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Banking’s latest challenge: managing job performance in the remote workplace (Part 3 of a multipart series)

July 28, 2020 - 338 views

Banking’s latest challenge: managing job performance in the remote workplace (Part 3 of a multipart series)

As remote work normalizes, banks need to adopt workforce analytics to assess job performance and identify productivity bottlenecks.

Now comes the hard part. After getting remote access right and investing in the work from anywhere (WFA) model, the next thing for banks is tackling how to manage and measure productivity in the new workplace. Job performance data is surprisingly easy to collect – but at times difficult to accept. Nevertheless, building a positive, responsible role for workplace analytics can go a long way toward ensuring your bank thrives in the post-COVID economy.

The task of managing the job performance of virtual teams follows on the heels of a series of difficult adjustments for banks as they transition to WFA. While call centers have operated virtually for years, the banking infrastructure was largely brick and mortar before the pandemic.

As banks continue to pay for expensive real estate that’s now underused, many are calculating the cost of the “new normal,” both financially and in terms of productivity and cultural affinity. 

A New Era of Transparency

While workforce analytics are a new tool, the data that feeds them has been around a long time. With many banks standardized on productivity software such as Microsoft Office 365, it’s easy to obtain aggregated data on the job performance of departments and teams. The two combined can usher banks deeper into the new era and afford them a surprising level of transparency.

For example, data and analytics can reveal the work habits of remote employees and the factors influencing them, such as productivity bottlenecks resulting from low-quality audio and video experiences. More detailed data on hours worked can also provide red flags on issues like employee turnover rates and burnout.

Another finding is how remote bank employees structure their workdays. Our banking clients tell us their remote staffs are increasingly choosing bimodal schedules to accommodate family needs, splitting the workday into two segments – morning and late-afternoon/evening. It’s critical to stay aware of such trends when setting policies for flexible hours and to ensure more competitive recruiting.

Among the most interesting outcomes of workplace analytics is the opportunity to make a fundamental switch: Instead of the activity-based metrics that make sense in a physical office, the remote workplace is better suited for a heavier emphasis on output. For example, how many mortgages did a loan officer process? How many new customers did a wealth management advisor onboard? Such a shift is a dramatic change for banks transitioning to WFA.  

The Politics of Workplace Analytics

Yet data also presents multiple challenges. How can banks collect, analyze and act on data in ways that don’t leave employees feeling under surveillance? To maintain privacy standards, it’s critical to gather aggregated, anonymized data and measure employees on agreed-upon performance indicators. It’s also vital to ensure the transparency of the data that’s collected and analyzed.

Among the banks we work with, we observe common patterns in reaction to workplace analytics. While leaders and managers typically embrace enterprise-level views and findings, they’re less comfortable when the data is broken down more granularly by lines of business (LOB) and teams.

This finer analysis brings about comparisons – and potential problems. The data is viewed as much more sensitive, and we see review cycle times lengthen and multiply. When results are subpar, managers often seek to explain why their department or LOB is different from others and, therefore, can’t be held to the same metrics.

Building a Foundation for Workplace Data

To manage and measure a remote workforce, it’s imperative to lay the groundwork for positive, responsible use of workplace analytics. We’re partnering with banks to analyze their pre- and post-COVID-19 data to create performance baselines that help them determine how productivity affects their financial performance. Together, we’re finding new ways to look holistically across islands of data to identify the behaviors of high performers and learn how to attract the best candidates. 

The following steps can help banks get started:

  • Walk before you run. Before acting on insights from job performance data, take time to understand the results and their implications. View trends and behavior over time rather than inferring conclusions from limited samples. For instance, we’re finding that July’s data is very different from June’s. In some cases, we’re seeing a decline in the use of new collaborative tools. That’s a natural curve, and our guidance for banks is to plan a continual stream of new functionality to drive engagement.
  • Roll out performance analytics at the executive level before distributing them through the organization. There’s a learning curve that accompanies the development of a data culture. Host conversations for the C-suite and top leadership to understand and plan for the impact of the data. Before undertaking a companywide release, pilot the workforce analytics in select departments or functions. Equally important, build a data governance program to assist with understanding the insights and to ensure that the use of data analytics becomes a continuous process rather than a one-time event.
  • Be prepared for some hard truths. In their rush to keep the enterprise engaged during the early days of the shutdown, banks tell us they approved projects without the usual rigor and processes. They’re now sifting through the results – and finding them costly. In some cases, they greenlighted projects that amounted to busy work rather than productive ventures. Our guidance is to keep the emphasis on output and value.   

When WFA was driven by the widespread COVID shutdowns, there was a mission associated with it. As remote work normalizes, banks need a new way to take the pulse of their organization. While the players are the same, the rules of the game have changed, and workplace analytics can help banks adapt their strategy as a post-COVID-19 organization.

For more on this topic, see the other blogs in this series, “Banking’s New Reality: Getting Remote Work Right” and "Banking's Quiet Embrace of 'Work from Anywhere.'" Visit our COVID-19 resources page for additional insights and updates.

Digital Business & Technology remote workforce, financial services, banks, work from home, work from anywhere, workforce analytics

Douglas McCuaig

Douglas McCuaig is SVP and Country Leader for Canada. Prior to joining Cognizant, Doug spent 14 years in a number of...

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