People Practice » Redefining agile working models to attract and retain talent

Redefining agile working models to attract and retain talent

Individuals need to feel trusted and empowered – and that demands a radical rethink of working models, says Adam Kene, MD of Kene Partners.

The financial services sector must redefine outdated and irrelevant employee attraction and retention models and embrace agile working to appeal to the next generation of workers.

Brands, however well-known, cannot rely on traditional models of promotion and financial rewards to improve employee satisfaction. Offering flexible working is not agile working.

Corporate structure

Where rigid, hierarchical corporate structures were once the norm, the younger generation is increasingly unwilling to compromise personal ambition to meet corporate goals. Instead, young people actively seek out working environments that celebrate innovation, individuality and drive.

They want to feel motivated and empowered to make a difference, not constricted, or even lost, in strict organisational structures. If financial services organisations are to attract top talent, they need to incorporate the kinds of working practices that this generation has come to expect. They should make establishing truly agile working practices a priority.

Promoting an environment of trust in which employees feel motivated is crucial to this and will go some way to tackling issues of staff retention in the sector. The current merry-go-round of staff between companies every couple of years is a sign of limited job satisfaction that needs to be addressed by firms.

This will also help to tackle the endemic inability of financial organisations to create a motivated workforce. The promise of a promotion or salary boost is not enough for a generation who want to feel part of something. This generation is willing to work hard, but individuals want to do so on their own terms.

A lack of motivation and commitment has a knock-on effect on the quality of client or customer satisfaction. Instead of being given the freedom to focus on how to deliver the best possible outcomes for clients in their own way, employees can get caught up in internal power games in a bid to win a promotion or bonus.

The goals of business, clients and employees are fundamentally misaligned. Change is required. Adding flexible working models to a dated, hierarchical business model is not creating the truly agile working environment now required.

Agile working in practice

Modern working practices are no longer the preserve of trendy start-ups and creative industries; they are increasingly being adopted by financial organisations too.

A recent study from Working Families, a work-life balance charity, revealed that some of the big financial services firms are leading the way in offering flexible working policies and encouraging a work-life balance.

Six of the top ten places for flexible employers were organisations from the sector. However many more continue to promote presenteeism and demand longer working hours, with inflexible working attitudes remaining persistent.

Many organisations positioning themselves as flexible working employers will offer the option to work from home a couple of days a week, or flexible start and finish times.

However it is agile working policies that include alternative working hours and remote working that are required to attract younger talent; policies that allow employees to work around family and leisure commitments, spend long holidays abroad or even work around other day jobs.

There’s still a long way to go before there’s widespread adoption within the sector of policies like these.

Benefits and pitfalls

A sense of purpose and excitement is at the heart of a successful, engaged and dedicated workforce. Instead of micromanaging every minute of the day, this means empowering and trusting individuals to do the job that they were employed to do.

Redefining agile working means moving away from the constraints of a strict working schedule and leave entitlement, and letting staff manage their own hours in line with specific objectives.

If an individual wants to spend all day with a client, for example, drilling down to truly understand their needs and the opportunity for R&D tax credits to support the business’ ambition for innovation, that’s fantastic.

Drop the children at school every morning? Want to take every August off to go travelling? Fine. As long as an employee is meeting their targets and is able to adhere to the company code of conduct, then how, where and when the job is done is, essentially, up to them.

Transparent performance, target and conduct measures are essential to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals and understands what’s expected of them.

Problems will occur in any working model and it’s essential that there are structures in place to address issues if they arise.

It is also important to establish what motivates each individual. Goals will differ. While some are motivated by moving up the corporate ladder, others will have broader definitions of success.

In an agile working model, success is defined by matching individual and client goals, not those of hierarchy and speed of promotion.

A business culture that actively encourages input from individuals at every level, through employee forums and open debates, will help create an environment in which employees feel valued.

This can reinforce trust and help to foster a sense of employee purpose. A company culture that is predicated not just on winning business but on helping UK companies to innovate and succeed globally can be bolstered by agile ways of working and a motivated workforce.


In a bid to attract and retain staff, many firms have adopted versions of agile working. But a nod to flexi-working or remote working is not the same as creating a truly empowered team.

To make a substantive difference, this generation of individuals must be allowed to take control and explore their entrepreneurial spirit within the corporate environment.

If the financial services industry is to evolve and meet the needs of clients and employees, it’s crucial to shake off entrenched practices and redefine ways of working.

Agile working models create positive working environments in which employees are passionate and loyal – resulting in a knock-on effect on client engagement and retention.

Redefining working models will empower and motivate employees to drive business and deliver the best value for clients.



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