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To Attract Top Talent, Money Is No Longer Enough

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The simple days of carrot and stick motivation have died a sudden death. For many years, decades even, the idea that a greater financial reward alone was sufficient motivation for employees was accepted as the norm. This is why financial institutions and law practices in particular, attracted the greatest graduates, the greatest talent, fresh from university into a fiercely competitive work environment.

Team_people at desk

The deluge of talent away from Financial Services and into technology, particularly into disruptive start-up companies, demonstrates a seismic change in perception – banks are no longer the place for the western world’s educational elite to aspire to. A 2014 article in the Economist, entitled, ‘Banks? No thanks!’ references study that shows that only 27% of Harvard MBA’s in 2013 chose a job in finance. What then, has changed so dramatically that Generation Y is shunning the vast riches the Financial Services career ladder offers?

Daily Mail readers need not panic. Generation Y is not marching unstoppably towards a socialist utopia. The desire to work for tech start-ups is not driven by an ethical disregard to monetary reward, it is driven by an intrinsic motivation beyond mere financial reward. So what are these motivations, and how can they be utilised to attract and retain the talent needed to drive your business forward?

1. Meaning beyond your day job. It’s imperative to create an environment in which employees feel they can contribute and operate in tasks, ideas and direction outside of their day to day responsibilities. It’s the anti-Sisyphus complex; Sisyphus being cursed by the gods to push a rock up a hill every day until the end of time. When it got close to the top, it would roll back down again. An environment in which employees ideas are disregarded, unwelcome or never acknowledged leads to stagnation in personal development. A linear career ladder, (or banking’s infamous ‘greasy pole’) is no longer attractive to employees of all ages, with the average worker staying at his or her job for only 4.4 years, according to 2014 data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

2. Autonomy, or more simply – Trust. The often referenced example of autonomy is Google’s 20% time, where employees are given one day a week to have free reign on what to work on. From here, google Adsense, a fundamental revenue stream, was born. This was not incentivised by an innovation bonus, or even by exposure within the company. It was simply driven by a brave assumption: Google believe that they hire the right people.

In doing so, they need only leave them to their own devices to facilitate brilliant things happening. Google’s policy of business transparency is increasingly adopted in start-ups. The company-wide distribution of business
goals, challenges and even financials is an important step in creating a collaborative workplace where employees spend their spare time working to solve real business problems. If you’re reading this from a workplace where you can’t access social media, it’s unlikely you’ll share this mindset. (RBS partnering with Facebook for Work is a babystep towards addressing this).

3. Recognition and Reward (in order of importance). Stronger than huge starting salaries are huge opportunities and the belief that employees will be given the space to grow organically into the role they want. Employees expect exposure to senior people when they are working hard, or working outside their day job.

Until the financial sector makes the cultural changes necessary to attract talented graduates, the mass exodus towards organisations that have a clear purpose, provide a flexible approach to work and great opportunities will continue.

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