Many, perhaps most people, love the idea of a future of working from home (WFH), especially if they have space and facilities. But amid all the euphoria and social media hype, some are asking the question, at what costs to the employer, the customer, and the integrity of the sector?
Despite being a big personal fan of WFH, Adrian Harvey CEO, Elephants Don’t Forget, states that: “Regulated firms run a considerable risk that their governance and control procedures will fail regulatory audit(s) because their employees are working from home and not working from the office.”
Harvey believes that this is all to do with how most employees learn and critically, retain in-role knowledge and develop and maintain capabilities and competencies. And suggests that most firms have entirely disregarded the role peer-to-peer learning plays in an employee’s performance and conduct, and the fact that this critical learning medium has evaporated in a work from home environment.
He said, “Peer-to-peer learning accounts for between 50-80% of an employee’s in-role competency. So, if you are recruiting a new employee virtually, how long – if ever, will it take for them to achieve competency in the role? Tenured employees are not immune either, change is constant, and, in the past, peer-to-peer learning played a massive role in the up-skilling of the workforce with new practices, processes and knowledge.”
Research conducted by Elephants Don’t Forget pre-Covid-19 (based on over 74 million individual interventions including employees within the Financial Services sector) states that the average level of employer-required knowledge amongst tenured employees was just 54%.
Now, as many firms in the sector are running almost 100% WFH, the reality is knowledge could not only fade faster, but new recruits are simply not achieving the standards required. Some firms are demanding their BPO’s only assign agents with at least 12 months of brand experience to their accounts because they know agents will not be competent if recruited and trained entirely virtually.
The FCA has already fired a warning shot across the bow of firms. Speaking at a City Financial Global event in October Julia Hoggett, Director of Market Oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority, said security arrangements for staff privy to insider information should be the same when working remotely as when in the office.
She added, “Our expectation is that going forward, office and working from home arrangements should be equivalent – this is not a market for information that we wish to see be arbitraged.”
If knowledge and capability fade, in the absence of a dynamic office environment and peer-to-peer learning, there is a risk for firms claiming that their governance is as robust working from home as it was working from the office. But this is one place where artificial intelligence could help.
“The reality is that firms must face facts and recognise that WFH isn’t just an IT challenge, it is a very real human challenge”, said Harvey. “We use award-winning AI to augment and support employees, both newly hired and tenured to arrest knowledge fade and develop and maintain in-role capability. And it only takes 1 minute 30 seconds of an employees’ day and usually costs less than £10 per employee, per month
“Given that WFH will likely be here well beyond Covid-19, shouldn’t your firm be looking at technology like artificial intelligence which is designed for this ‘new normal’ and not relying on controls designed for a secure and dynamic office environment?”