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What It Takes to Attract and Keep Financial Services Employees

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More than two-thirds of financial services employees in a new survey said they were interested in remaining in the industry, though this was less true of the youngest ones.

Thirty-nine percent of millennial and Gen Z employees were more interested in working in the technology sector, compared with 22% of baby boomers.

The survey, commissioned by Kronos Inc., a maker of workforce management software, and conducted by Future Workplace, a research firm, focused on what the financial services industry could do to attract, engage and retain employees in the current competitive environment.

Morar Consulting fielded the national poll between March 27 and April 4 to 806 finance professionals from C-level executives to employees across different age brackets and industry sectors.

The findings showed that 62% of respondents working in asset management, insurance and banking felt that the 2008 financial crisis still influenced how they viewed the industry, with 49% desiring more transparency from senior management.

Some three-quarters of employees also believed that the financial services industry could continue to recover strongly, and a fourth say it could do so by giving more charitable donations and offering employees time to volunteer.

“The financial services industry may have been in a state of flux over the last decade but there is no doubt the industry continues to grow,” Malysa O’Connor, senior director for the financial services practice group at Kronos, said in a statement.  

“Today it is important for financial services leaders to take a proactive approach to engaging and retaining employees as the workforce is the key differentiator in this industry.”

What Matters

What makes an attractive employer? Sixty-nine percent of employees in the survey said competitive wages, 68% a good benefits package, 52% flexible work arrangements and 51% opportunities for career advancement.

However, 76% of respondents said they were driven by more than just money when they looked for a new job. Seventy-three percent said they needed to see what a company stood for before joining.

In addition, 52% said their company had to have a strong philanthropic mission.

As to what they had given up to work in financial services, 36% said work-life balance and 23% flexibility.

Millennials and Gen Zers were especially sensitive about these losses. Seventy percent felt they had given up flexibility versus only 12% of boomers, and 83% felt the same about work-life balance versus 29% of boomers.

Moreover, 80% of employees said they wished their employer offered flexible or compressed schedules, and 37% wished they could telecommute.

Indeed, 69% said they needed flexibility and telecommuting options to stay in the financial services field — pay alone was not enough to keep them there.

Asked how their managers could best support them, 42% of employees said that giving them more flexibility would be the most effective means of support. These were other ways:

  • Investing in learning and development, 41%

  • Helping employees achieve their personal goals,39%

  • Being challenged, 30%

  • Giving more frequent feedback,30%

  • Mentoring, 29%

In every category, millennials and members of Gen Z found these strategies more effective than their Gen X and boomer counterparts.

“This survey provides valuable insight about how to overcome the residual perception effect of the 2008 bailout among job seekers and employees,” Dan Schawbel, Future Workplace’s research director, said in the statement.

“Employees today care about competitive pay and benefits, but they also care deeply about flexibility, meaningful work and choosing an employer that is a good corporate citizen.”

What Employers Can Do

Forty-five percent of financial services employees said their company could better engage them in their work by showing that their efforts made a difference.

Two other tactics, each supported by 39% of respondents, were lessening of office politics and removing bureaucracy.

In addition, 36% said that support for their personal and professional goals would help, and 19% said removing silos would heighten engagement.

Asked what their employer could do to attract and retain talent, 54% of employees said companies should reward people more than once a year with a bonus.

Forty-seven percent said the company should recognize people more often, 38% said provide ongoing coaching and development and 29% said provide more training for managers.

Employees also felt that time off for professional development and volunteering would help attract and retain talent.

Who most affects an employee’s engagement? Twenty-nine percent said their manager, 26% their colleagues, 22% executive management, 15% the chief executive and 6% the HR department.

Room to Grow

Seventy-nine percent of financial services employees in the survey said working for an innovative company was important to them, and 75% said their companies were innovative.

Yet, many still saw ways for their company to improve: 53% allowing for the free flow of ideas, 37% having a budget for investing in ideas, 35% holding idea competitions and 31% hiring entrepreneurial employees.

Respondents also felt that the financial services industry could become more transparent by eliminating layers of titles, hiring and engaging transparent employees, creating a feedback forum and promoting the use of social media—the latter supported by 54% of millennial and Gen Z respondents, compared with a mere 6% of boomers.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said women’s leadership development was important, and 57% reported that their organization currently had a female leadership development program in place.

Overall, two-thirds of financial services employees in the survey said they had sometimes suffered from workplace burnout—74% of women and 59% of men.

The chief culprits:

  • Unreasonable workload, 32%

  • Unreasonable performance expectations, 26%

  • Not being fairly compensated for work, 24%

  • Poor management, 24%

  • Negative workplace culture, 22%

— Check out The Face in the Mirror: Admitting (and Overcoming) Advisor Fears on ThinkAdvisor.


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