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Why Top Millennial Talent Won’t Commit to Banking as a Career (and How to Fix It)

For decades, MBAs and banks were the perfect match. But now, a generational workforce shift has left banks stumped on how to engage millennial talent, who feel like the thrill is gone.

Recent studies highlight how much of an odd couple this once cozy pair has become. The 2015 Deloitte “Talent in Banking” survey shows that “the popularity of banks among business students has been in constant decline since 2011” and questions whether banks are attracting top millennial talent.

Apparently, falling in love isn’t as easy as it used to be. And staying in love is that much harder. Even if banks manage to woo millennial MBA students away from a seductive career in tech, they face an uphill retention battle. A 2013 Deloitte survey found that 85 percent of students interested in banking expect to stay with their first employer for no more than five years.

Irreconcilable differences?

Banks are attempting to rekindle the flame, but their efforts belie just how large the divide has widened. A 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal describes one example: A large firm attempted to retain its most junior staff by limiting hours, only to have a credit analyst leave the firm for a job at one of the largest technology companies in the world, where she works roughly the same number of weekly hours. The opportunity to expand her skill set and pursue innovative ideas ultimately inspired the move.

While each top performer’s departure from the banking sector will be the result of different circumstances, they’re manifestations of the same problem: a traditional banking culture at odds with the type of engagement and mobility today’s top performers want in a career.

Bring back that lovin’ feeling

But it’s not too late to salvage this relationship. Banks of all sizes can create employee development opportunities that attract and retain top millennial talent.

      • Identify aptitudes and interests during the onboarding process. Then, match the employee to your organization’s career path that fits that individual best.
      • Offer training opportunities. Training can focus on skill development or even show junior staffers how their work impacts clients and the company at large. Both of these approaches can help millennials feel engaged and connected to meaningful work.
      • Rethink advancement paths. Climbing the corporate ladder isn’t as important to millennials as it was to baby boomers. Offer candidates the opportunity to widen their skill set, instead of just advance through the ranks.
      • Foster two-way communication. Millennials like to have the opportunity to share their ideas and learn from mentors. Use surveys to show you’re listening and create open-door policies with leadership.
      • Empower employees through technology. Let tech-savvy junior staffers manage their information with employee self-service tools that live in the cloud.

Having the right human capital management technology can make it easier to incorporate training and communication initiatives that will attract and retain the top millennial talent your organization needs to build your business.