Ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu once said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
We can all agree that “chaotic” certainly defines the financial industry since 2020 and recently with bank failures and subsequent consumer and employee trepidation. The chaos of the last few years has been multifaceted. But as Sun Tzu alluded to, this chaos gives us all a chance to level set on what’s now opportunity, and this is well evident in the new world of financial talent recruitment and retention.
The pandemic affected not only how and where people work, but also if they wanted to continue working at all. In terms of “The Great Resignation,” its impact was felt in the financial industry overall, and our own experience was no exception. We, like many others, noticed a high number of staff stepping back to reevaluate their priorities and/or make decisions to leave the workforce altogether.
For those who decided to stay in the workforce, we saw a post-pandemic reprioritization of what individuals wanted in a job. In the initial months post-COVID, salary was the overwhelming factor due to competition for talent. However, as we’ve moved forward, work-life balance, culture, benefits and professional opportunities have become equally important.
In terms of recruitment, early on a hybrid or remote work option was the most important factor for new talent. But in the three years since the beginning of the pandemic, we’re seeing a slow shift to include benefits, sustainability, and pay.
For credit unions, competitive pay has been an extremely important opportunity, taking steps over the last three years to set competitive salaries as a top priority. Additionally, evaluating our benefits for mental health has become extremely important, ensuring we have adequate and available resources for employees and their families.
During the pandemic chaos, we worked in new ways to brand our company and tout its strengths not only to external candidates, but to our existing employees—continuously showing the company’s investment to staff’s overall well-being, both personally and professionally, and showing our commitment to their safety.
Now that the proverbial pandemic dust has settled, retention has become more about what else you can offer the employee, driving home other areas in which to excel, including benefits, culture, growth paths, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the largest barriers is ensuring current employees see the value in the entire package we offer in addition to salary.
It’s important to exemplify package elements through channels like social media to reach a new talent generation and to regularly showcase opportunities for growth and development, and how we impact the community and employee life. And for personal touchpoints, such as job fairs, a physical, branded token such as a t-shirt goes a long way in building talent awareness, affinity, and consideration.
It’s imperative to be proactive in communicating to employees and members that your institution remains strong and will weather any storm. Continuing to communicate that message will be key moving forward.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Coordinate roundtables with other companies in our industry to discuss problems and brainstorm ways to navigate challenges. Encourage your hiring managers to be open minded in assessing candidates, considering more than just what’s on a resume.
And take it from Sun Tzu: Look at the chaos around you as an opportunity to improve both your processes and your recruitment efforts to build a stronger team.
STACEY BICKNELL, SHRM-SCP, is recruiting coordinator at $2.3 billion asset America’s First Federal Credit Union in Birmingham, Ala.