Find talent beyond your pre-pandemic scope

Businesses across the country have reported that they are struggling to hire, and the banking industry is certainly not immune. In what has been dubbed “The Great Resignation,” this has become a reflection of the shifting priorities of employees. 

In a survey by CreditKarma, 41 percent of U.S. workers are considering leaving their current job within the next six months. The current pressure that banks are feeling to hire may be only the tip of the iceberg between not being able to fill open roles and the potential that existing employees may leave. 

Community banks feel this labor shortage acutely. As we note in our accompanying feature on wage pressures, banks are raising the bar for frontline workers, salaries, and other forms of compensation. 

“Never in my 40-plus years in banking have I seen labor shortages at the level they’re at now,” Steve Steinour, CEO of Huntington Bancshares, told Business Insider. “The job openings exceed the supply.”

Outside of banks in metro areas that are competing for employees in all roles due to the labor shortage, rural bank locations have long felt pressure in hiring. The quantity of applicants may not be an issue as much as quality. Those seeking an experienced credit analyst, for example, may find their options limited. They may be competing not only against other local banks but employers of all types. Couple that with low unemployment overall and the pressure has reached new levels.

According to a survey by meQuilibirium, a digital resilience-coaching platform, 88 percent of financial service employees identified working from home as the most helpful form of support received from their employers during the pandemic. A survey by Arizent, the parent company of American Banker, 62 percent of financial services professionals want to work at home most or all of the time. 

Between these two the trend is clear: Employees found working from home to be a significant benefit during the pandemic and many want this to continue after the pandemic. While having their employees work from home was likely a drastic change for many banks, those that are thinking about employee retention need to think about how to create some permanent flexibility. 

Changes in the labor market have shown that money isn’t the only motivator. Increasingly, employees report work-life balance tops their list for a prospective employer. Younger generations are adept at collaborating and fostering relationships in a completely virtual world — office not required. 

Career opportunities also rank high on the list, and many banks have responded in kind with new approaches to roles like the Universal Banker. Remote work has also opened the door for remote learning and the chance to expand mentorship, upskilling, or new approaches to existing roles. Banks that take a proactive approach to a learning culture and make use of technology, connect employees in ways that never require travel between branches for knowledge transfer.

Perhaps community banks can address talent recruitment by casting a wider net. Since the pandemic has shown that work can still happen in a remote environment, a broader search can occur. 

Certainly, some roles are customer-facing, but others that are operational or technical in nature can be done offsite. If banks identify which roles can be done remotely on a permanent basis, they can look outside of their geographical area. Why limit a search to your zip code when a perfect candidate might be located in another state?

And by adopting and fostering a company culture in ways that accommodate a flexible workforce, community banks can draw in and retain the much-needed talent that will sustain their organizations.