Human Resources teams at financial services firms may think they understand Millennials – their goals, preferences and how they want to fit into the workforce – but they don’t.  For example, only 12 percent of hiring managers participating in a recent survey said that working well in a team and getting along with co-workers is a top priority for Millennials.  When Millennials themselves were asked about their top priority, however, nearly four in ten (39%) identified teamwork and cooperation as their top priority.

The workforce in many developed economies is aging and there is legitimate long-term concern about where new workers will come from.  In insurance, for example, the average age for key workers in areas such as claims processing is well over 45, and insurers face ongoing difficulty in attracting top science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent.  Banking and capital markets firms have many of the same concerns. In addition, many firms find it difficult to shift from the old “hired for life” culture to a new environment that includes freelancers, entrepreneurial partners and other collaborators.

Robotics and robotic process automation (RPA) pose another challenge, both to Millennials and the financial services firms that employ them.  Robotics can be applied across operations to hundreds of processes;  we have seen reductions in processing costs of up to 80 percent, and reductions of as much as 40 percent in full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) working in such process areas.  Robotics will eventually take over most manual and/or repetitive tasks.  While this has a very positive bottom line business impact in reducing costs and improving quality and efficiency, the HR challenge is in ensuring that people who have been displaced by the virtualization of work, are now repositioned in the organization. How does HR now drive talent transformation to build new skills, reposition employees for new roles in digital workplace or transition out of the organization?

The ‘born digital’ generation has different expectations than older colleagues about how work should be organized. It expects to find pervasive collaboration technologies at work, and is open to freelance and portfolio careers. Today’s young talent also expects to find a sense of purpose from their work. Financial services firms will need to sharpen up the value proposition they offer their employees if they want to attract and retain the best talent in vital areas such as digital technology and data science.

Among the key questions that HR teams and senior management should be asking are:

How much does HR understand about what Millennials and digital natives really want from their work environment?

How is HR advising and educating line managers on what Millennials and digital natives want?

What robotics and RPA initiatives are in process or in the planning stages?  What are the plans for workers affected by these initiatives?

What, if any, programs are in place to address the needs and concerns of Millennials and digital natives?

A workforce that is hierarchical and arranged according to tightly defined job functions won’t meet the demands of the digital era.  In my next post, I will talk about how financial services firms can promote agility and rapid learning, the hallmarks of a liquid workforce.

Read more:

Workforce of the Future: Dealing with change and the millennial challenge

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