The financial services talent war is fierce: here’s how to draft in the millennials
In the face of stiff competition from fintechs and start-ups, financial corporates must work much harder to create a working environment that appeals to a younger generation of workers who seek purpose and growth.
In a previously “unimaginable” move, Goldman Sachs recently updated its corporate dress code for a more relaxed and informal modern workplace. When you consider that 75% of its employees were born after 1981 and are therefore part of the millennial or Gen Z generations, a more relaxed dress code on any day of the week, not just dress-down Friday, is very welcome.
The centuries-old financial sector is being pulled along by a tidal wave of change in the world of work. Such decisions as Goldman Sachs’ have been part of a wider bid by traditional financial services organisations to appear more attractive to the younger generations of talent entering the workplacewith a new set of values, priorities and demands that require higher degrees of flexibility and adaptability from prospective employers. The question is, can financial services meet those demands, or will the various schemes and gimmicks fail to attract and, more importantly, retain fresh talent?
The talent conundrum
The industry’s quest for young talent is hindered in large part by an image problem. A recent KPMG report found that almost two thirds of people working outside of financial services wouldn’t even consider moving into the sector that’s often perceived to be stale and “boring”.
If young people choose to work in the financial services sector, they are increasingly enticed by opportunities to work for ‘exciting’ fintech challenger brands that are more start-up than corporate and appeal to their sense of adventure and entrepreneurship.
The sector has also developed a reputation of falling behind on diversity and inclusion. Two in five people working in finance had parents in the same sector, compared to one in five for non-finance employees. If organisations continue to attract the offspring of current and retired workers instead of appealing to those with vastly different backgrounds, they will struggle to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
It is also true that banking, investment and insurance firms alike are beginning to take steps into a new direction. For example, they are making more of an effort to break out of their historically rigid recruitment boxes to reach distant talent pools.
What millennials want
Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly seeking organisations with a genuine focus on purpose and growth that reflects the way they view their own lives. They are a generation of “slashies” – the shiny new term for individuals who prefer to hold down multiple careers at once – that refuse to be solely defined by their professional role. Their identity is shaped by a combination of all their interests, for example financial adviser/speaker/martial artist/mentor/travel blogger.
Instead of seeking a career for life and a monthly paycheck that pays the bills, they look for fulfilment, flexibility, creative opportunities, as well as personal and professional growth. Any organisational culture that gives them these opportunities will not only encourage loyalty but benefit from their better performance.
What can leadership and management teams do to provide such a working environment? It’s easy to announce a new dress code or to launch a new graduate scheme for disadvantaged students, but without follow-through this is tantamount to the same banker showing up for work wearing a different suit.
Changing the mindset and culture within a centuries’ old sector starts with making changes from within.
Leadership and team learning
Leadership and management teams first need to gain a better overview of how to lead and drive a corporate culture that not only accommodates their employees’ needs, but supports a better and more productive working environment overall. This fresh approach to culture will need to be much more focused helping individuals to develop the skills necessary to thrive in the new world of work – not just the technical skills being driven by the digital revolution, but soft skills such as creative and analytical thinking, adaptability and resilience that will in turn help build up strong leaders.
So where do companies begin? It might be tempting to start backwards by writing up a list of values that underpin company culture, but as soon as culture is “dictated” it stops having any real meaning to the people working within it. Culture is then seen as a HR directive that has little or no relation to the individual, rather than something that belongs to everyone.
Instead, people at all levels should be given the opportunity and tools to understand themselves at their best – their strengths, their character and their values. When leaders create a rich picture of what the organisation looks like at its best, both elements can be brought together. It gives people a real insight into how their strengths and values can help the organisation be its best, and what they personally need to develop or change to continue progressing in their careers.
This shift in mindset allows people to bring their personal world into the organisational world and help create a workplace in which everyone flourishes personally and works productively.
For example, the running aficionado in the finance department might set up a lunchtime running club. Not only will it contribute to people’s physical and mental health, but all those involved will build new internal connections that can help with their career progression. A company choir can be an outlet for people’s creativity and lower stress levels at the same time.
None of this is possible if department heads, team leaders and mentors are unaware of how to create and support such an enabling environment. They in particular are the ones who are in a position of power with the ability to create the right working environment in which technical skills are just one element of what a person has to offer. Soft skills such as creative and analytical thinking, adaptability and resilience are equally important for individuals to thrive in a new world of work.
The financial services sector finds itself in a position of do or die. While the steps they’re starting to take are certainly in the right direction, such changes remain in danger of appearing superficial if nothing changes at a structural level. Ongoing leadership and team learning can help forward-thinking financial organisations become one of the most attractive employers once again.
By Mark Loftus, CEO and founder, CharacterScope