Any organisation is only as strong as its people and their engagement. Within the financial services sector, the quality of talent within a business correlates directly with commercial success. However, rapid advances in areas such as technology and legislation mean that retail banks, insurance firms and other financial services institutions are now not only competing with each other for first class skills and expertise, but also contiguous sectors – and many are not winning the ‘war for talent’.
The problem for many major players in this sector is that they spent too many years not having to keep up with the very latest thinking in talent acquisition. The reason for this was very high levels of profitability meant most recruitment challenges could be tackled with money, rather than spending time evaluating the issues at their core and determining thoughtful solutions.
Then, in 2008, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and the cosy world of financial services fell off a cliff. No longer was this a sector that was a logical ‘go to’ destination for the brightest and best. Instead it became a tarnished brand.
Since then, financial institutions of all shapes, sizes and specialisations have been playing catch-up with some impressive results. Many retail banks, for example, have worked hard and invested heavily in shaping more attractive (and realistic) employer brands. But, what few have effectively grasped is that developing a strong, over-arching proposition is no longer enough to compete effectively for the best talent. Now what counts is tailoring your messaging so that it becomes closely targeted, individual and personal.
Jobseekers are also consumers and, as such, they now demand a candidate experience which is on par with the consumer service they have come to expect from big brands such as Amazon and EBay. The internet giant’s pioneering work in the use of big data has created a customer experience that at least feels highly personalised – even if it’s not in reality. And as this has spilled out to the rest of the retail environment we have come to expect a similar level of personalisation in all our dealings with the corporate interface – a consumer grade experience.
Yet too many financial services firms still speak to all of their prospective employees, irrespective of background, skills, specialisation, readiness for a job move, etc., with the same voice, wondering why they find it so hard to recruit in such competitive fields as digital innovation, forensic accounting and risk analysis?
So what can be done?
Although it may seem a daunting task to strategically segment target candidates, our experience suggests that tangible progress can be made by focusing on a relatively small set of steps:
- Who are they? – This is perhaps obvious, (but as it does not always happen): you need to understand who you want to talk to and what sort of message they are likely to respond to. What motivates a front-line call-centre worker to join your team is not going to excite software developers to queue up at your doorstep, particularly when tech firms have some of the most effective EVP messaging around. Also try to use the medium that works best for your target group. For example, with around 60% of millennials preferring to follow a recipe on YouTube than in a printed book, wouldn’t it make more sense to tell them what a role is like through a video rather than a static job spec or case study?
- What stage are they at? – The way that you talk to someone who is looking for a job right here and now cannot be the same as the way you engage effectively with someone you might not need for a year ahead or who needs to be slowly drawn into your network. Consequently we have helped retail banking clients to set up different ‘lanes’ for different types of actual and potential candidates – challenge lane, engagement lane, concierge lane– so that messaging can be tailored accordingly. And we make a point of getting talent into the right lane with the lightest touch possible – by asking a few simple questions. Why burden talent with requests for information you won’t require until much later on and risk alienating them early on in the process? Ask for what you need, not what you want.
- Don’t forget the ‘human touch’ –Automation of the hiring process can deliver huge benefits, particularly in allowing employers to deal with high numbers of applications that come with the type of volume recruitment which retail banks, for example, often need to undertake. However, it can go too far. Hirers sometimes forget how big a decision changing jobs can be and, consequently, what an important role reassurance from another human being can be. So use the robots for the ‘process’ to free up your people to do the softer things the machines (at least thus far) cannot.
- Treat every candidate as an existing or potential customer –We’ve all heard the argument that a bad candidate experience can damage, not just the employer brand, but the overall brand. Dissatisfied candidates do not simply forgore-applying in the future; they also discourage others from positively interacting with your brand both as a customer and candidate. And the more individuals you engage with in thehiring process, the higher the potential damage could be. One of our retail banking clients, for example, hires around 8,000 people per year. But in doing so they will touch more than 5 millionpeople. So I’d argue that every talent acquisition specialistin such an environment needs to also wear the hat of a marketing or customer advocacyprofessional and ensure all touch points have a positive effect on the brand
Finally, it is worth remembering that any degree of personalisation is likely to be more effective than taking a historically broad brush approach to candidate engagement. While no communications strategy will ever be 100 per cent efficient, thanks to big data and machine learning, candidate engagement strategies only look set to become more targeted.