December 16, 2020
Rebecca East

An interview with David Blackburn, Chief People Officer at the FSCS

How to find a new rhythm for people managers

Established in 2001, the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) is an organisation set up by the government, and funded by the financial services industry that exists to protect customers of financial services firms that have failed. Chief People Officer, David Blackburn has been with the FSCS for over seven years. Their employee value proposition is that they are an organisation that makes a difference and in which their employees can make a difference, and since their launch in 2001, they've come to the aid of millions of customers and paid out billions in compensation.

On a mission to bring people centred performance management to life, in episode 1 of The OpenBlend Podcast, OpenBlend CEO & Founder, Anna Rassmussen talks to David Blackburn about managing remote teams; the importance of social purpose and how the FSCS team have found a new rhythm for people managers in response to the pandemic.

‘How do you keep people connected to the organisation when everybody is at a distance? 

Here, we share a glimpse into the topical points of discussion between Anna and David within episode 1 of The OpenBlend Podcast...

Given the current situation with Covid-19, what issues have sprung up around remote management?

One of the things that were very fortunate for the FSCS is that we had already embraced flexible working as an organisation – we had invested in the technology over 12 months ago. So, when lockdown happened, we were able to mobilise almost instantly. It is with a degree of pride that I say the FSCS has not lost a day's production or productivity during the crisis – we haven’t furloughed any employees, we have made nobody redundant, and we are operating at something like 97% productivity right now with the biggest claims volume. We have the most claims in our work in progress than we've ever had right now.

So, in one sense the organisation just did mobilise and has continued working. I think the challenge is when you have a very well-established and defined culture as an organisation, how do you keep people connected to the organisation when everybody is at a distance?

When you're in the office, you can see what's going on, so what kind of pressure has remote working put on your managers, or your people managers?

I think the pressure on people managers is very similar to that point you've just made around how do you observe what's going on a day-to-day basis? How do you know what's going on both for individuals and then collectively within your team, without spending your entire working day on a Teams call, a Zoom call, in a GoToMeeting?

And actually, there’s definitely something around the over-communication that we're doing. So, I think we've started as organisations to feel our way forward and to find a new rhythm. But I certainly think in the first month that the way people were staying connected, the way people were managing performance, the way people were checking in, was doing a lot of this. Now, I'm not saying that's wrong – I think it's really important that there is regular dialogue – but it's artificial because in the office you just wander past somebody's desk and have a chat with them, or you might just catch up with them at the coffee machine. That human interaction is something that we're missing and it's very difficult to replicate that.

What's important to you in your work-life blend? What needs to be in place in your work-life blend for you to thrive in your role?

That's a very good question. I love a good challenge. I have never worked in an organisation where there hasn't been work to do to transform the culture or the performance. I like that. And actually, as I've progressed in my career, I enjoy how the challenges evolve.

The FSCS today is a very different organisation to the organisation I joined seven years ago. We are delivering our best-ever performance for customers. Our customer satisfaction last month was 85% and we’d never had it as high as that. We're processing claims quicker and more efficiently. But that means that the challenge has evolved, so where next? 

Want to find out more about David’s journey as a true HR icon spanning almost 20 years and how David and his team have been keeping their employees connected to the organisation with everyone at a distance? You can access the full transcript, here, and listen to the full episode of Episode 1 of The OpenBlend Podcast over at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

If you feel inspired or motivated by The OpenBlend Podcast, you want to appear as a guest, or you have something to say on the importance of employee wellbeing, smart objectives or work life balance, contact us on hello@openblend.com or leave a review. We are always keen to hear your thoughts on how we can make The OpenBlend Podcast the number one resource for people leaders and HR innovators looking to make a change.

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