By Terry Doherty, CEO and Founder of Doherty Associates
The COVID-19 pandemic’s seismic shockwaves have drastically reshaped our working lives. Among the most notable changes is the ascendancy of hybrid working models, which blend remote and office-based work. Many industries, including Capital Markets, have embraced this approach, introducing an array of technological tools to support this shift. Yet, recent research from Doherty Associates suggests that the rapid adoption of these tools is inadvertently hampering rather than aiding productivity. This scenario unveils a pressing issue: the paradox of tech adoption in the hybrid work landscape.
Doherty’s study reveals a disturbing trend: almost a quarter of Capital Market workers are grappling with ‘tool overload’. They contend with too many platforms, making them less, not more, productive. This influx of technology is, ironically, obfuscating workflows rather than streamlining them. It’s a challenge that echoes the paradox of choice theory, where too many options leads to anxiety and paralysis, not liberation. Technology should be a tool that enhances productivity, not a hurdle that workers must laboriously navigate.
A notable discrepancy lies between the perceptions of IT decision-makers and the realities of the workforce. IT leaders might perceive these technological solutions as productivity catalysts. In contrast, the employees dealing with these tools daily often experience confusion and frustration. Only a dismal 15% of knowledge workers in the sector saw substantial productivity improvement, and over a third of employees regularly struggle to find the necessary information and data to perform their jobs.
The relevance of these insights is evident when we look at the stances of major banking institutions. For instance, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman have all expressed their preference for office-based work, citing benefits such as improved collaboration, culture, teamwork, and mentorship. They believe that in-person interaction facilitates brainstorming and camaraderie, thus endorsing a more traditional work model.
Moreover, the effectiveness of hybrid working, and collaboration tools is putting more flexible working arrangements talent relishes at risk. While hybrid working is increasingly popular, firms are navigating pressure to call workers back to the office. 54% of Capital Market firms have modified their policies in the last year. With only 36% of workers viewing these tools as extremely effective, the roll call back to the office is not surprising. There is a need for effective collaboration and communication within dispersed teams and Doherty’s research has found this lacking.
However, not all banks insist on employees being in the office full time. Several have adopted a hybrid model, mandating employees to be in office for a certain number of days each week, while others offer the flexibility to work from home full-time. This approach mirrors the insights derived from Doherty’s research, underlining the need for more flexible, efficient work structures.
So, how can we address these alarming revelations? The answer lies in refining our approach to technology in the hybrid work environment.
The first step is to embrace people-centric technology. Firms need to ensure that technology serves as an enabler, not a barrier. The application and implementation of new tools must revolve around the needs of the people using them. It’s not about having the most sophisticated software; it’s about having the software that best meets your team’s needs.
Clarity in processes
Next, firms need to look at their existing processes. It’s also a good chance to examine processes and to try to simplify them using technology or just through removing steps that were important once but are no longer.
Introducing a new tool without effective training or clear instructions is akin to throwing someone into the deep end without teaching them how to swim. For any technology to be truly effective, it needs to be paired with comprehensive training and guidelines.
Audit and adopt
Furthermore, regular auditing of technological tools is essential. Firms need to continually evaluate the effectiveness of the tools they use, gather feedback, and make changes where necessary. What worked a year ago might not be the most efficient solution now. Consider whether there are tools available from your current vendors that might replace stand-alone ones. The evolution of work is dynamic; hence the tools that support it must also be.
However, change must be managed carefully – it’s vital to have plans for the adoption of new systems so that people know what to use and when.
Finally, the discourse around productivity needs to shift. True productivity isn’t about being ‘busy’ with multiple tools; it’s about achieving desired outcomes in the most efficient way possible. Firms need to ensure that their technology and work policies reflect this understanding.
Integrate and automate
Choosing the right tools is one part of the solution, but real value comes from using multiple tools seamlessly. Understanding the flow of data between applications is key. Once this is done, making data from one application available in another is how applications can support processes to deliver business outcomes.
When tools work well together, there’s an opportunity to take a human out of the process and have the machines do the heavy lifting – integration and process automation tools can be brought to bear.
While the hybrid working model presents new opportunities for flexibility and work-life balance, it’s clear that we are in the early stages of this journey. We must learn from the shortcomings highlighted by the research. This involves a thoughtful reassessment of our approach to technology in the hybrid work landscape, with a focus on user-centric tools, clear processes, regular audits, and a matured understanding of productivity.
As we navigate this new terrain of work, it’s critical to remember that technology should serve as a bridge, not a barrier, to productivity and collaboration. Firms must be diligent, adaptive, and open to feedback to ensure that their tools and policies support, not overwhelm, their teams.
After all, the essence of work is about people – their talents, creativity, collaboration, and drive. Technology should empower these elements, not overshadow them.