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Why our savings and investments project is more critical now than ever

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Ana Maria Tuliak & Emma Stewart

Ana Maria Tuliak is the Chair of the Smart Working Group, The Diversity Project. Emma Stewart is the CEO of Timewise.

The Diversity Project and Timewise are partnering to increase flexible working across the savings and investments industry. And as we look ahead to a post-Covid-19 world, it’s absolutely critical.

Known for a long-hours culture, and facing serious challenges around inclusion and diversity, there’s little doubt that the savings and investments industry is in need of a flexible working reset. The gender pay gap is 31% (compared to a UK average of 18%).

Only 7% of workers work part-time (compared to a UK average of 28%). And there’s a definite sense that the industry is lagging behind on this issue, and that talented people who want or need to work flexibly are starting to go elsewhere.

It’s for this reason that, back in November, The Diversity Project and Timewise launched a joint project with support from four founding partners – Aon, Axa Investment Managers, Fidelity International and St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

We share a commitment to understanding the industry-specific challenges and opportunities for smart and flexible working, and have set out to explore, test and share solutions that will open it up to a more diverse workforce.

And now, with savings and investments firms having to take part in the Covid-19 global remote working experiment, this work is more critical than ever.

Download our insight summary to see what we’ve learned so far

Our exploratory phase has teased out some of the core barriers to smart and flexible working in the industry, including:

·A perceived stigma associated with flexible working, which dissuades employees from asking, fearing the effect on their perceived value, bonuses and progression.

·The ability of autonomous senior managers to work flexibly rarely being extended to more junior colleagues.

·A sense that flexible working is reserved for ‘star’ fund managers or those with caring responsibilities, at the expense of more junior staff and new entrants.

·Few opportunities for other forms of flexible working, such as part-time, due to minimal focus on job re-design.

·A related concern that anyone granted a part-time role would be expected to deliver the same outputs in less time for less pay.

·An inconsistency in line manager attitudes, with some supportive and others much less so.

As a result, we have made three recommendations for the industry, and are now supporting our founding partners to take some of these forward. To find out what we’re suggesting, please download our insight summary.

Offering remote working soon won’t be enough

However, although most organisations in the industry understand they need to improve their flexible offering, and develop workforces that better reflect the population, the pace of change has been slow. In the current climate, that’s no longer good enough.

It’s easy for business leaders to feel that their response to Covid-19 means they’ve got flexible working sorted, but the reality is somewhat different. What we’re seeing is an initial flurry to implement remote working, followed by ongoing tweaks as lockdown continues.

When what’s really needed is action to develop more sustainable flexible working strategies that meet both employer and employee needs.

And this needs to happen now. Industry leaders need to proactively prepare for the ‘new normal’, taking care to establish the frameworks and support that will ensure their response is truly inclusive.

They need to align employee wellbeing to business performance, and eradicate some of the bad habits that have held the industry back from embracing better ways of working. Which is why establishing an action plan for flexible working is as imperative as reviewing savings to office infrastructure and environmental sustainability.

Covid-19 has shown that change can happen; that roles and industries previously considered ‘un-flexable’ can rise to the challenge. And it’s naïve to think that this will all be over in a few more weeks – or that employees will simply slot back into being fully office-based. For savings and investments firms who want to be employers of choice, work to embed flexible working must now be a priority.

Sign up for our webinar on turning this crisis into an opportunity

So as well as continuing our work with our founding partners, we’re extending our support to the rest of the industry. We want to help you take action right now to build your flexible capability, both in response to Covid-19 and beyond.

To understand what vision, culture and behaviours you need in place to make flexible working a long-term success. And to avoid the potential risks and maximise the opportunities created during this unusual time.

To start with, Timewise are offering a free webinar, From crisis to opportunity: redesigning the workplace. It’s taking place on 28th May, and will focus on supporting Diversity Project members to explore how to:

·unlock the different ways your people could work during this time – from reduced hours and working in sprints to split shifts and jobshares 

·identify the conversations your managers should be having with their teams right now – going way beyond any typical ‘remote working’ guidance

·avoid the potential pitfalls which risk setting back your D&I agenda

·use the learnings from this time to help you shape a more positive, future-fit culture for the post-corona workplace

Sign up for the webinar here and we’ll send you login details a few days in advance.

Don’t miss this chance to deliver sustainable flexible working

We’ll continue to share the work we’re doing with our savings and investments partners as time goes on. And we will also be collating and sharing stories and examples of firms who are driving change during this time, so watch this space.

But above all, remember that there’s a real chance here to create a whole new kind of workplace.

People are watching to see how leaders treat their employees during this time; there will be heroes and villains emerging from the Covid-19 era. Assuming you’re keen to be one of the former, Timewise are here to help

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