THE CHALLENGE OF LOSS OF TALENT.
by Roger Aitken
At a Breakfast Club meeting in the City in June, the lead host and partner at talentflow, Susan Cuff opened the proceedings by positing that the practice of recruiting, retaining and motivating staff in the financial services sector could be considered akin to the best execution requirements under MiFID, and challenged a small, but distinguished panel to discuss this assertion.
The chairman of the panel, a director at one of the ‘Big 5’ global consulting firms then framed the discussion with reference to a recent benchmarking survey that indicated the cost of bringing in a new member of staff and losing them in short turn (inside the first three months) typically could amount to around 12 months salary. No hard figures are available, but given that the UK financial services sector employs around two million people in around 34,000 businesses the total cost would be huge.
The panellists, comprising three leading practitioners from the electronic trading, exchanges and consultancy space, commented in turn. “My worst ever hire was my most expensive,” said one “the interview process lasted about seven weeks and involved nine interviews. Plus we utilised a very expensive executive search firm. The candidate only lasted slightly longer than the interview process!”
Another noted: “Often I don’t recruit purely on technical expertise…far from it. The things I look for most in people are openness, honesty, trust and integrity. Right from the very outset I want somebody who can always challenge me and is going to bring me to question and make sure I’m not just delivering my ideas.”
A panellist from the exchanges world said: “What’s critically important and yet famously forgotten by most people – most of the time – is that the way you deal with people you are recruiting is an extremely powerful synonym for how you deal with your customers. If you’re a bit disorganised, a bit laid back or simply lackadaisical with the recruitment
process then the chances are you are very similar with your customers.”
With a consensus that the interview was only one aspect of the evaluation of candidates, discussion turned to other methods of assessment including psychometric testing, background checks and screening tests and their validity.
“The more senior one gets, I really think those [tests] become less relevant because by the time you get to a senior position you’ve probably been tested up to the hilt,” noted the former exchange official. Another, speaking with direct experience, pointed to the comprehensive Royal Navy officer training programme which takes several days and could be a model that the financial sector could look to.
As perhaps could have been anticipated, no magical formula for the perfect recruitment process was arrived at; rather that a balanced and common- sense approach should always be maintained.
On the theme of employee retention, the chairman quoted research that showed once an employee had made the decision to leave there was no effective way of changing their mind. There was general agreement with this statement and what was critically important to the motivation, and therefore successful retention of an empoyee was the culture of the workplace. However, there was also agreement to one observation from the floor that “it’s fundamentally all about the culture. You cannot have best practices because of the cultural differences that exist between organisations. So, consequently you can never achieve a one-size- fits-all solution.”
This seemed an apt encapsulation of the morning’s discussion.
This meeting was the latest in a regular series of talentflow Breakfast Clubs, and was organised and hosted by talentflow in conjunction with Best Execution magazine. It was conducted under Chatham House rules, hence participants’ names have been withheld. For more information on talentflow and other events see: www.talentflow.org.