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Between digital and flexibility: the new role of the HR function in the financial industry

Transforming the organization into modular realities capable of interpreting new markets, attracting young talent and encouraging collaboration with other ecosystem players, training on digital issues and developing a data-driven strategy
Edited by PeopleChange360
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Edited by PeopleChange360

The scenario in which Financial Institutions find themselves operating is extremely dynamic and constantly changing; the current historical period has paved the way for important new challenges involving the HR function and its role within the sector: the need arises to experiment with new ways of working and relating that give proper attention to people's needs, especially in terms of well-being and motivation.

In this context,Smart Working, the protagonist of the new ways of working, allows the achievement of objectives in terms of productivity and well-being, which is why, among HR functions in the financial sector, there is an emerging trend in giving continuity to agile work for a minimum of two days per week. It is increasingly important to ensure the same experience for those who connect from home and those who work in the office, especially in relation to the right to disconnect and overtime management; at the same time, it is essential not to limit such reflections exclusively to central managements and to extend the possibility ofSmart Working to networks as well.

Flexibility and Agility at the Heart of the New Way of Working

In addition toSmart Working, the new ways of working base their pillars on the concepts of flexibility and agility. The agile methodology-which 44 percent of the market uses today, according to data from CETIF -is embodied in the transformation of the organization into modular realities capable of interpreting new markets, attracting young talent and fostering collaboration with other players in the ecosystem, revising traditional organizational models. Agile implies greater autonomy and responsibility of workers: the ability to make decisions is developed and a culture based on psychological safety for error management is promoted.

Digital, an enabling factor of new ways of working, has been central to the strategies of financial institutions for some years now. The digital transformation of the human resources function begins with the technology-driven reinterpretation of HR processes, with a focus on the area of training. Interestingly, digitization in training takes on a twofold significance: on the one hand, training processes have been revised in a technological key through the creation of pilot experiences in digital training; on the other hand, digital skills become a central subject in courses.

The new role of the HR function, training hours on digital issues

The research CETIF found that HR professionals and executives in financial institutions conduct an average of 7 to 8 hours of training per year on digital topics, a figure that has been steadily growing in recent years. In addition, many institutions have decided to create dedicated platforms for automated learning, which allows resources to take advantage of training courses that address specific needs. This type of learning experience turns out to be adaptive with respect to the needs, including personal needs, of each learner, however, the personalization of the training offer and its availability anytime & anywhere invite a reflection related to the sustainability of such models that might be too pervasive.

The centrality of data is also becoming a key element in human resource management; in fact, we talk about data-driven HR defining the set of technologies, skills and information that enable the administration and analysis of employee data with the aim of providing decision support in all HR activities.

Data-driven strategy development

In recent years, the major investments of HR functions in financial institutions have been mainly directed to the development of technology tools for data integration and quality. Much of the institutions are trying to create a centralized database to overcome some of the inefficiencies typical of compartmentalized and local information management in order to avoid duplication of activities, longer response times, and risks related to data instability.

In promoting HR process digitization projects and developing a data-driven model, several Financial Institutions are, however, facing cultural difficulties such as a lack of willingness to change or a rather high age and seniority within the department itself.

To achieve such goals, investments made in technology must be accompanied by investments in new skills, development of a new mindset and culture. Currently, only 51 percent of the HR functions of the various financial institutions claim to have a medium or medium-high level of dissemination of data culture, just as only 33 percent of institutions claim to have in-house figures specialized in the analysis and use of data (data CETIF).

It seems clear how skills inherent in the data world and the digital world more generally are increasingly taking center stage and becoming a factor in competitive advantage as institutions compete on the speed with which they can innovate and help employees acquire new skills. People are beginning to think about a new type of competitive advantage that can be defined as a learning advantage, as a result, cultivating and developing digital skills with upskilling and reskilling programs is a major need for corporate training providers.

The role of the HR function in the development of ESG issues

In addition to new ways of working and digital transformation, important issues related to ESG issues emerge among the priorities of the HR function. On the one hand, in fact, HR can help in the development of an inclusive environment and leadership by working on issues related to Diversity & Incusion; on the other hand, it can be supportive in the formulation and achievement of environmental and social goals, balancing them with traditional financial performance metrics.

In conclusion, it can be said that in the face of trends emerging in the financial world such as digitization, sustainability and the need for flexibility and agility, the HR function assumes a central role: starting with its own people, it is called upon to drive change in the entire institution through the adoption of new principles and a new culture.