The idea organisations can carefully plan how work is done in a steady and measured fashion is now well and truly defunct. The challenge many organisations, including ANZ, now face is how to plan for a future in a way that provides more flexibility regarding when and how work is done - knowing things can change very quickly.
"We are laying the foundations for the more permanent transformation in how we work.”
At ANZ we are distinguishing return to the workplace plans – which are more tactical and dictated largely by the need to maintain social distancing and keep our people safe – from the future of work. We are calling this future how we work and it is about our more strategic, longer-term vision.
After this acute phase of COVID-19, we will work differently, there is no doubt about that. While forced upon us by a crisis, the rapid shift - to an environment where nine out of 10 of our people were working remotely, interacting virtually with each other and our customers – has shown us many benefits from working differently.
While our current focus remains on returning our people safely to the workplace in line with government regulations from the many different geographies in which we operate in Australia and overseas, we are also laying the foundations for the more permanent transformation in how we work.
A solid foundation
Over the last few years ANZ has invested in building our agile capabilities, as well as helping our leaders to foster strong connections with their teams and create shared clarity on the work to be delivered.
During this last year, we equipped them with additional practical tips and skills to support the well-being of their teams and help them stay focused through all of the additional stress and challenges of 2020. Our people share a strong commitment to delivering great outcomes for our customers and a shared belief that managing risk is everyone’s responsibility.
This provides a solid foundation for us to evolve to an environment with more remote working and self-management. It has also enabled us to move very quickly in laying out in some detail the principles of how we work – well beyond the now commonplace idea that working will be a hybrid of home and office.
We have already communicated the key principles and made commitments to our people. We started the work back in April with representatives from different ANZ businesses including talent and culture, technology and property to deliberately look at optimal solutions to shift the way we work – building on what we’re learning from the impacts COVID-19 is having on our organisation.
Our purpose at ANZ is to shape a world where people and communities thrive. That is the reason why we do what we do every day. Our strategy - to improve the financial wellbeing of our customers - is what we set out to deliver as a bank. And how we work outlines how ANZ employees will work together to deliver great outcomes for our customers.
In a very short space of time COVID-19 sharpened ANZ’s views and challenged our assumptions about where, how and when people work and the role of offices and workplaces. Our people have demonstrated their incredible ability to adapt and grow.
At the start of the crisis our focus, in all countries where we have a presence, was to make sure our employees who could work from home had the support they needed to work effectively and those who needed to come to an ANZ workplace received clear guidance and support to do so.
Now, as we start 2021, the majority of our people are telling us they would like some of these changes to continue. The crisis has actually created enormous momentum and we are on the cusp of a critical opportunity.
We want to use the lessons from COVID-19 to create a new framework for where and how we work. We know adaptability will continue to be key but we want to ensure we are doing so within an overarching framework.
We have been asking ourselves some big questions:
How can we balance the needs of our people and the needs of our customers and organisation to enable a culture where our people do their best work? How can we strengthen our employee proposition? And, by doing so, how can we accelerate ANZ’s vision, strategy and culture and make things better for ANZ and our customers?
We do recognise the importance of an ANZ workplace and the critical role our leaders continue to play in building team cohesion, empowering collaboration, facilitating learning, boosting innovation and helping teams stay connected to one another. We want to continue to offer flexibility for all our roles - but that won’t be full flexibility in terms of location because our employees need to be where our customers need us.
Thinking this through helped us frame the core beliefs underpinning our approach to how we work.
These six core beliefs are:
- Building and maintaining a deep connection to ANZ’s purpose, culture and customers is central.
- The power of teams matters. We do our best and most creative work when we collaborate.
- Employee wellbeing and growth are important to us. We want ANZ and its people growing together into the future.
- Work has value. Our people’s identity and self-worth through their work allows them to feel fulfilled.
- Our ANZ workplaces matter. They will continue to be integral to creativity, problem solving and connection while enabling access to specialised tools and infrastructure.
- Being adaptable and agile will help us respond to a changing and dynamic environment.
In practice, ANZ will have three broad working modes:
Workplace first – employees whose roles fit into this mode will perform their work from an ANZ workplace most or all of the time. For example, roles that involve conducting transactions with customers in a branch, cash handling, physical documents and securities handling, access to specialist tools only available in an ANZ workplace or managing a physical ANZ workplace.
Blended – the vast majority of ANZ employee’s roles fit into this mode and they will spend two or three days each week in an ANZ workplace.
Remote first – a small proportion of ANZ employee’s roles will fit into this mode. For example, a team that is already geographically dispersed, where tasks completed have little or no dependency between team members and/or where very limited engagement with internal or external stakeholders is required and/or no handling of physical documents that contain sensitive data. People in these roles will occasionally visit an ANZ workplace.
We believe enabling the vast majority of roles at ANZ to work in a blended way gives our people the best of both worlds: access to facilities and equipment in their ANZ workplace, as well as space to collaborate and connect with their teams. Coming together in our ANZ workplaces plays an important role in how we learn and grow and helps employees who are new to ANZ to build their networks and develop an understanding of our culture.
Research into leading practice also suggests coming together in a workplace is important to build and maintain a deep connection to purpose, culture and customers.
What’s great is that this is how most of our people have told us they’d prefer to work and what most of our leaders have said would best set up their teams for success.
Test and learn
While we don’t know exactly how all of this will end, we know work is evolving and we're being guided by a set of clear principles. We are also committed to testing, learning and adapting along the way. Having most of our people working in a blended way represents a really big shift and we will continue to support our people to ensure they have the skills and tools to be successful.
But we are also challenging ourselves and piloting more remote ways of working for some of our teams. We will be monitoring closely and gathering data so we continue to learn about and evolve how and where work can be done.
Kathryn van der Merwe is Group Executive Talent and Culture at ANZ