How Community & Regional Banks Can Win the Talent War

Data from a national survey finds strong interest among Gen Z and younger Millennials for working in banking — for community and regional financial institutions in particular. But they are easily put off by a lack of commitment to things they value or by misconceptions about the industry.

Financial institutions are finding it increasingly necessary to pay up for new talent. That’s a particular challenge since employee turnover tops the list of greatest threats perceived by regional banks and credit unions over the next 18 months — more than increasing competition, changing consumer preferences and pressures to non-interest income, according to a 2022 Alkami study.

On the upside, many people who jumped on the Great Resignation bandwagon are starting to question that decision, especially younger workers. Regional and community financial institutions may be in a great position to benefit from their change of heart.

The national study, conducted in partnership with the Center for Generational Kinetics, surveyed over 1,500 U.S. consumers of all generations who currently have a bank account and are active in digital banking.

The findings reveal 40% of Americans are likely to consider working for a bank or credit union. Significantly, the figure is even higher among Gen Z job seekers (66%) and younger Millennials (60%). Those whose primary financial providers are online-only banks, big tech companies, or fintechs are most willing to say yes to job offer from a regional or community institution.

How does financial institution attract this interested talent? There are five key factors to consider.

1. It Starts with – But Doesn’t End with – Bucks

Gen Z and Millennials pay close attention to average starting salaries, and overwhelmingly applicants of any age want to be paid what they are worth. The earning and growth potential of banks and credit unions are attractive to many younger job seekers.

In the current market, with salaries on the rise across industries, it is essential to make a competitive offer upfront. For the right candidate, it may be wise to start with a higher offer and be willing to negotiate.

According to the Alkami/CGK study, a job candidate of any age is most likely to accept a banking job if offered health, dental, and vision insurance, flexible hours, or a signing bonus. Older generations are significantly more likely than younger generations to accept a job if offered health, dental, vision insurance, job security, and retirement matching.

Generational Preference:

Gen Z and younger Millennials are significantly more likely to accept a banking job offer that provides flexible hours, unlimited vacation and student loan relief.

There are also gender differences when it comes to accepting a job offer. Men are significantly more likely to accept a position offering job security, performance bonuses, and a clear path to advancement. Women are significantly more likely to accept a position offering health, dental, vision insurance, and flexible hours.

Focusing on benefits important to a specific candidate may serve to sweeten an offer. Also be willing to re-examine company job listings and the application process. Lowering requirements for years of experience or education for entry-level positions can widen the net being cast. An applicant may be unfamiliar with banking due to lack of life experience yet may be an excellent candidate to learn on the job.

Read More: Fintech Slump Gives Banks a Great Shot at Closing the Talent Gap

2. Play to Banking’s Strengths

An strong 65% of Gen Z and 66% of younger Millennials cite landing a job at a bank or credit union as a “smart career move.” Among other key drivers, young people cite good benefits (32%), learning about money and personal finances (25%), and the ability to help people (19%) as reasons to consider working in the finance industry. Playing to those strengths can help attract and retain talent.

There was a time not long ago when one entered the workforce fully expecting to be molded into the corporate culture. Today, younger employees want to be part of molding the company culture. They can bring fresh ideas and energy if given opportunities to help define and evolve an organization. Making employees cultural stakeholders can boost productivity and retention, while helping attract new talent.

If You've Got it Flaunt it:

Younger job seekers want to feel part of an organization trying to help people. Community financial institutions are uniquely positioned to show how they do that.

Beyond dollars and cents, the younger talent pool gravitates to employers with defined missions aligned with their own values. So, make your mission a selling point. A job prospect may want to know an organization has a sustainability policy, demonstrates a commitment to life-work balance, or embraces a social impact statement.

3. Address DEI Concerns Head-On

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an area requiring continual improvement. Findings show only 10% of U.S. digital banking consumers believe strong DEI policies are benefits of working for a financial institution. Addressing their concerns head-on can give an employer a leg up in the hiring process. That starts by recognizing there is always room to do better as individuals and organizations.

Progress entails forward motion. In hiring and promoting, there should exist values-based DEI policies. A bank or credit union may or may not have a designated DEI officer, but every organization can benefit by making DEI an emphasis with unconscious-bias and other employee programs.

Be forthright and open to change by providing substantive opportunities to reskill and upskill employees to become leaders in their jobs and among peers within the institution.

4. Combat Misperceptions About Banking

Although many Gen Zers and Millennials are open to considering a career in financial institution, they also have strong opinions about what it means to work in banking. Some respondents think of banking careers as being high-stress, involving repetitive tasks in stodgy environments.

Also, a number of respondents admitted they were hesitant to apply for a banking position due to perceptions of job complexity. Gen Z are significantly more likely than older generations to feel this way. These misperceptions underscore the importance of how a job is presented to prospects, along with providing training, education, and networking programs to build employee skills and instill confidence.

On the flip side, there is considerable opportunity to provide a clear, top-down sense of not only day-to-day purpose, but of the overarching values-driven mission of the institution.

Read More: How to Survive Banking’s Biggest Threat: Staffing

5. Embrace and Highlight Digital Banking Transformation

Because of the accelerated digital transformation occurring in banking, there are exciting developments around which Gen Z and Millennial talent can play instrumental roles.

Employees onboarding today comprise almost exclusively digital natives, but offering a great digital banking platform is not just key to connecting with younger generations. Delivering a great digital banking experience leads to significant gains when it comes to attracting and keeping every generation.

Whatever the generation, be prepared to speak their language, share the excitement, and offer opportunities for prospective new hires to engage in advanced technology. The right digital platform can provide momentum to compete more successfully in winning over consumers — and the talent war.

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