The constant pursuit of automation has always been a key driver in the evolution of the workforce. Often envisioned as a threat that will create mass unemployment and hardship, these fears have usually proven to be unfounded. Across history, the trend has always been for new technologies to hopefully stimulate the economy, improve quality of life and, perhaps surprisingly, create far more jobs than they replace.
Nonetheless, whilst this latest wave of automation is unlikely to be the bogeyman it is often touted to be, it would be naive to think it won’t change the nature of work as we know it. An estimated 74 percent of roles have components that will be automated in the near future1, and these roles will have to change and reorganize to adapt to these changing requirements. Some tasks are inherently more suitable to automation than others and, broadly speaking, it is low complexity tasks that are most susceptible. Consequently, the skill requirements for the majority of affected jobs will by default increase, as the lower-skilled components of the role are progressively automated and the roles’ focus shifts to the tasks that remain.
With the emergence of these new roles, finding suitable candidates to fill them is proving to be a key challenge. This is particularly true for financial services firms, the majority of which are finding this ever-increasing skills gap to be a key bottleneck in their firm’s operation and growth2. In the face of this widening skills gap, it is becoming clear that firms need to invest in reskilling their current workforce to keep up with the demands of the modern world. Financial institutions can expect over half their workforce to require reskilling by 2022, with almost a quarter needing more than six months additional training2.
Banks in particular are struggling to deal with this emerging skills gap, as their pool of potential recruits continues to contract year on year. Banking as a whole has shrunk in the last decade; however, the number of applications they receive each year is falling at a much faster rate, as more and more graduates lean towards the competing technology and consulting sectors, both of which are benefiting from a growing recruitment pool at the expense of financial services.
In order to understand this phenomenon, we need to look at the new generation of workers, the so called ‘Millennials’ and ‘Gen Z’. Expected to make up a full 59 percent of the global workforce by 2020, this new generation has different priorities and expectations to their predecessors.
Today’s graduate hiring market is more competitive than ever, with an average of 75 applications per role3. New workers feel that they need to gain new skills and qualifications to differentiate themselves and will lean towards jobs that allow them to do so. This leads them to be highly selective in their choice of roles, and much more likely to change jobs in order to learn new skills. Furthermore, this new generation expects to be working much later in life, and consequently views work as much more of a ‘lifestyle’ choice. The modern worker prioritizes factors such as work-life balance, flexibility and professional development over a large salary. This new generation of worker is therefore much more likely to accept a role that fits their expectations of workplace culture and aligns with their ethical viewpoints, as opposed to one that simply pays them well.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the expectations and desires of the new workforce, the financial services industry isn’t typically held in high regard, which is makes hiring a challenging process. Much of this image problem is linked to the workplace culture of financial services institutions, and it is here that these firms should direct their efforts if they are to address this.
Flexible working styles are often cited as key drivers of ‘healthy’ office culture, which is consistent with the modern worker’s desire for balance and quality of life. Not limited to the younger generation, there is strong demand for flexible working options across the board. Offering flexible working has also proven advantageous to the employer, improving productivity, profits and reputation4. Despite this, relatively few financial services employees currently have flexible working available to them5.
With the technology of the modern age, particularly widespread access to high speed internet, many of the barriers associated with flexible working are being broken down. With the advent of 5G this access will be extended from broadband connections to mobile networks, allowing high speed transfer of data, seamless conference calling, and remote mobile working from any location. Today’s networks are also more secure than ever, with a range of options and services to enable secure access to confidential data. With the aid of these technologies, employees no longer need to be at their desks to be productive. This allows a firm to access a much wider talent pool than is locally available, as well as reducing the demand for office space and less time lost to commuting, improving a firm’s bottom line and reducing its environmental impact.
The technology revolution will not be limited to flexible working. A whole new ecosystem of connected devices are being developed to complement the modern worker. Dubbed the ‘internet of things’ (IoT), it is expected that these will fundamentally change the office environment. Already there are examples of facial recognition software being used to monitor employee mood6 and ‘happiness analytics’ algorithms to track this over time and direct workflow accordingly7. Smart offices of the future could use this ‘happiness analytics’ data to automatically adjust things like temperature, ambient lighting and even how working spaces are configured to optimize employee morale on the fly.
1. Nedelkoska L, Quintini G. Automation, Skills Use and Training. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 2018. doi:10.1787/2e2f4eea-en
2. World Economic Forum (corporate author). The Future of Jobs Report. World Economic Forum, Centre for the New Economy and Society; 2018. View PDF. Accessed October 10, 2019.
3. Institute of Student Employers (corporate author). Annual Survey 2017. Institute of Student Employers
4. Vodafone (corporate author). Flexible Working, Friend or Foe? Vodafone; 2016.
5. CIPD (corporate author). Megatrends: Flexible Working | CIPD Report. CIPD; 2019. View report. Accessed October 10, 2019.
6. Burt C. Camatica launched enterprise facial recognition systems for South African businesses. Biometrics Research Group. View source. Published April 24, 2019. Accessed October 23, 2019.
7. Lynch C. How the Internet of Things can foster social collaboration and knowledge sharing in professional services firms. Digitalist Magazine. View source. Published December 19, 2016. Accessed October 23, 2019.
8. University of Cambridge. William Lee. rel="noopener noreferrer" Christs Coll Univ Camb. View source. Accessed October 23, 2019.