The Great Resignation’s influence continues to stretch across industries, and financial institutions are not spared in its effects. As Microsoft’s Trend Index shared in March 2022, we are not the same people who went home to work in early 2020; we have redefined the role of work in our lives, and it continues to develop.
With change continuing to churn, how can companies keep up?
A recent New Role of Operations Workgroup meeting featured a special guest: Lisa Jacobi, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of COCC.
Jacobi spoke about talent and acquisition strategies, and how companies are winning and losing when it comes to hiring and employee development. It’s a world that continues to morph in untold ways from where we were just a few years ago.
Things are evolving so quickly, Jacobi said, that it’s impossible to predict the future workforce’s needs, both short- and long-term. However, financial institutions of all size can benefit from putting their attention toward key areas including trust; career growth and paths; empathy; and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The last several years have been polarizing, from politics to pandemic. It’s all altered people’s view of what work is to them, and the role it should occupy in their lives. And even before that, younger employees felt wary of blindly trusting anyone—including their employer. There are clear indications, Jacobi said, about how companies need to be ahead of the game when it comes to building trust in a new workforce.
“When a company says that they are doing great, Baby Boomers and Generation X tend to trust that statement. But Millennials and Generation Z do not initially trust it. So how can you communicate the things you are doing? Telling employees that they’re going to have a great career with you, and that you will help them grow isn’t enough. Saying, ‘Be patient and we’ll take care of you’ doesn’t resonate with the younger generation,” she said.
So, what does resonate with younger employees? Jacobi cited three areas where managers should focus their attention:
1. Brand connection. At the macro level, Jacobi said, employees want to connect to the brand for which they’re working. For example, people who work at Starbucks because they like the brand. If employees don’t feel that brand affinity, distrust can happen. They might wonder, “Why am I even working here?”
2. Skill development. Employees at all levels want to advance their skills. No one wants the same job they had last year, Jacobi said. People want to explore new things and learn. They consider that a big component in job satisfaction.
3. Career path. Not everyone may desire a linear career path, but they do want to be shown what their options could be. It could be a lateral move instead of growing in seniority. And while pay is important, trusting their employer to show that they have a path with them goes a long way. Jacobi said some employees will leave jobs, but then find a way to work with a former boss with whom they had a strong rapport; in other words, they want to join forces with someone they trust.
But what about employees who are more experienced, who still want to feel connected but may have different priorities than the younger generation? Jacobi explained that when COCC started bringing employees back to the office after being remote, some employees felt disconnected from the newly hired younger workforce.
So COCC started holding events such as onsite happy hours and food truck visits, as well as continuing their town halls, Q&A sessions with executives, and employee roundtables. These sessions hosted discussions including questions about the business, profit-sharing, 401(k) and others—important concerns to the approximately 12 percent of employees nearing retirement.
“We’re not forgetting the things we were doing that our more seasoned employees enjoyed,” she said.
Jacobi shared that nationally, about 30 percent of employees are diagnosed with a mental health condition or have someone in their house with a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. Those numbers are rising in Millennials and Generation Z; they make up most of those mental health percentages, she added.
Reaching someone where they are is very important, Jacobi said. Employers need to show their support for employees with mental health conditions; this goes a long way toward building trust and developing relationships.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
Everyone is looking for DEI, Jacobi said. Younger employees already expect things to be fair and want others to feel included. At COCC, she said, they launched a DEI committee in 2019; it started to serve as a focus group, but as 2020 rolled out, it obtained more of a foothold. It turned into a group that helped advise communications to employees about ongoing culture issues and how to help the workforce generally get through the political and social upheaval happening through much of 2020 and beyond.
Even some small changes their DEI committee have implemented have made a big difference. “At COCC, we’re tied to the federal holiday schedule; if the Fed is closed, we’re closed,” Jacobi said. “But we’ve made it possible for employees to exchange a small number of federal holidays for ones that are important to them, such as exchanging Columbus Day for Diwali. It went over really well and didn’t take a lot of work to make happen.”
Employers may also want to consider developing employee resource groups (ERG). COCC rolled theirs out this spring. They include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), Black,
Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), veterans, women in technology, and accessibility (a disability-based group).
“It was amazing to see what’s happening in these areas. We had an event where each ERG had a table to show what they were all about, and how they can help employees,” Jacobi said.
She was quick to point out that an ERG isn’t the same thing as a social group for people to meet each other. For instance, a group of employees who enjoy craft brewing isn’t an ERG, but it can certainly be a social channel on Slack.
Jacobi has seen all this change firsthand: She commented how COCC’s literal and metaphorical space has dramatically changed from pre-pandemic. For example, remote work wasn’t common at COCC before the pandemic. But now, she said, 95 percent of employees across business lines work remotely, at least part of the time, with 20 percent of them fully remote.
It’s crucial to invest in people, Jacobi said, and at COCC they have worked on onboarding employees better and faster than ever before. All new employees spend a couple weeks with the talent development team getting assimilated into COCC’s brand and culture, she explained. It helps employees’ ability and readiness to learn their job if they enter an organization with a compelling plan to get them acclimated.
“We have always taken a strong approach toward onboarding talent,” Jacobi said. “We get them technology, company swag, and gift cards. We focus on teamwork and getting to know the organization in a fun way and be ready to learn and continue learning in their weeks ahead. It’s a huge effort we’ve been working on.”
And although this method need not be a one-size-fits-all approach—each organization is different—Jacobi stressed the need to start off on the right foot with new employees.
“You need to make new hires feel unique and special. It will go a long way,” she added.
While many of Jacobi’s recommendations were COCC-specific, financial institutions still can take some of these concepts and try them on for size at their own cultures. Times are changing; finding staff will depend on them evolving as well.
AUTHOR: Joe Casali, AAP, NCP
Executive Vice President
As the EVP of Payments Innovation for NEACH, Joe focuses on exploring innovative solutions and technologies that will help position members for success, both now and in the future. Connect with Joe to read more of his blogs, articles, and posts.