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Talent Retention Solutions in Financial Services

Talent Retention Solutions

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) Head of Human Resources talks talent retention solutions from experience and ongoing strategies.

Talent Retention Solutions in Financial Services

The Financial Services Authority is an independent, non-governmental body that regulates the UK financial services industry. Employing 2,900 people, it has a wide range of rule making, investigatory and enforcement powers.

Its position and function, in what is becoming an increasingly complex industry, gives the FSA a unique set of challenges when it comes to holding onto talent.

“I believe it is an overarching issue that crosses over all aspects of the employee proposition.”

Jane Cathrall is Head of Human Resources and Resourcing for the Authority and has functional responsibly for a team of HR relationship managers within the FSA. Her role covers resourcing which crosses over recruitment, talent management and measurement, including staff retention.

“Employee retention has big focus in the FSA because so much of our work relies heavily on the experience and behaviour of the people we employ,” she says.

“However, I believe it is an overarching issue that crosses over all aspects of the employee proposition. We need to be aware of impact of attrition and to measure it closely but staff retention is not a specialism in same way that recruitment is.

“The solutions lie in other specific areas such as recruitment, performance management and training. We use these specialisms to tackle employee retention issues and adapt them to respond.”

The FSA are an example of a company who were experiencing a 40% attrition rate in their call centres. They looked at different ways to keep people which mainly involved paying more money.

Eventually, they decided they would accept that people would leave but at the same time they introduced new measures that hugely improved their recruiting and induction processes.

Jane said, “It’s a good example getting to the root of a problem and tackling it head on.

“At the FSA, we have to accept that people come to us for different reasons. Some come for a career in financial regulation and others to enhance their CVs in the industry by working at the regulator. We need to adapt propositions to accommodate these different groups of people.”

“We look at who has resigned, their performance level and their reason for going, so we can quickly pick up on trends and react accordingly.”

The Challenges of a Complex Market

The financial services market is experiencing greater complexity together with increasing innovation in financial products. Jane Cathrall argues that this will give rise to a growth in people specialising in different markets and products which, in turn, will give rise to a shortage of skills. Combined, these factors will make the sector very competitive.

She said, “There is a market for people who understand financial regulations, and of course we have some of best people in the country, so it is a challenge for us to keep hold of them.

“We want people not just with technical skills but strong interpersonal skills: people who can build relationships.”

To date, attrition for the FSA has been at a manageable level as far as minimising the impact on the organisation is concerned. Though a significant loss of numbers, in particular people with certain skills, would impact on its ability to deliver on projects or services.

Jane said, “Recruitment costs money and can divert management attention. Basically it’s about keeping the show on road and maintaining a necessary focus on recruitment.”

Although staff retention is not viewed as a specialism, it is given a lot of attention. For instance, resignations at the FSA are monitored on a weekly basis.

Jane said, “We look at who has resigned, their performance level and their reason for going, so we can quickly pick up on trends and react accordingly.”

She added, “We are working with great{with}talent and finding it extremely useful. We’re working with them on tracking the engagement of new employees as well as people who are leaving: this is useful in targeting our efforts. We analyse the results in a lot of detail so that we are completely on top of what the issues are.”

“It’s very easy to blow a bit hot and cold on retention. If there is no problem then the tendency is not to focus on it and so you don’t spot emerging trends.”

Learn about Staff Satisfaction Surveys and Chesterton Global.

Talent Retention

The FSA is often used as a stepping stone to advance careers in the industry, alongside the complexity of the market, holding onto talented people can be a huge challenge for the organisation. As a consequence, they have learnt a lot of lessons when it comes to talent retention.

Jane Cathrall said, “We do have retention payments and we identify those people who are vital or whose skills are particularly in demand in the market. We look closely at why people are leaving and work on the reasons people give for moving on.

“A lot of the time people say they are leaving for career development, so we are putting a lot of effort into developing career propositions. We respond sensibly and seriously to the messages we get. What we don’t do is have a knee jerk reaction, for example, we don’t counter offer because experience shows that doesn’t work.”

The FSA use great{with}talent’s exit questionnaire and follow it up with interviews for certain people. Although it hasn’t thrown up any big surprises, it allows them to consistently and effectively dig down into different layers to get a better insight into the reasons people give for leaving.

Jane explained, “We found that the information we were getting back wasn’t granular enough so we introduced a new question.

“We asked if they thought their time at the FSA was well spent. Over 90% responded yes which is very positive since people come to us for career development. If we are delivering on this proposition, then that’s great.

“It’s very easy to blow a bit hot and cold on employee retention. If there is no problem then the tendency is not to focus on it and so you don’t spot emerging trends.

“What we’ve been able to do, while staff retention isn’t wildly out of control, is to maintain a consistent focus so we can pick up on any early trends. However, in some organisations, where attrition is low, there might be a temptation to stop looking at it and that could be a danger. Using things like these employee questionnaires enables us to get quite an effective picture.”

The FSA also use regular staff satisfaction surveys to measure employee engagement. An organisation-wide satisfaction survey was completed in the Autumn of 2005 and the results compared with the exit data to add another dimension to the picture.

Jane said, “We report on staff turnover on a monthly basis to our executive committee. We take the great{with}talent output and use the information to track and respond seriously and sensibly to issues.

“Our approach accepts that some people will make a career with us and others will spend a couple of years and move back into industry. We try to make time with us worthwhile. Obviously, if we identify good people we want them to stay but we philosophically accept some will leave.”

“A dedicated relationship manager can make the link between recruiting mistakes that are translating into retention problems.”

The Responsibility of Line Managers in Talent Retention

The FSA has developed a HR ‘business partner’ approach with its line managers. The HR ‘business partner’ is able to have a holistic view as they get to see a bigger picture of the employment issue.

Jane said, “If you deal with one person for recruitment, another for training, another for contracts, I wonder if there is the ability to join that up? A dedicated relationship manager can make the link between recruiting mistakes that are translating into staff retention problems.

Line managers are naturally focused on delivery. They want HR people who can really understand the things that help people stay or move when time is right. You can’t have a knee jerk reaction to things like employee retention but you need to consider what your management information is telling you.

“Staff retention is a difficult area: nobody likes to lose talented staff. But any organisation has to expect a degree of competition for their top performers. They should respond accordingly in the context of the overall employee proposition and not just resort to short term measures. These can work but there needs to be an understanding of what is being offered to employees across the board.”

Contact great{with}talent and find out more about their TalentEngage employee engagement surveys.

(Main image from Dice Resource Center)

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