewarded with increased loyalty. Similarly, if leaders show authenticity, employees will feel empowered to be able to emulate the same behaviour and a powerful sense of psychological safety will be engendered

Organisations must act now to properly define their future remote working strategy and embed longer-term working practices in response to this COVID-19 induced ‘new normal’. In doing so, companies will capitalise on the changes in employee engagement and corporate culture that this pandemic is creating. We’d love to help you on this journey. Please do reach out to Nick Barbone to discuss further.

About the Authors

Nicholas Barbone

Nick has over a decade of consulting experience and has built a reputation for the leadership of large-scale transformational change programmes globally across the asset & wealth management industry. Within Alpha, one of Nick’s responsibilities is leadership of People & Culture. Nick is an accredited business psychologist, with particular expertise in organisational design, behavioural change and employee engagement.

Laetitia Dodds

Laetitia joined Alpha in 2018 following 5 years with Goldman Sachs Asset Management where she held front office and distribution roles. Since joining Alpha, Laetitia’s work has spanned corporate strategy transformations and business integrations, with a focus on overcoming cultural challenges. Within Alpha, in addition to her People & Culture management responsibilities, Laetitia oversees the development of Alpha’s Environmental Strategy. Laetitia is a CFA Charterholder.