July 01, 2009

Special Report: Optimizing the Workforce
Generational Differences, Budgets Challenge Banks’ Leadership Growth InitiativesDearth of Banking-Focused Information Security Education Could Be DetrimentalThe Success of Bank M&As Can Hinge on IT Talent RetentionPerformance and Productivity Management Key to Banks’ Long-Term SurvivalIn Turbulent Times, Take Stock of IT Staff
It’s often said that a happy worker is a good worker. While it may not be quite that simple, creating an environment in which employees can thrive and advance really is key to an organization’s performance. And for banks, nowhere does talent development determine future success more than in the IT shop.

“Financial services companies rely heavily on technological innovations,” says Jon Couture, senior executive vice president, human resources with HSBC-North America ($596 billion in assets). “Talent development in the IT area is very important. Retaining talented and innovative IT professionals and leaders is fundamental to ensuring our future profitable growth.”

Talent drives technology innovation, adds Sidney Deloatch, SVP of enterprise solutions for Fifth Third Bank ($119 billion in assets) in Cincinnati. “A significant portion of the value a bank delivers to its customer base is information,” he says. “The technology we utilize is constantly being upgraded. Critical to that technology is the talent that drives innovation and execution.”

So how do banks cultivate leaders? Debbie Bianucci, president and CEO of BAI, a Chicago-based financial services industry group that provides education and research, says banks increasingly realize that different people learn in different ways and that generational differences are a major factor in determining how they should be trained. “Banks are very focused on understanding generational differences from the customer perspective, such as in the way people use technology to deal with their bank,” she explains. “They also are realizing that the ways their employees need to and want to learn are different.”

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That one generation differs from another is hardly revolutionary. But the chasm between the millennial generation, or Gen Y — primarily those born between 1980 and 2000 — and prior generations is seemingly broader than any before. At the heart of Gen Y’s uniqueness is technology.

Indeed, experts agree, technology is simply intuitive to millennials. To harness that power, banks must adapt their management approach and training to speak to Gen Y’s need for the openness and immediate feedback they are accustomed to online.

Soaring Workplace Expectations

Gen Y is the product of the Internet, cell phones and so-called “helicopter parents” who hovered over their children’s every encounter, according to Meagan Johnson, an expert and consultant on generational differences in the workplace. These factors create unique workplace expectations that demand big changes to traditional corporate communications, she suggests.

“Banks need to create a culture where these people want to work,” Johnson says. “They want a sense of community where they can grow and develop. For the baby boomers, it was about teamwork. For Gen X, it’s about individualism and independence. For the millennials, it’s having that sense of community that matters — the sense that someone is interested in them and is looking out for them.”

Further, millennials, weaned on Facebook and texting, expect nearly instantaneous feedback in all aspects of their lives — including in the workplace. According to Johnson, this expectation can be a cause of great frustration for managers. The best approach to managing millennials, then, is to mete out responsibility to millennials in small, measurable chunks, accompanied by correction when needed, she advises.