After a rather unpleasant and frankly embarrassing Brexit campaign, the dust is unlikely to settle anytime soon. To cap it all off, the sinking ship seems to be devoid of rats. The major protagonists that should have been steering us through these troubled times have packed their bags and exited stage right, saying “I am off; I’ll leave you to sort out the mess.” What a shambles, and what a poor example to set for future generations already disillusioned with politics. Shameless!
Like many people, I had been feeling quite depressed and so was very pleased to receive something recently that cheered my spirits and encouraged a more positive outlook for the future. Every year, I support some master’s degree students from the London School of Economics as they undertake their final-year research project. This year there were two teams, and they both looked at employment in the financial services industry. The first group considered how attractive new applicants, primarily millennials, find the financial sector. The second group looked at talent retention strategies for existing employees. The results of the research can be downloaded here (team 1) and here (team 2). The reports make very interesting reading, offer lessons to employers in all industries, and provide some hope for us all after the debacle of the Brexit process.
The financial services industry has, quite rightly, come in for some bad press in the past decade or so. As a result, it has been losing out to other professions, principally consulting and financial technology, when looking to attract and retain talent. The research calls out a number of interesting findings, including the following:
1. There are a number of mismatches between the perceptions of the financial services industry and the expectations of prospective employees. The industry must address these issues or it will become increasingly unattractive.
2. There is evidence of self-selection at work. Those candidates that are most financially driven and least influenced by the mismatches are most attracted to the industry. This runs the risk of reinforcing existing stereotypes and, in particular, promoting a strategy of just recruiting more “people like us.” The negative impact of such an approach on diversity, and all the positive benefits that this can offer, could be profound.
3. Interestingly, those employees that were the most financially motivated were actually the least loyal, so perhaps not the best candidates after all. Go figure!
4. Young employees have a strong sense of fairness and consider equity with peers as more important than personal gain.
5. Increasing regulation, especially the Senior Managers and Certification Regime, was considered to be a positive measure and not burdensome. The improvements in public confidence and perception that regulations are designed to facilitate were really valuable.
However, perhaps the most important issue that came through in the research was a pervasive sense that organizational culture is at the heart of what is important for young people in our workforce. They recognize that relationships with peers, managers, and subordinates are important and need to be nourished. They value equity and fair play. They are ambitious and motivated, keen to flourish given the right environment and support. Lastly, they believe that intangible benefits are more important that the obvious tangible, financial incentives, valuing people and culture over remuneration and employer reputation.
If we can take encouragement from such a positive view of the world, there is hope for us yet post-Brexit.