Stronger through workplace challenge and change

The way we work is changing everywhere. Workplace, technological and regulatory change is affecting staff at all levels in all sectors.

The financial advice sector is perhaps uniquely affected, with heavy scrutiny in recent times impacting everything from remuneration to required qualifications. In some ways, financial advisers could be excused for feeling disheartened.

Cecily Moreton and Vanessa Fudge are psychologists and respected executive coaches who’ve worked with financial advisers throughout their careers.

Both say advisers are well served by facing these changes and striding confidently into the future. It’s a lesson which applies to broader workplace culture as well.

The need for cultural change

“Any industry that’s been impacted by change is going to see its culture change,” Fudge says.

“Once there is a different set of rules, that’s going to require a different set of behaviours – a different set of working assumptions, different incentives and perhaps even a different sense of identity for those in the industry.”

Moreton says regulatory change “shouldn’t only affect practical matters such as the metrics people are judged on.”

“It should be a catalyst for the industry’s culture to evolve,” she says. “If financial advisers don’t enjoy the trust of the public, they will struggle.”

“I’d suggest the firms that will prosper in the new environment are those that build cultures prioritising integrity and accountability. We all want to buy from someone we trust.”

Multiple benefits of a positive workplace

“Let’s start with defining what a positive culture is,” Fudge says. “I’d argue it’s one where there is a healthy balance of give and take between staff and employers, individual staff and the teams they’re part of, as well as customers and service providers.

“That should result in happy staff, which typically results in happy customers, which usually results in a successful business for the employer.”

“The data is clear that a positive workplace culture, that is one where employees feel secure and valued, has all sorts of benefits for staff, employers and customers,” Moreton says.

“Staff will be happier and healthier, as well as more productive, creative, resourceful, motivated and agreeable. Rather than just ticking boxes, they’ll go the extra mile.”

How leaders drive positivity

“In an industry going through a transition, it’s vital that those in senior positions show leadership,” Moreton says. “Leaders need to listen to all the stakeholders – shareholders but also their staff and customers – and work out a way forward.

“In challenging circumstances it’s easy for negativity to spread. It’s the role of leaders to point out the glass is half full rather than half empty and focus on developing solutions and motivating their teams to implement them.

“In addition to new initiatives regarding products, qualifications and rewards, it is important managers project confidence in the future of both their individual firm and the industry as a whole.”

Fudge says in disruptive times it’s useful for business leaders to re-examine their belief set.

  • Healthy questions business leaders should ask themselves are:
  • What’s the point of this business?
  • What positive impact do I want it to have on the world?
  • What experience do I want for the staff who work for me?
  • What results do I want for the customers who place their faith in our business?

“I’ve found that when business owners zoom out to the bigger picture, they go on to invest in their staff,” fudge says.

“They do that in the belief their staff will then invest energy in providing quality service to customers.”

Boosting staff morale, performance

“The cultures of many organisations are based on fear and blame,” Fudge says. “If a business owner and their leadership team invest the effort to construct a culture that tolerates people learning from their mistakes and encourages staff to grow, they’ll see a huge return on that investment.

“The right sort of people will hang around, remain energised and do the right thing by their employer, team and customers rather than just themselves.”

Moreton says in a workplace where employees believe they have a future and are doing useful work, employees will be more resilient.

“Rather than giving into despondency, they’ll think to themselves, ‘I’m going to focus on the opportunities rather than the things that are out of my control’,” she says.

“There are still lots of people out there who value my skills. I’m going to concentrate on providing them with fantastic service.

“The trust earned will generate better client relationships and more business.”