NAFCU Services Blog

Sep 23, 2021

5 Executive Insights on the Future of the Workplace

By Randy Salser, President, NAFCU Services

We had a lively talk with a diversity of opinion about the future of the workplace at this year’s CEOs and Senior Executives Conference. Our panelists had very different ideas about what the past five quarters will (and won’t) change about the workplace. There wasn’t a dull moment in the 45-minute conversation, and I recommend you watch the entire thing!

If you’re pressed for time, I’ve prepared a quick summary. These are just a few of the points that made a big impression on me:

1.  Don’t lose sight of the resilience and flexibility you’ve already demonstrated

One of the interesting themes we heard a few different ways was how smoothly so many credit unions were able to pivot at least some of their workforce to remote settings. So many were able to flip that switch in a single day with minimal disruption to core processes. Organizations feeling tentative about disrupting either their old model or any emergency measures would do well to remember that people can roll with more than one set of changes.

After a discussion with their HR leader during initial back-to-office efforts, one leader talked about learning to give people emotional space while they readjust. It can be as simple as checking in on people’s state of mind after their first few face-to-face meetings after a long period away.

On the flip side, it’s also worth paying attention to any warning signs given off by employees, particularly those who might be responsible for implementing changes in workplace practices, if they didn’t cope well with pandemic-related controls. Many individuals and organizations thrived under challenging circumstances, but at the same time some previous superstars came up short when put to the test. It’s perfectly fair to re-evaluate them for the long term.

2.  Employees can be more empowered, wherever they work

The pivot to remote work worked best when organizations streamlined management and approval processes to give people more autonomy. Paring back on unnecessary layers of administration can serve any future workplace well. We know much more than ever about the excessive meetings and redundant verifications which simply weren’t necessary because we were able to work without them. Keep looking for ways to innovate, empower, and decentralize.

3.  Incentives can help draw employees back to the office

One leader shared how their organization has pushed to keep its workforce as close to pre-pandemic baseline as possible, viewing established relationships and the in-person ways to cultivate them as essential to the fabric of credit unions. The goal? To keep the person-to-person connections and informal brainstorming sessions flowing.

Another found alternative ways to spend their entertainment budget while large in-person parties remained on ice. The premise is to offer bigger incentives and door prizes at in-person events as they emerge—a carrot for being willing to venture out, past the home-office desk.

4.  “Trust but verify” is a valid way to make remote and hybrid assignments

Some of our CEOs made clear that permanent shifts to out-of-office work can be vetted. One found that the vast majority of employees who made an ADA claim in response to their return-to-office call couldn’t provide documentation. At another, employees and supervisors go through a carefully planned checklist to validate that the remote workplace will be ergonomically compliant and have adequate access to childcare. Out-of-office appointments can be changed back to in-office at any time, and the out-of-office appointment is clearly presented as an achievement rather than an assumed option.

5.  Keep your big-picture cultural shifts strong, however you work

Many credit unions and organizations turned the constraints of the COVID era to positive force and focused on giving. One, whose organization regularly supports a local food bank, spoke proudly about how their team fostered a generous spirit during the pandemic. By emphasizing the unequal ways the pandemic affected their community, last year the credit union raised more than 10 times the usual annual amount.

Maintaining that focus on generosity and sharing even when the crisis level subsides was something we could all agree on: strengthening the connection between individuals and institutions whenever possible.

If you didn’t join us for the conference, the full chat with top executives is available here with on-demand access.