Heard at Ops: EY’s Stefanie Coleman on rethinking performance management

Adopt a workforce culture of flexibility as well as performance. As part of the Heard at Ops series with top operations and technology leaders, Stefanie Coleman, Principal of People Advisory Services at EY, explains why firms need to rethink their performance management model.

Q. What is the industry’s biggest challenge in the year ahead?

A. Cybersecurity and resiliency remain top of mind, but there are a few other challenges.

I hear urgency around ESG, demonstrating purpose, and how that’s quickly climbing to the top of the executive agenda with regards to both customers and talent strategy. My focus is on talent and on helping my clients design strategies for getting the right people in the right place at the right time as well as supplying the right skills – not just for today, but also looking to the future.

In the context of the financial services operating model, workforce optimization programs can help firms understand where they need fixed internal resources versus offshore labor, or whether they should consider outsourcing labor.

Then, of course, there’s automation: not just for creating greater efficiencies in operations but to reduce repetitive, manual work so that more engaging roles can be created for operations professionals. This is important because the Great Resignation comes up all the time. Everyone is interested in attracting the best talent that they can out in the market, as well as recognizing the needs of that talent and trying to retain them.

Q. Can you describe how financial services firms can build a culture of performance and flexibility?

A. This has been a challenge and reviews have been mixed about the impact of remote work on workforce productivity. Some companies are saying that this is great: their teams have done so much in this environment that there are elements they want to keep as they move forward. Then we have other companies saying that they believe productivity has taken a toll and they want to focus on bringing people back into the office.

But there’s widespread recognition that flexibility in some form is needed. It doesn’t necessarily have to be whether or not you are in the office. It could be the hours you work, or it could be the way in which you take vacation. It could also be the kinds of benefits that are uniquely offered within your organization. This is increasingly urgent, and everyone is stepping up and looking into how to put more systemic flexibility in place.

Companies are also looking at what productivity means in a potentially sustained hybrid working environment because productivity off-site may look a little different to productivity on-site. And then, defining what those measures of productivity are in those two very different work models.

Q. With the sector facing so much disruption, what should operations teams keep in mind?

A. In addition to fostering a culture of performance and flexibility, other ways firms can rethink their talent model include:

  • Bringing a sense of purpose to the work: This will help companies compete for – and attract – diverse talent and motivate employees in the long-term.
  • Reframing job roles to be less manual, more strategic: This includes upskilling employees to meet new role expectations. But that can only happen when manual and transactional tasks that can be performed elsewhere are transitioned, ideally through automation or other optimizations like outsourcing.
  • Revisiting benefits with rewards innovation: We are seeing that compensation is so much more than a paycheck. It is the complete benefits package that includes employee experience, career path, flexibility, and work/life balance, among other factors.

Q. How does connecting with SIFMA help you and the industry?

A. I have been involved in a number of different events over the years, and I always learn something when I come to SIFMA events because someone asks a question or shares a perspective I haven’t heard before. And the best way to learn in this business is from one another. The peer-to-peer learning experience is powerful.

At SIFMA Ops, I met an attendee in the elevator and through our conversation realized that we have a common focus in many respects. Now that we have connected, we are planning to collaborate. Being able to have many of the industry’s operations professionals all in one place, in-person, is terrific for networking and innovation.

Stefanie Coleman is Principal, People Advisory Services at EY.