Why Learning and Development Initiatives Could Be Key to Bridging the Digital Talent Gap

brought to you by WBR Insights

With the emergence of armies of agile and disruptive FinTech startups, financial institutions the world over are under pressure to move forward quickly with their digital transformation projects in order to remain competitive and offer increasingly sophisticated digital experiences for their customers. The problem, however, is that there just isn't enough tech talent to go around. With unemployment in the US reaching nearly historic lows, demand for IT talent now outstrips supply, and financial organizations are struggling to fill key positions - from data analytics to software development, artificial intelligence (AI), and user experience (UX) design - to complete their digital transformation.

Of course, there are plenty of highly talented people with the desirable skills out there. But it's an employee's labor market for sure, and many of the tech folks that are available aren't interested in getting a job at a bank or credit union - instead, they're hoping that the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon, or some other innovative tech firm will take them in.

The fact of the matter is that incumbent financial organizations are generally not regarded as "the places to be" when it comes to developing a career in technology, and are therefore not particularly attractive to job seekers with the necessary skillsets. Compounding matters even further is the challenge of retaining existing employees as more attractive openings in more "interesting" companies become available.

Historically, financial services have been regarded as a place for a stable career with plenty of opportunities to advance up the ladder. Today, however - and particularly for millennials - job security doesn't mean the same thing as it once did. As noted by ManpowerGroup in a report entitled 'Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision', though job security is critical for millennials, they define it differently. They see having in-demand skills as a form of security in and of itself, as this allows them to move either upwards or onwards to a different employer. In this sense, millennials are redefining job security as career security.

As such, if employers and HR directors at financial organizations are to prevent a talent exodus, they must embrace career and professional development initiatives to ensure employees feel like they are valued by the organization and to prevent future gaps appearing in the workforce.

Retraining and Reskilling Existing Employees

According to a recent Ernst & Young report entitled 'The Future of Talent in Banking: Workforce Evolution in the Digital Era', several banks have highlighted internal mobility - i.e. redeploying staff from one department to another - and the retraining and "reskilling" of current employees as a solution. This is something also advocated by Cornerstone partner Terrance Roche, who says that financial organizations shouldn't even try to compete with Silicon Valley companies for talent, and instead motivate existing employees to step into needed roles and thereby cultivate talent from within. The reason is that if you already have people who are willing to work in banking, half the battle has already been won.

However, there are few financial institutions that are training current employees in the areas that matter most - data analytics, AI and machine learning, business intelligence, etc. Instead, the training programs offered are often designed to hone skills specific to the employee's existing role.

This could be a big mistake. According to a Capgemini study, in the financial industry, more than half of those in tech roles say that their organization's training programs aren't effective, and those who want to excel are looking to other employers with better learning and development opportunities.

"More than half of today's digital talent say that training programs are not helpful or that they are not given time to attend," the Capgemini report notes. "Close to half actually describe the training as 'useless and boring'. Nearly 60% of digital talent are even investing their own time and money, most commonly to be on a par with their colleagues on the required digital skills. [...] Over half of digital talent (55%) say they are willing to move to another organization if they feel their digital skills are stagnating at their current employer. And over half of digital talent (58%) are likely to gravitate towards organizations that offer better digital skill development. Furthermore, digital talent has an easy exit option as they are faced with an abundance of job opportunities."

Final Thoughts

As digital transformation initiatives roll on, those financial organizations that can bridge the talent gap will enjoy a competitive edge over those that can't. However, it's becoming increasingly difficult to compete against big tech firms for top IT talent, so learning and development must be prioritized so the best employees can be upskilled from within. Ultimately, financial organizations may find it easier to train people from scratch than to find skilled millennials willing to work in banking, so training and retention must become a key part of talent strategies to keep existing employees in-house. Forward-thinking professional development and career mapping initiatives need to be implemented, and employees rewarded for taking and finishing key digital skills training.

Learning and development are set to be hot topics at HR Financial Services 2018, taking place this December at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA.

Download to agenda for more information and insights.

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