How Can We Transform Workplaces to Drive Wellbeing? A Finance Industry Perspective

03/06/2015 10:23 am ET | Updated May 06, 2015

How would employees who work in financial services rate their wellbeing? On the surface it's a plethora of benefits from on site massages to excellent holiday leave, above average pay, healthcare, corporate discounts and now even mindfulness classes. However, the industry is struggling with a hyper competitive work culture and job insecurity, amongst other issues, inducing an environment susceptible to increased health and wellbeing problems. Even 'The Priory,' made famous by celebrities in need of rehab, is opening a centre in the City of London for stressed out bankers. But what hasn't been considered more broadly is this; is the current perception of the industry in the aftermath of the financial crisis damaging employee wellbeing?

Banker bashing has become a popular hobby. People are embarrassed to say they work for a bank, and it's not the highly regarded and respected career it once was. The entire sector's image has been tarnished.

Regaining the public's trust is on the priority list of most, if not all, of our global financial institutions and is critical, not just for the banks reputation but for employees also, and here's why. Employees increasingly want to feel part of something bigger, that they are contributing to societal progress, and that they have a meaningful career. Employees want to work for a company that has values and a conscience, and that they can be proud to work for.

So what's the answer?

A re-evaluation of the role of banks in society through a Corporate Social Responsibility lens. Not in the traditional philanthropic or volunteering or corporate community investment sense, but something deeper and even less tangible. Banks need to ask themselves difficult questions, what is our role in society? Is it to make a profit or is to provide products and services that society wants and needs? What is our overall economic, environmental and social impact? How can we evaluate and incorporate natural capital and human capital in addition to financial capital within our business model?

Banking was invented as a social utility by the Quakers who possessed an underlying ethos of morality and prudence. Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' also assumed this underlying moral compass, but in the advent of the industrial revolution, the digital explosion, globalization and the pursuit of profit above all else, banking has become a complex world of derivatives, algorithms, volatility and regulation and we have to question; has its humanity has been lost?

CSR and volunteering has long been lauded as a tool for employee engagement, attracting, motivating, and retaining talent and to promote employees health and wellbeing. But this is no longer good enough, sitting over here in a silo disconnected to core business. What is commonly misunderstood is that looking through a societal lens can actually add value to the financial bottom line; it's an investment not a cost. Firstly by identifying social, environmental, ethical and governance issues, this minimizes the potential risks arising from such issues and then presents an opportunity to translate them into innovative commercial opportunities. This engages employees with something other than the same old margins and profits dialogue. Whilst this still rings true for many a banker, the Holy Grail to combine financial profitability with having a positive impact on society so everyone is a winner? The employee is rewarded, the bank is rewarded, and society is rewarded.

These issues are particularly relevant amongst the millennial generation who want and expect more from life and their careers than previous generations who were happy to get a pay check every month. The wellbeing of employees is inextricability linked to motivation, retention, attraction and working for an organization with purpose beyond profit. Banking is a human resource intensive industry, without your people you are nothing, so what's needed are healthy, happy, productive employees. And people want to work for organizations that not just 'do no harm' but actually have a positive impact through core business. It's a virtuous circle. Young people care more, and are more aware of the issues that the world faces, and want to be a part of the solution and they will be. I'm sure of it. Therefore, banks need to take note and start their journey if they haven't already. Having a purpose beyond profit can help to drive employee wellbeing in the finance industry and ultimately contribute to the bottom line.

The B Team and Virgin Unite created a report on New Ways of Working to help organizations better understand changes to the world of work, listen to the needs of employees and create environments that help them thrive. "Create Thriving Communities" is one of the 10 challenges of the B Team.

This blog was chosen to be 1 of 6 finalists as part of a blog competition on the topic of 'redefining work' hosted by The B Team and One Young World. The B Team, One Young World and Huffington Post would like to congratulate each of the finalists in this competition.

The WorldPost is hosting a Future of Work conference on March 5th and 6th in London. To find more information, visit The WorldPost conference web site.