Tenant Talks Recap: The Future of Workplace Experience in the Financial Sector

As companies around the world embrace hybrid working models and prepare for their return to the office, we wanted to get a feel for how they’re enhancing their workplace experiences be it through more informed office design or stronger retention strategies. 

On March 30th 2022, we hosted our most recent Tenant Talks event featuring a panel of 4 leaders in top-performing financial services organizations like Deloitte and Baker Tilly. Here are some of the challenges, insights, and experiences that came to light on the topic of workplace experience during our fruitful discussion moderated by Ellen Seddon, President of the Association of Women in Finance and Partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, 

Prefer to re-watch the video recording? Watch here. 

 

Q.1 What impact has COVID-19 had on your workforce in the past 2 years?

 

John Sinclair, Baker Tilly
Improved work/life balance and the need to hold on to this flexibility.

“The work from home aspect has changed the workforce significantly. We all got used to doing our jobs from home. The workday isn’t as black and white now as it used to be; you can blend it all together and still get your work done. Because of that, coming out of COVID, staff are going to want that same level of flexibility.” 

 

Nick Chamberlain, Deloitte
Higher staff turnover calling for a pivot to talent strategies.  

“People have the opportunity and ability to work wherever they want and for whoever they want. We have seen a lot more turnover than originally anticipated. People are now able to take the opportunity to assess their current situation and needs from a career perspective and make the move if they need to. What that means is the organization is now pivoting to talent recruitment strategies and opportunities to make the workplace experiences better.”

 

Lisa Jandali, HUB International 

Challenges associated with the loss of corporate culture and team dynamic

“The biggest challenge that we find is that we had a tight-knit, family-like culture and it is so difficult to maintain that in this new workplace environment. We have new hires that we haven’t met in person. They’re struggling with peer learning since they’ve not able to connect with their colleagues. There’s no question that while we lost a lot of the rigidity, we need to find that ideal balance and adopt flexibility and still make sure that the people and the business can thrive.” 

 

Q2. What strategies are you considering or do you already have in place to retain and empower talent?

 

Nick Chamberlain, Deloitte 

Empowering people to decide where and how they work best. 

“At Deloitte, what we have in place is our N2 or “next normal” program since we’re never going to go back to the office in the capacity that we did in the past. What we’re doing is allowing our people to make their own choices about where and how they work and how we measure success. You get to decide “what works best for me today”. We’ve also increased mental health support and added “Deloitte Days” as additional days off that our whole firm takes off. All of that leads to an aligned workplace strategy to attract and retain staff.” 

 

John Sinclair, Baker Tilly

Considering 4-day work weeks during slow seasons in the future. 

“One of the things we’ve talked about is the fact that in the accounting world we’re busy from January to June. Why not consider a 4-day work week after the busy season from July- December and let people have that extra time off? We’re not there yet but it’s those kinds of things that I think everyone will have to do to re-invent the workplace experience.” 

 

Robert Taylor, HUB International

Considering what people need, not just what they want. 

“I can’t help but wonder, are we giving people what they need, or are we giving people what they want? It seems to me that we’re in this zone of giving people what they want because the labour market is dictating this. My worry is that people don’t understand what they need for the long term. I’m concerned about people not getting what they need for their professional development. How are we going to fuel career paths for people when they don’t get to interact in the same way when the human condition is so personal and face-to-face? The business needs what it needs and the people need what they need. We need to make sure we’re delivering that.”

 

Q3. How are you encouraging personal development and career progression in your teams?

 

Lisa Jandali, HUB International 

Fostering a culture of team learning and study.

“We’ve fostered a culture of team learning and study. Since lots of us are going through similar licensing programs and exams together, we want to try and build the culture at the same time. We have a Teams channel for our study groups, encouraging them to connect in smaller groups, and work through their prep together for their exams.”

 

John Sinclair, Baker Tilly 

Taking learning programs online and tweaking them for engagement. 

“We’ve always had a culture of professional development in the accounting industry. A lot of that can be done online now. Generally it’s the same program that we’ve always had, but because we need to keep people’s attention the presenters are now focusing on ways to keep people’s attention on screen.” 

 

Q.4 How are you promoting health and wellbeing for your people in this environment?

 

Nick Chamberlain, Deloitte 

Focusing on ensuring that people are heard and being deliberate with their experiences.

“We’ve been encouraging our teams to connect amongst themselves with leaders in what we call “hives”. These hives involve 1:1 touchpoints with partners and leaders. The idea is to be deliberate about having those touchpoints. As people want to learn, grow, and be part of the experience it’s also on us to change our ways of coaching to give them what they want.” 

Lisa Jandali, HUB International 

Encouraging staff to embrace flexibility while taking care of themselves. 

“We’ve been encouraging people to embrace that flexibility by getting outside and getting their runs or activities in. At HUB, we have waking meetings and smoothie meetings on the seawall where we meet in person to discuss ideas before we head back to our desks to hammer the rest out. We also have great resources, a great EAP and medical resources available in multiple different formats, be it online, in person, or via chat.”

 

Q.5 With the shift to hybrid working, how do you maximize utilization of the workplace?

 

Nick Chamberlain, Deloitte

Designing spaces that are built for purpose. 

“What we’re trying to set up is areas for people to have intent to their day. When moving into our new Halifax office in September 2021, we set up ⅔ of our spaces to be filled with typical work stations and meeting rooms, knowing that in our prior space we didn’t have enough meeting rooms and areas for collaboration. We’ve moved from 30% collaborative space to 60% now. With the last ⅓ of our space, we’re including gallery-style meeting rooms where people in the room are surrounded by a screen, interacting in a hybrid way with those who are working remotely. Since people come into the office to get away from distractions at home, we’re including deliberate spaces for study/focus work. We also have workstations that you book for the day.” 

 

Robert Taylor, HUB International

Being practical with respect to our space footprint.

“We can’t have all this space if it’s not going to get utilized on a regular basis. Since the pandemic began, we have repurposed a couple of spaces to create more lounge-like spaces where people can enjoy a more casual vibe. We’re also moving towards hoteling/ desk booking options where people can book their space for when they’re going to come into the office. To help people out of feelings of isolation, we need to look for ways to help people interact on a casual basis outside of Zoom meetings that give limited time for natural interactions to take place.” 

 

John Sinclair, Baker Tilly

Designing to include more casual spaces and COVID-friendly features. 

“We’ve taken what was essentially the old lunchroom to create instead what’s now designed as a cafe. We invested a little more into it with a nice coffee machine, sparkling water dispenser, TV, and bar area and intentionally designed it as a space where you can grab a coffee and sit down to have a casual meeting. We’ve also designed the office to be COVID-friendly to dissipate hesitations for coming into the office; so we’ve included touch-less doors and faucets as well as hand sanitiser dispensers around the office.” 

Thanks to all who attended this telling Tenant Talks discussion. To hear our panellists’ answers to a round of rapid-fire and audience questions, watch the full event replay here. 

If you’d like to learn more tips on how to train your leadership team on managing productive teams in hybrid environments, read our recent blog post here