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Get rid of ambiguity in careers in the financial industry

19 August 2016, by Lesley Vanleke
  • #Career Discovery Trajectory
  • #financial sector
  • #talent development

The financial industry seems to be stuck between two different career models.

On the one hand, they have to attract millennials who can make the digital bank and insurance company really happen. This is not easy for an industry that has an image problem with this group. Further down the line, the challenge is also to retain this population. Millennials have high expectations in terms of their careers. They want to be continuously challenged and they will leave if they feel their expectations are not being met.

On the other hand, the financial industry has a tradition of being a secure and stable employer. In the ’80s and the ’90s, many employees entered banks and insurance companies with a vision of building their entire career within that institution. This results in a population that is on average older than in other sectors: 30% of employees are 51 years old or older. The needs of this population are different from those of the millennials. These employees are more loyal and they hope to be able to finish their careers within the financial institution. The challenge for this population is to stay employable and adapt to new realities such as the digital bank.

In other words, one population has adopted the new career model where employability is key, the other population continues to exchange loyalty for lifelong employment.

For HR and management, the key issue is that the current career management practices within the financial industry are still based on the classic career model, risking to disappoint both the millennials and the older population: 

Millennials experience the current career practices as inflexible and generally going too slow, the older population feels cheated in their expectation on lifelong employment. Many financial institutions are in a process of cost-cutting with restructuring as a result. Many of the older population will lose their jobs and for the first time, they may not be able to find another opportunity within the institution. At the same time, a great number of employees are not prepared for the new career model where adaptability and self-management are key. They will enter a job market, which to them, will seem like the jungle.

I think the financial industry will gain if they put a stop to the ambiguities that current career practices and policies provoke.

The ambiguities are many:

  • One the one hand the message from HR is: take responsibility for your own career (new model), on the other hand, job rating systems rule within financial institutions, making job-crafting a very difficult exercise (traditional model).
  • On the one hand, union delegates support strong efforts in development and employability (new model), on the other hand, they continue to spread the message that lifelong employment should be the norm (traditional model).

Both individuals and managers tend to cherry-pick from both models:

  • Individual: the company does not invest in my employability, so I complain (new model). When confronted with the possibility that mobility might be in order, the employee responds that this is too risky (traditional model).
  • Managers acknowledge the importance of development and mobility (new model) but in individual cases refuse to let go of team-members (traditional model).

Here are some tips on how to go about this:

  1. To say it with a metaphor: if my world is flat and yours is round, how can we have a sensible discussion about traveling? The confusion and the frustration concerning careers will not disappear unless the underlying assumptions on careers are brought into the discussion, so set up possibilities to have this dialogue. People need to be able to find out the answer to three questions: 1. how do we look at a career? 2. what is the career deal offered here? 3. What is my role? (De Vos, 2016)
  2. Self-managing skills can be developed. Support the whole existing population in developing the so-called ‘career management attitudes‘, which allow people to be the master of their own careers, through workshops, coaching, e-modules, etc.
  3. Integrate the same frameworks in the onboarding process.
  4. Support managers in integrating career management attitudes in their development activities with their team members. As career management attitudes are meta-skills, they serve as a lever for all sorts of development.
  5. Adapt HR tools and processes to the contemporary frameworks:
    • Allow job crafting
    • Collect data on individual career aspirations and integrate them into the talent management process

Ambiguities concerning careers are all-around within financial institutions. Discuss the underlying assumptions and adapt to the new career model, if you want to gain in terms of mobility, well-being, and employability.

Contact us for more information about the Career Discovery Trajectory, designed to turn your talent culture around.


About the author

Lesley Vanleke

Lesley Vanleke holds over 20 years of experience in HR. In 2014 she co-founded TalentLogiQS, where she searches to understand all different aspects of customers’ challenges and needs. She strives to be a sounding board and bring about connections that deliver added value for all parties concerned.