Workplace Flexibility Is Here to Stay: How Advisory Firms Adapt Long-Term

August 19, 2020 - Andrew Orr

Workplace flexibility is at the forefront because of the pandemic, and by accepting changes in the way work is done as permanent, advisories create a better working environment for employees and a more efficient organization.

Workplace Flexibility_Working from Home

From a technology standpoint, if there is a bright spot that’s come from COVID-19, it is the speed at which the world has gone digital.

Consumers and businesses have moved forward five years in digital adoption in a matter of eight weeks as a result of COVID-19, according to McKinsey.

Remote work done en masse forced advisory firms to adapt quickly, and according to a study from research and advisory firm Aite Group, none of the US firms surveyed experienced a negative impact on business performance as a result of staff working remotely.

Embrace the New Normal

If we define “normal” as the world we knew pre-pandemic, those days are over… and that’s ok.

A new normal means getting rid of the negatives of the “old normal”:

Ultimately, a new normal means businesses are more open to change (and better off for it) and employees are given more flexibility in both how and where they work.

Similarly, in an ever-changing world, employees should also be expected to be more versatile than ever.

All of these changes are positive for an organization and their staff, and we will share a few points to consider.

Workplace Flexibility Considerations for Advisory Firms

Work From Home. Work From Anywhere.

Given advisories’ relative success in working from home, how necessary is it to return to an office setting on a daily basis? Similarly, how much office space do RIAs really need?

Sure, it’s nice to see your colleagues in the office, have lunch or drinks with them after work, but it’s a lot nicer not having an obligation to be at the office every day.

When the pandemic is over, RIAs can still require employees to be at the office, but it doesn’t have to be daily. Allowing the option for remote work
gives employees the flexibility they’ve come to enjoy and benefit from these last few months.

Not every advisory firm is in a position to give raises, bonuses, and extra perks to their staff, but if they give their employees better work-life balance through flexibility in where they work and how they use their time, that is also meaningful.

One of the best things about entire teams working from home is seeing how human everyone is. A serious meeting is taking place, but then you hear the boss’s kids calling for them or the barking dog is told to be quiet.

These moments show we all have lives outside of work. With some exceptions, work doesn’t come in a 9 to 5 format. If employees are granted flexibility to handle a few personal things that pop up midday while still holding them accountable to meet expectations, employees will appreciate that. Such a flexible work environment can reduce turnover, too.

Work Anywhere. Workcations, Anyone?

Once the pandemic has passed, people will go out more again, albeit cautiously and gradually.

Business travel might never return to pre-pandemic levels, but employees are now more than ever accustomed to working remotely. If they are traveling for business, or if they want to create their own workcation, they are better equipped to handle the remote work setup.

If you can work remotely and it’s safe to go out, why limit the option to home?

Employees should still have real vacations, meaning they are completely removed from work, but for the rest of the time they’re working, why not create a workcation on one’s own terms?

Imagine being at a nice hotel or resort, put in your eight- or ten-hour day, then spend the rest of your day at the pool, on a nice beach, or wherever your ideal place is.

Sure enough, the tourism industry is ready to capitalize on an ever-remote workforce, and hotels are offering workcation packages.

Continue Investing in Efficiency

Mentioned above, the coronavirus forced companies to make changes to their business that would have taken years to implement.

Advisories are increasingly digital and have improved workflows accordingly, and firms should continue finding new ways to be efficient.

For example, find solutions that will help you onboard clients faster. If you know there’s a better portfolio accounting system or turnkey asset management platform that can help your team perform work more efficiently, then do your research and find the right solution.

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You need technology that will facilitate your business’s growth, not hold it back like legacy systems do.

The pandemic has shown how fast and unexpected changes can come, and given how firms have adapted, RIAs should no longer fear making changes that are ultimately good for them.

Cross-Train Employees

Just as we’ve seen business change on a dime, employees need to be equipped with the skills to provide value to a fast-evolving organization.

While some activities require those of licensed professionals, like offering financial advice and portfolio management, there are other activities related to operations, client servicing, sales, and marketing where employees can learn and contribute, thus adding value to a firm’s bottom line.

Should there be a sudden loss of clients and subsequent loss of revenue stream, RIAs need staff ready to reach out to new prospects quickly.

Employees will leave or be let go. It never hurts to have existing staff become familiar with other aspects of the business ready to pick up the slack.

It’s also good for employees to develop new skills. They may not be with your firm forever, and if they go somewhere else, they’re that much more employable.

Changing Mindsets

Workplace flexibility includes a change in mindset. Just as employees are given flexibility to when, how, and where they work, they should also be mentally ready to step up and go the extra mile when the situation demands it.

Statements like “I don’t like this kind of work” or “I don’t want to do that work” will not cut it in a truly flexible workplace. Sure, some tasks are hard and not fun, but there are no shortcuts in business. Those who work hard towards their goals, no matter what it is they do, will always say it was never easy. It meant being persistent and doing things others weren’t willing to do.

That sense of accomplishment in learning new skills and overcoming obstacles should be a driving force in an employee’s sense of work satisfaction.

Hire Third Parties

Some in-house work is either costly or beyond your area of expertise.

RIAs are most efficient when they are fully focused on revenue-generating activity.

Middle- and back-office operations, compliance, IT, and HR are just some of the areas where advisory firms can leverage the expertise of third parties.

Having that flexibility in your organization to focus on what you do best is wise from a financial and organizational efficiency standpoint.

Going Forward, Flexibility Is The Name of The Game

2020 has been anything but normal. It’s been a year of market volatility and economic uncertainty, but it has been good in other areas.

RIAs once timid about making significant changes to their business had no choice but to change, and fortunately, the investment industry as a whole has held up pretty well. They should no longer be afraid; they should be confident in their ability to adapt,

In reality, work can be done anywhere. So long as it gets done and schedules permit, employees should have that flexibility in where and when they work. Such flexibility promotes work-life balance and reduces turnover.

Similarly, employees should be ready to go above and beyond. The world changes fast, and everyone in the organization must do their part to adapt.

Just as RIAs have made efficiency gains in the wake of the pandemic, they should never stop improving. They should always look for new systems that best facilitate business processes, and they should consider third parties to free them up to focus on their revenue-generating core competencies.

Workplace flexibility makes it possible for firms to respond quickly and well to dramatic and sudden changes. RIAs that embrace such flexibility are destined to succeed for the long term.

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