Bank of the Future

Managing Workforce Challenges in Banks amid the COVID-19 Crisis

 
May 27, 2020

Banks are the wheels of a country’s economy. Even in a pandemic-stricken world without a sure-shot cure in sight (at the time of this writing), it is essential that financial activities continue so the economy and all livelihood don’t slip into a coma.

Employees, who are at the heart of every industry including financial services, need to be protected from the adverse effects of this pandemic and the economic injury it has already started causing. Let’s discuss some workforce challenges that banks are most likely to face as they wade through this crisis.

Enabling employees to continue working

The pandemic-induced lockdowns have made it difficult for most people to get to their work locations. Banks may decide to rationalize access to physical locations, creating work-from-home (WFH) options. To align this model to the different roles (not all activities transform to WFH directly) and to bridge low digital maturity viz. bank jobs for teller, clearing, handling physical documents in trade operations and FX dealing, and so on, it makes sense for banks to upgrade their digital capability.

Alongside making use of technology to manage their workforce, banks need to evolve their business continuity planning (BCP) strategy to include digitally equipped, secure, remote operations; they must partner with vendors for infrastructure, network, access, security and token management capabilities.

Driving policy and process compliance

Ensuring HR policies on performance are refined to account for the changes in work location, learning curve, personal challenges, and so on, and realigning employee goals will ensure employees do not falter on the service delivery front or expose the brand to undue risks. For instance, sales staff temporarily tasked to handle service calls will not be productive unless they are measured for call quality and not selling loans.

Ensuring employee well-being

Even as banks prepare for remote working, they will face issues pertaining to employee (or their family) wellness ranging from COVID-19 and other sicknesses to mental health issues. Banks need to accept that the current crisis could be highly worrying for many employees, who may be dealing with medical issues, personal issues, absent support systems like schools and daycare facilities for women employees, and family income disruption. Young mothers may not be able to work as support systems like schools and day care are not functional during the ongoing lockdowns.

To address the workforce wellness issues, banks must engage employees effectively, boost their morale, and reinforce safe health practices, as well as provide them access to medical professionals when needed. All employee communication on organizational strategy and direction must be empathetic and lucid.

Managing depleted human resources digitally

There could be a potential skill mismatch if employees with specialized skills cannot work for some reason. For example, if a wealth manager falls sick and the additional available resource is a teller, it is of no use. In order to fill such gaps, banks might want a temporary resource ramp-up. However, unless they have digital hiring and onboarding capability, it would be almost impossible to hire and onboard new workforce in a lockdown situation. In order to train the new workforce as well as reskill and repurpose existing staff, banks need a robust digital learning and development platform.

Banks need to explore technology solutions to address IT infrastructure gaps relating to communication, training, security, networking, co-working, and remote working capabilities. They need to partner with vendors to assess their digital capability and explore innovative methods to scale up in a short time period. For instance, the use of distributed apps for attendance, training and policy communication, instead of a single intranet platform, will take care of load and performance issues, or use of secured communication platforms to avoid hacking.

This crisis is temporary while employees are permanent; how banks manage their workforce will set them apart. Today’s technology can help all the workforce needs of banks like communication, remote working, hiring and onboarding, training, upskilling, improve well-being, distribute resource and manage workload.

Mahadevan Chidambaram is an Industry Advisor with TCS’ Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) business unit. He comes with 23 years of industry experience, having spent nine years in banking operations, two years in solution development, and more than 11 years in consulting, alongside a year in international public private partnerships. He is a key member of TCS’ banking thought leadership group that assists clients with business, technology, and digital transformation needs, and provides advisory services to help transform the enterprise and drive growth objectives. He has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, India.