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Why the “Struggle for Talent” Is a Red Herring

By Derek Frost | January 24, 2022 | 0 Comments

Financial ServicesFinancial Services Talent Management, Leadership and Culture

2021 was another year of surprises, changes, and volatility, including the so-called Great Resignation and concomitant staffing shortages. Banks, like other firms, had to scramble for talent, luring workers with wage increases and more flexible arrangements (anathema for those leaders who wanted everyone back in the office, even though remote performance had been strong). And staffing shortages have persisted into 2022. 

While it’s understandable that banks are doing what they have to in order to fill positions in the short term, the bigger challenge is this: ensuring that staff are primed for the future.

First things first: skill-building.

This means thinking first about specific skills. Where are bankers strong? Where are they rusty? Take credit, where even basic skills can be a challenge, particularly in an era when formal curricula have often fallen by the wayside. Newer bankers can struggle to get a real sense of their bank’s risk appetite, while auto-decisioning can foster the idea that credit skills aren’t as important as they used to be. It’s high time for refresher courses on credit, cash flow, and other core areas.

But what’s next?

Digital dexterity: adaptability and eagerness to learn new skills wanted! 

The pandemic gave us a glimpse of new skills needed for meeting the moment, such as deepening relationships beyond traditional product and service discussions. Small business bankers, for instance, had to pivot to help clients navigate emergency funding like the Canada Emergency Business Account or the Paycheck Protection Program, while on the retail side, staff had to flex to new platforms like remote call centers. Those responsible for new business development had to learn to prospect and sell in a virtual environment, while staff of all stripes had to cope with the plethora of changes created by agile-inspired approaches. 

This rapid shifting of roles, responsibilities, and skills showed how important adaptability and openness are. And this is where digital dexterity comes in. Gartner defines digital dexterity as the ambition and ability to use technology for better outcomes, but it’s really more than that. In its highest and best expression, it includes open mindsets and agile behavior. As society and business increasingly embrace digital processes and consume and produce digital goods and services, a digitally dexterous workforce is essential to ensure future organizational success. A Gartner study concludes that the combination of technology acumen, an open mindset, and agile behavior delivers the highest level of digital dexterity.

Deepen your bench. Cultivate culture. And focus on the human deal.

Beyond skills and digital dexterity, it’s also critical to deepen bench strength, address the changes in worker priorities, and meet the expectations of younger hires.

Having a deep bench is essential not just to business continuity, but also to sustaining a bank’s culture. Internal talent pipelines with sequential, hands-on training can make employees feel committed and excited about the future. (It’s also worth remembering that culture can vary within the bank. In an earlier blog post, for instance, I wrote about the unique aspects of business bankers, who are, in a sense, specialists in their own right. It’s important to open up opportunities for staff drawn to specific areas and business lines because of their distinctive nature.)

And speaking of helping staff drawn to particular roles, consider how you can cultivate that sort of passion in the emerging generation of workers. Developments over the last two years, including the pandemic and the surge in social justice and environmental activism, have had a significant impact on the lives of this generation (and older ones, too), shaping their attitudes and activities as employees. Gartner’s research on the human deal suggests ways to start thinking about shifting the employee value proposition to focus on the whole person, their life experience, and how they feel about work.

Be open to and focused on the future.

Cultivating both core skills and digital dexterity, deepening bench strength, nourishing culture, and being sensitive to employees’ priorities and expectations will increase the likelihood that your team is ready for whatever comes their way. And if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be ready to flex at a moment’s notice to new and unexpected challenges.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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