Retaining Human Talent in Finance

Popular discussions surrounding “the rise of the robots” often manifest as hyperbolic sci-fi posturing, though it is unlikely that the Terminator prophecy will come to fruition any time soon. But that does not mean “robots” (or at least digitally automated processes) are not rising in our world. In fact, according to an August 2020 Deloitte/IMA survey, 51.4{21df340e03e388cc75c411746d1a214f72c176b221768b7ada42b4d751988996} of finance leaders reported that automation would impact the way their organization worked in the coming five years.

And yet, despite fears of an AI takeover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported almost 300,000 financial services job openings as of September 2021. Job openings in for positions that are not as easy to automate, such as accounting, bookkeeping, and auditing, are expected to rise over the next decade. With more job options available to them, employees, especially top talent, may become harder to retain. Given that more than half of workers in the US are currently considering a career change, there should be no illusions that the finance industry will be immune to such trends.

To retain top financial analysts and talent, employers must take care of their employees’ professional and personal needs. But they must also harness automation and digital processes not as a means to replace the need for human workers, but to help make their jobs simpler, more efficient, and more enjoyable.

Take care of your employees

It seems obvious, but if more employers took this call to action more seriously, the “Great Resignation” may not have become as widespread. In these challenging pandemic times and amid an increasingly challenging labor landscape, businesses now more than ever need to keep their fingers on the pulse of employee satisfaction – both professionally and personally. 

Employees are saying this loud and clear, and it falls on the business leadership to listen. A recent corporate survey found that more than half of employees considered good benefits essential to their employment. However, only 31{21df340e03e388cc75c411746d1a214f72c176b221768b7ada42b4d751988996} of those surveyed were satisfied with their current conditions. Even negative candidate experiences at the interview stage can have an impact on the perception of a company, and employee retention begins with satisfaction.

Meeting employee wellness needs can take many forms, from offering individualized benefits and tangible compensation to providing flexibility with options like hybrid working, which has taken off in the wake of the pandemic. COVID-19 has also brought a barrage of new and unique challenges, and accordingly, considerations like mental health promotion and childcare benefits are more pressing than ever. 

On a professional level, taking care of employees can mean anything from prioritizing an engaged and continuous process of feedback to providing opportunities for workers to broaden and sharpen their skillsets. For example, supplementary educational courses can be a good way to imbue employees with a sense of self-determination, vision, and meaning. This kind of dynamic, initiative-taking approach to employee management can go a long way toward stopping employees from heading for the exits.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

Burnout is a further challenge, with 61{21df340e03e388cc75c411746d1a214f72c176b221768b7ada42b4d751988996} of people experiencing this at some point in their career. Financial professionals are often especially overworked and overwhelmed, often at the hand of complex and slow paper-based workflows. Frustration with such inefficiencies could drive some workers to more “streamlined” positions that would reduce the symptoms of burnout. Here’s where it pays to try and simplify day-to-day processes in a way that benefits both employees and the company’s bottom line.

If CFOs simplified their operations accordingly, beginning with the hiring process itself, they would be more likely to hire and retain more satisfied and more productive employees. Indeed, Deloitte reports that employees who feel their talents are being utilized well are more likely to stay in their positions. 

Figuring this out can’t be a one-way conversation: Engaging employees in improving organizational operations and structure is crucial. Those who are doing the work itself on a daily basis are very likely to have the keenest understanding of where improvements can be made, and asking for employee input will not only yield practical outcomes, but it also provide employees with a sense of inclusion and authenticity that in turn fosters greater loyalty

Make technology work for you

Technology can help relieve the burden of overworked accountants and CFOs, but only if used and implemented with savvy. Workers who feel that technology is being implemented in ways specifically designed to help them will be happier with their ability to do their jobs, more likely to stay in their positions, and more resilient down the line to technologically driven changes. On the other hand, technological processes that are too complex can have the reverse effect, turning financial professionals away. 

For employers navigating the post-pandemic needs of their workforces, it will also prove essential to use data, AI, and other technologies to glean in-depth insights into employee satisfaction and employment trends, both within their company as well as in the wider industry. 

The age of tenured employment has given way to an era of “job-hopping,” raising the stakes for employers. As such, employers must pay attention now more than ever to the shifting dynamics of the workforce and react accordingly in order to preserve their top talent.

This is hardly the first major challenge to confront the industry in recent years. The 2008 crash shook the world of finance, and the recent shocks that have come about due to the pandemic also have the potential to radically reshape the industry. Cultural shakeups are likely to continue, and businesses must develop thoughtful talent recruitment and retention strategies now if they want to mitigate their impact on their workforce. 

The good news is that employees are also aware of, and even catalyzing, these changes. Employees are feeling a heightened sense of responsibility in working with employers to meet their needs. Out of this moment’s challenges comes a rare opportunity to leap to the forefront of the financial industry.

Written by Didi Gurfinkel.

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