Unfortunately for banks and credit unions, the financial services industry has a reputation for being dull and boring, and many of the Generation Y and Millennial workers that bring advanced and specialized skills to the table are looking for careers in the high-tech industry, not financial services.
Team member turnover in banks’ IT departments is happening at such a rapid pace, these areas may as well have revolving doors. Several bank CIOs recently told me they have not been fully staffed for years. The time it takes to recruit skilled workers has increased from weeks to months, sometimes even years, and many CIOs have been forced to retain high-dollar contract labor because they can’t find qualified, full-time candidates.
At GonzoBanker, we understand that financial institutions are struggling to attract and retain the skilled technology workers that will enable them to realize their growth, operational and competitive strategies. So, we’re offering up 6 Tips to Help Manage the New IT Staffing Facts of Life:
IT professionals are one of the few employee groups in financial services that can move in and out of the industry. Help desk specialists, network administrators, data warehouse experts, and business and data analysts can easily get jobs outside the banking industry and can often do so for better pay, greater job flexibility and built-in training.
Competitive offerings that will help banks and credit unions keep their IT talent are surprisingly affordable. Best practice FIs include flexible schedules, work from home, extra training, conferences, and exposure to new and exciting projects and technologies in their benefits packages.
Baby Boomers are retiring in droves – as many as 10,000 per day by some estimates. These professionals have been the backbone of our industry for decades and have amassed most of the banking experience in our institutions, in and out of IT. The Generation Y and Millennials that are behind them don’t always have the same breadth of knowledge and have not been exposed to as much of the banking industry as their long-tenured predecessors. Their tendency to job hop only makes matters worse.
Best practice banks and credit unions emphasize succession programs, mentoring programs and increased collaboration to develop a strong bench among their next generation technology teams. Another successful strategy is to partner with local universities with intern programs so the next generation IT employees can begin their financial services training even sooner.
Despite efforts to build succession plans for top technology executives, many FIs don’t feel they have adequate talent and leadership to fill the top job when the CIO leaves or retires. With the high demand for technology talent coupled with the poaching that’s rampant in the industry, CIOs and successors don’t stay around long enough for succession plans to be effective.
Best practice institutions pair IT and business leaders to cross-pollinate leadership skills, knowledge and relationships throughout the institution. Future leaders are also invited to join annual planning, steering committees and strategic projects to hone their decision-making and execution skills with a goal to develop a strong next generation that will be ready for an upcoming promotion opportunity.
As fast as technology is evolving, an untrained IT worker becomes under-skilled and unmarketable in just a few years – even less for specialized roles such as data analytics and cloud technologies. Technical skills, certifications and soft skills are critical, and banks and credit unions should make the investment to keep their IT employees’ skills current and, ideally, keep these employees loyal.
While training does make an employee more marketable for his or her next job move, it should not be withheld out of concern that employees will just leave once their skills are updated. Best practice institutions know that thoughtfully planned and presented training is an investment in their employees and improves rather than hinders retention.
Among the most common frustrations about the IT team is that they don’t talk the same language and are frequently given no credit for understanding anything about how banking works. IT professionals often understand more than they are given credit for, but they may understand it from the system, data and process point of view. Why else are these the people who are helping select and deploy the systems, writing the reports, and automating the processes?
To bridge the business-technology gap, one of the most sought-after roles in a bank or credit union is a business analyst – someone who translates business needs into technical terms that can be delivered by IT or the technology vendors/partners. Business analysts drive technology options, utilization and best practices and can be worth their weight in gold. Beyond business analysts, IT team members should be integrally involved with strategic systems and projects to ensure that they understand the business drivers and the value they can add. Smart bankers seek out these specialists, hire them, and find ways to keep them engaged and happy.
Surveys of IT employees consistently show that doing new and interesting things is a top motivator for people in this line of work, ranking even higher than compensation. It can be a challenge for FIs to spend aggressively to maintain the latest and greatest technology, but asking employees to perform routine, boring work in an environment that hasn’t kept pace with advances in technology is a recipe for turnover.
Leading FIs know that giving IT employees exciting and strategic projects and exposing them to current technologies will keep them loyal and motivated.
* * *
The IT team is a critical part of a financial institution’s strategic direction. If these professionals aren’t finding their jobs challenging and rewarding with a clear path for advancement, they might be making a bee-line for the revolving door. Best practice bankers do what it takes to keep these folks around.