Workplace culture: employee engagement critical to fixing the financial industry

by | Jun 5, 2017 | Public Relations

The financial services industry is experiencing a stronger need to prioritize its focus on workplace culture to better attract and retain talent, according to a new survey commissioned by workforce management firm Kronos Incorporated and conducted by Future Workplace.

The new survey found that 62 percent of financial services employees working in banking, insurance, and asset management feel that the 2008 financial crisis still impacts how they view the industry, with many desiring more transparency from senior management. Nearly 75 percent of employees also believe that the financial services industry can continue to recover strongly and a fourth say it could do so by giving more charitable donations and offering employees time to volunteer.

“The financial services industry may have been in a state of flux over the last decade, but there is no doubt the industry continues to grow,” said Malysa O’Connor, senior director, financial services practice group at Kronos, in a news release. “Today it is important for financial services leaders to take a proactive approach to engaging and retaining employees as the workforce is the key differentiator in this industry. The intention of this survey is to uncover human capital trends that the financial services industry should address to manage evolving consumer demands and stay ahead of the competition.”

The Financial Industry survey’s primary focus is on what the financial services industry can do to attract, engage, and retain employees in the current hyper-competitive environment. In this national survey of more than 800 financial services employees, flexibility, philanthropy, meaningful work, transparency, and innovation emerge as the defining issues that matter most to this multi-generational workforce.

Good pay and benefits matter, but so do flexibility and philanthropy

  • When it comes to what makes an attractive employer, 69 percent of employees say competitive wages; 68 percent say a good benefits package; 52 percent say flexible work arrangements; and 51 percent say opportunities for career advancement.
  • Seventy-six percent of employees say they are driven by more than just money when they seek a new job and 73 percent say they need to see what a company stands for before joining. In addition, 52 percent of employees say they need their company to have a strong philanthropic mission.
  • When it comes to what they have given up to work in the financial services industry, the top answers were work-life balance (36 percent) and flexibility (23 percent). Millennials and members of Gen Z were especially sensitive to this loss with 70 percent feeling as though they had given up flexibility (as opposed to only 12 percent of Baby Boomers) and 83 percent feeling as though they had given up work-life balance (as opposed to 29 percent of Baby Boomers).
  • In fact, 80 percent of employees say they wish their employer offered flexible or compressed schedules, 37 percent say they wish they could telecommute, and 69 percent say they need flexibility and telecommuting options to stay in the financial services field—that pay alone is not enough to keep them there.
  • When asked how their managers could best support them, flexibility again emerged as a frontrunner with 42 percent of employees saying that giving them more flexibility would be the most effective means of support. Additional ways that managers could provide support to employees included investing in learning and development (41 percent); helping employees achieve their personal goals (39 percent); being challenged (30 percent); giving more frequent feedback (30 percent); and mentoring (29 percent). In every category, Millennials and members of Gen Z found these strategies to be more effective than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.

Employee engagement is driven by meaningful work, opportunities for growth, rewards, and reduction in red tape

  • When asked how they thought their company could better engage them in their work, 45 percent of employees say they wanted to be shown that their work made a difference, 39 percent say lessening office politics would help; and another 39 percent say that removing bureaucracy would be an effective tactic.
  • In addition, 36 percent say that supporting their personal and professional goals would help and 19 percent say removing silos would heighten engagement.
  • When asked what their employer could do to attract and retain talent, 54 percent of employees say that companies should reward people more than once a year with a bonus; 47 percent say the company should recognize people more often; 38 percent say that the company should provide ongoing coaching and development; and 29 percent say their companies should provide more training for managers. Employees also felt that time off for professional development (28 percent) and volunteering (20 percent) would help attract and retain great talent.
  • In terms of who impacts an employee’s engagement the most, 29 percent of employees say their manager had the biggest effect while 26 percent say it was their colleagues; 22 percent say it was executive management; 15 percent say it was the CEO; and six percent say that HR was the biggest influencer.

Innovation, transparency, and women’s leadership development have room to grow

  • Seventy-nine percent of financial services employees say that working for an innovative company is important to them. While 75 percent of employees say they view their companies as being innovative, many still see ways for their company to improve including allowing for the free flow of ideas (53 percent); having a budget for investing in ideas (37 percent); holding idea competitions (35 percent); and hiring entrepreneurial employees (31 percent).
  • Employees felt that the financial services industry could become more transparent by encouraging straight communication (49 percent); eliminating layers of titles (33 percent); hiring and engaging transparent employees (30 percent), creating a feedback forum (28 percent); and promoting the use of social media (20 percent). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Millennials and members of Gen Z were the biggest believers in promoting social media use (54 percent) while only six percent of Baby Boomers felt this would be an effective strategy.
  • Seventy-two percent of employees say that women’s leadership development is important and 57 percent say their organization currently had a female leadership development program in place.
  • Overall, 66 percent of financial services employees say they have sometimes suffered from workplace burnout. Women seemed to feel the burn more with 74 percent saying they had been burned-out as opposed to 59 percent of men. When it came to the reasons for burning out, unreasonable workload (32 percent); unreasonable performance expectations (26 percent); not being fairly compensated for work (24 percent); poor management (24 percent); and a negative workplace culture (22 percent) were the leading culprits.

Financial services remains a strong career choice—but not as much for younger employees

  • Sixty-eight percent of financial employees are interested in remaining in the industry, with more than 25 percent stating that they are more interested in working in the technology industry. This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennial employees (39 percent) compared to Baby Boomers (22 percent).

“This survey provides valuable insight about how to overcome the residual perception effect of the 2008 bailout among job seekers and employees. Employees today care about competitive pay and benefits but they also care deeply about flexibility, meaningful work, and choosing an employer that is a good corporate citizen,” said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace and New York Times best-selling author of Promote Yourself, in the release. By promoting flexible environments, investing in philanthropy, and connecting work done to positive changes in the world, financial services institutions can continue to succeed and grow in today’s global economy and remain an attractive industry for the younger generations.”

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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