Home Finance Finding and Optimising Top Talent in the Finance Sector

Finding and Optimising Top Talent in the Finance Sector

by internationalbanker

By Nick Gallimore, Director of Talent Transformation & Insight, Clear Review





Approaches to HR planning has changed significantly, and they will continue to do so. Amongst the many impacts Covid-19 has had, it’s proved that remote working is not only possible for the banking sector, but that in the right circumstances it can be more productive than traditional working models. This will create significant demand amongst the talent market for a continuation, and has of course forced businesses to change their approaches to how they think about things like the geographies in which they recruit from and how they retain top talent.

Struggling to identify top talent?

Highly talented staff are like gold dust. So in the high pressure world of finance and banking, we know that your organisation will be keen to find them, nurture their potential, and keep them with you through dedicated development programmes and heightened access to opportunities. But how do you identify your high potential talent in a robust, evidential and non-biased way in the first place? 

This is a question which has challenged HR leaders for a long time especially in global companies. The apparently simple solution – the performance rating – doesn’t really help differentiate performance, it is prone to ratings and recency bias, and is generally so disliked by managers and employees that many organisations have turned to increasingly complex formularised solutions to identify top performers.

Whether this is based on business KPIs, objective completion rates, or 9-box grids, these methods are often lengthy and overly complicated, and take significant amounts of data and company recourses to maintain and develop. They can involve time-consuming processes and calibration sessions, and result in their own issues over fairness, data quality and transparency. 

The process of identifying top performers is often so consuming that you may even go so far as to identify top talent, telling them they have fit the criteria for this, but then have limited resources or energy to make this meaningful through programmes of activity or real recognition.

Sound familiar? Well, we think there’s another way.

Our answer

We think it’s as simple as asking managers three yes or no questions about each of their employees:

  1. Does this person have a proven track record for accomplishing impressive performance results AND have the potential to make significant further progress in their career?
  2. Would there be significant negative impact for the team / business if this individual left?
  3. Does this person have the personal desire and drive to be Top Talent (are they willing and able to progress their career rapidly via targeted developmental experiences)?

If the answer to all three questions is yes, then you may have a top performer in your midst. You can then answer a fourth and final question.

  1. On balance, taking into account all these indicators, do you recommend them as High Potential Talent?

These should be easy enough to answer if managers have been having regular check-ins with staff throughout the year, this way they can compile the data stored on into a performance snapshot. Using this snapshot, managers will be able to see a clear overview of performance, feedback from other members of staff and if goals have been met. 

It is important to remember that not all talent looks alike. Top talent in a trading role will look different to top talent in a support role, or an admin role. You may find your top talent somewhere you weren’t expecting, be open minded to finding those who can help your organisation succeed in different ways, these may even look different now to at the beginning of the pandemic.     

What next?

So now you’ve identified your top performers, what are you going to do with them? At this point you need to think about what is best for the employee. You want to encourage and support them to develop and to reach their potential, but keep in mind this might not be the best thing for them at this moment in time. Talk to them, find out where they see their career going, how they would like to progress and support them in the ways that will be genuinely helpful to them, and therefore to your organisation.  

For those employees who do want to focus on development and progression, you can now put a plan in place with them, their manager and the HR team that will support them to do so. This could involve more responsibility at work, more mentoring time with their manager, attending courses to boost their skills and knowledge etc.

Ensure you set a clear personal development plan (PDP) to go with this, that way when employees have check-ins with their managers they can discuss the progress they have made, if it is going well, or if they need help to get back on track.

Why is identifying and developing top talent important? 

Retaining your high potential staff is key to the long-term success of your organisation. In an article by The Balance Careers they explain ‘Managers readily agree that keeping your best employees ensures customer satisfaction, increased product sales, satisfied, happy co-workers, and effective succession planning and historical and institutional organizational knowledge and learning.’ In order to keep top performers, it is important to recognise them, to show them their work is appreciated, and provide them with the support they need to flourish. If not, they will more than likely take their talent to another organisation who will!

The pandemic has in many cases significantly disrupted business models, and required entire parts of the economy to re-imagine their core product and service offerings, which has brought forwards skills shifts away from hard knowledge-based skills and towards soft skills like creativity and adaptability.  This sudden shift in skills requirements has plenty of HR departments thinking quite differently about the skills businesses need moving forward.

Organisation need to remember that now is a time of great change, as we start to move out of the pandemic and the job market shifts, many staff will be starting to look for new jobs.  This might be controversial but to win the war on talent organisations need to stop convincing themselves that talent is scarce.  There is an abundance of talent, but many businesses make the mistake of creating very narrow definitions of what good looks like, and focus far too heavily on hiring people based on specific knowledge or experience.  Businesses who will thrive in the post-pandemic era will be those who focus on hiring people based on the true predictors of success: cognitive ability, soft skills and value and behaviour fit.  Rather than simply buying knowledge, “winning” at talent will mean learning how to spot people with the potential to success, and creating an environment where people can learn the skills they need to be successful.  Banks who do this will find they hire faster, hire better and master the art of developing talent from within.

So in conclusion, it is more important than ever for the finance and banking sector to identify, develop and retain their high performing staff members. The past year or so has been difficult on so many organisations, but hard working and talented staff are key to the success of companies. People are ultimately your best asset, if you invest in them, you will see a great return in the future.      


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