Our annual analysis of investment industry recruiting trends is typically well-read, but we didn’t anticipate the reaction we received from our 9th Annual Executive Survey Report, Late Adopters Finish Last: Why Change Is Critical in Today’s Talent Market.
Comments on social media, as well as the number of report downloads from our site, indicate that this year’s findings struck a chord with many – particularly about the topic of Millennials. In our view, the collective response is a wake-up call about the need to attract and retain the next generation of talent to accelerate change in our maturing industry.
It’s interesting to note that as the industry and its leaders mature, the need for change becomes even greater. Two-thirds of survey respondents admitted they do not understand what it takes to attract Millennials, those now defined as ages 21 to 37. Another 40% said they would not recommend their children follow them into the investment industry.
So what should investment industry firms do to attract more Millennials?
#1 Launch A Collective Rebranding
If the industry’s narrative isn’t good, why not change it? One suggestion is to create a branding campaign that redefines the industry. Just like the campaign that the beef industry initiated after Mad Cow Disease, the investment industry needs to refresh itself post Bernie Madoff and the financial crisis. Movies like Wolf of Wall Street or The Wizard of Lies aren’t an accurate representation. They completely miss all the good the industry has done for investors and retirement savers, not to mention the aggregation and re-allocation of capital that drives innovation in the global economy. The campaign must also showcase the industry’s generosity and charitable initiatives that support local communities. Community involvement is particularly important to Millennials, who are cause-driven. Consequently, many want to work for a socially responsible employer. If the investment industry doesn’t change how it is viewed, it will continue to lose Millennial talent to the technology sector and other industries.
#2 Welcome Creativity
Comments from our survey respondents indicated that Millennials want to work for a firm that respects their creativity. But we, the investment industry, aren’t known for welcoming a high degree of creativity, especially in junior and entry-level positions. So perhaps we should reframe our job descriptions. Start with the end goal in mind: What is the topline objective for that position? Allowing Millennials the creative latitude to approach their jobs differently, still within some parameters, will make those roles more attractive to them. Who knows, perhaps they may find a better or more efficient way to achieve the topline objective. It may also lead to more innovation down the line.
#3 Be A Champion of Career Growth
Forty percent of our respondents felt their firms weren’t effectively grooming younger talent for more meaningful roles. Part of the problem is that many Baby Boomers perceive Millennials to be without the same work ethic. That’s simply not true. Some are slackers, but many are highly driven overachievers. We need to be opened-minded about what they are capable of – and with good reason. We need talented, motivated Millennials to fill the talent gap as Baby Boomers retire. So before Baby Boomers sail off into the sunset, it’s critical to create partnerships between younger talent and Baby Boomer leaders. Baby Boomers’ institutional knowledge and wisdom need to be systematically imparted to those who will move into client-facing and executive management roles. At a recent panel discussion on Millennials, a top executive at a Fortune 500 company said she routinely has younger employees follow her around for a “day-in-the-life” experience. We need more ideas and thinking like this if we want to win the hearts and minds of Millennials. Teaching them to think strategically, develop good judgement and be client-centric should be priorities for all of us in the industry.
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This year’s analysis confirms that industry leaders recognize that the pace of change is accelerating. We need a growing sense of urgency about grooming the next generation of talent. As the industry matures, more energy, creativity and ideas are essential to our collective success.