Four essentials for asset managers looking to attract and retain top young talent

In her latest column for Citywire, Phyrne Williams looks at what asset managers need to known to attract and retain younger talent.

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Taken together, millennials (born 1981-1996) and generation Z (born 1997-2012), are now dominant in the global workforce. And they are shaping workplace culture, systems and leadership.

If you’re a financial services business undergoing digital transformation (who isn’t?) then the talent and skills you need right now are, more likely than not, to be found in the younger generations. This means that your recruitment strategies and processes also need to adapt in ways that are meaningful to young workers.

The key to being adept at attracting and retaining young workers lies in understanding what motivates them.

A lot has been said about the sense of entitlement that older generations perceive in millennials and gen Z’s, most of it casting them in a negative light. However, when it comes to the workplace, the high expectations younger generation workers have of their employers are setting the tone for a much more human, much more fulfilling future of work.

It’s a two-way street

From interviewing to taking up their position in a company, the younger generations want fulsome engagement on a level playing field. The dynamic of the all-powerful boss interrogating a trembling candidate to deem if they are worthy of being given the job is a dynamic that no longer works.

Today’s candidates see the interviewing process as a two-way street, where they can discover whether or not you have a company they would like to make a contribution to. They don’t see work as merely transactional; they want a mutual, personal relationship.

Therefore, work is no longer all about the money. Offering a bigger and better package than your competitors is not a foolproof and reliable way to win talent.

We believe there are four critical areas in attracting and retaining young workers:

Set them up for success

The young candidates we put forward to our asset management clients want to see a clear pathway for their career success. The attitude of ‘let’s start you out and see how you do’ is a sure turn-off.

We can’t emphasise enough to our clients how important this is in the interviewing process. There needs to be a focus on articulating well just how they will be supported and developed.

We recently proactively marketed a top-performing young candidate to a number of firms, and she turned away from a more lucrative package in favour of the company that best articulated her potential career progression should she be a high performer.

Learning is key

Opportunities for development and accelerated learning are vitally important to many millennials and gen Zs. They’re wonderfully open to mentorship, and firms should fully embrace this as a notable advantage, especially when it comes to your talent pipeline management.

It helps to have mentorship and coaching skills embedded in your management team; and if you don’t, then bringing in these services is likely to improve your retention of young workers. Over the long term, this will reduce the high costs of unfilled positions and ongoing recruitment.

The younger generation of candidates is also attracted to potential employers who can offer them additional noteworthy projects that enable them to learn outside the boundaries of their current scope of work.

Walk your talk

Diversity, equity and inclusion is not a ‘nice to have’ for younger generations, it’s essential.

We had a candidate turned off a company because in her panel interview, she faced a ‘sea of white males’. In her debriefing, she asked us if this was what she could expect from the company’s leadership team, because if it was, then she didn’t think it was the company for her.

But this is not just about race and/or gender. Young workers want to work for companies embracing diversity, equity and inclusion in all its forms. Walking your talk applies also to your company’s social impact and level of transparent, ethical leadership.

Best-in-class, current tools

You may think that your firm’s systems, platforms and tools should have no impact on a prospective employee, but you would be dead wrong.

We recently engaged with a candidate who had been headhunted into a new position. Unbeknown to him, his new company was working with ‘arcane’ systems and there was no budget for upgrading any time soon.

His frustration at doing his job with slow, tedious tools, which was, technologically, going backwards from his previous company, has compelled him now into a new job search.

He believed that his learning and ability to effectively do his job was impacted and now it has been part of his top decision-making criteria. He’s not alone in this, and it is not surprising that younger workers, the digital natives, want to be using the latest and greatest tech at work.

While older workers might judge these expectations of their younger cohorts as ‘entitlements’, it’s hard to argue against the transformations they want to see in their workplaces.

Career pathways to success are good, as is lifelong learning. Diversity, equity and inclusion are all good, and best-in-class tech helps everyone. In meeting the ‘demands’ of these younger workers, companies will in fact be moving towards a brighter future of work for all.

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