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Act Now to Avoid a Future Talent Crisis

By: Charles Shanley, SPHR, CFS
Executive Vice President
JMFA Recruitment Services

Prior to the country’s economic downturn, many financial institutions maintained formal staff development and leadership training programs that enabled management to recognize potential among existing staff members and develop the skills necessary to nurture professional growth. 

However, over the past several years many institutions struggled to keep up with ever-changing regulatory expectations and security concerns. As a result, a large portion of human resources and financial allocations were refocused on compliance training initiatives, along with technology and fraud prevention investments. 

High talent demand vs. short supply
Now, as Baby Boomers exit the industry through retirement, there is a realization and growing concern that the employee roster for many institutions doesn’t contain the bench strength necessary to build strong leadership and secure future new business opportunities. 

Over the past several months, I have heard this from clients who are contemplating the specific skills and leadership characteristics they expect to need in the coming years to meet the demands of the changing industry environment. Many see the lack of these skills exhibited by existing employees, as well as outside job candidates, as a challenge to their long-term strength.

This concern is reinforced by a recent survey of hiring decision makers conducted by Harris Poll. Forty-eight percent of respondents from U.S. companies reported they don’t see enough qualified candidates for open positions and many expect this to get worse as the economy continues to improve.

The problem these days is people with some of the most highly sought-after expertise and leadership characteristics can demand higher compensation and are either happy in their current organization or are holding out for an opportunity to step into a more senior leadership role. 

And whether it’s because current leaders didn’t see the importance of preparing, coaching and mentoring younger employees and managers – or because the increased cost of doing business made it difficult for smaller organizations to survive and grow – the lack of internal leadership talent waiting in the wings could prove challenging for many institutions for the foreseeable future.

Prepare to build long-term internal strengths
Let’s face it. In the current environment the most cost-effective way to get the skills needed to lead your organization to a successful future is to create an internal process that identifies, trains and prepares today’s key staff members to become tomorrow’s leaders. And while this requires time and resources to put into place and manage, the rewards are worth the investment. 

Following are some tips to help you get the process started in your institution:
1. Create and introduce a professional development plan that begins during a new employee’s on-boarding process and progresses as the employee grows within the organization.
2. Build benchmarking into the process to gauge areas where customized training opportunities might be beneficial, or to determine whether or not an employee is a match for a certain job.
3. Utilize assessments to identify leadership characteristics among employees early on to further develop and provide additional experiences that will increase skills and breadth of knowledge.
4. Put in place performance-based and competitive salaries, along with appealing benefits.
5. Create a positive environment throughout the organization that inspires employees to high performance.
6. Establish a referral bonus system for staff to receive compensation for any new employees they refer that are hired for open positions.
7. Take advantage of opportunities to hire strong, qualified candidates even if there is not a specific need at the time. Otherwise, when an opportunity arises, the candidate may not be available.

Benefits of pro-active planning and in-house training
A well-managed, in-house training program is more cost-effective than bringing new talent into the organization every time an opening occurs. Plus, an established succession plan can identify potential stars and weed out staff members that don’t possess the necessary skills and leadership qualities. 

Other benefits of developing internal talent include:
existing personnel already know the institution, its account holders and community;
promoting from within boosts employee morale; 
building internal bench strength keeps talent in the organization when there is a lack of potential candidates in the marketplace; and
avoiding competition with larger institutions in attracting/affording the best talent.

What’s more, investing in professional development for current staff will increase employee retention and can be a major selling point for your recruiting efforts in the future.

Create a company-wide succession plan to achieve your desired results
Losing long-term leadership or highly-skilled personnel is not a matter of “if” but “when.” By creating a company-wide succession plan – along with coaching and mentoring internal employees who show promise and interest in growing their skills – you can avoid the pitfalls of waiting until there is an empty position to fill. If you lack some of the essential skills or leadership characteristics within your organization, a professional recruiter can help you find the talent you need to be successful as long-time leaders retire and competition for top performers increases.

In today’s competitive market, having a full complement of highly trained, motivated employees is an essential element for successfully implementing strategic initiatives and meeting performance goals. This is true whether the institution is a new charter or a well-established one that had been serving its community for years. 


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