by Stuart Martin

Eighty-four per cent of UK financial services companies’ HR leaders believe their businesses are facing a skills challenge, according to research from Visier. Indeed, 67% say the lack of available candidates is holding back their company’s digital transformation strategy.

Stuart Martin, Chief Client Officer at QA, said: "There’s a huge and growing black hole for digital talent in the financial services sector, which is holding the biggest, most established companies firmly in its grip. The best way for them to break free is to start investing in tech skills for themselves."

In other news, a worrying recent report from McKinsey (which included UK companies in its survey) shows that a record number of employees across industries are quitting or thinking about doing so – often without a new job to go to. In a trend that’s been labelled as The Great Resignation, this research showed that 40% of employees were at least "somewhat likely" to leave their current job in the next three to six months.

Even the 60% that were otherwise satisfied could still be tempted by opportunities elsewhere, especially now that remote working means they won’t necessarily need to relocate.

In problems that have no doubt been exacerbated by the pandemic, McKinsey discovered that people’s top three reasons for leaving were not feeling valued by their employers (54%) or their managers (52%), or not having a sense of belonging (51%). This was in stark contrast to what business leaders assumed, when they blamed compensation, lack of work-life balance, or poor physical and emotional health.

Finally, Visier’s research also showed that more than half of financial companies’ HR leaders (56%) thought that the current workforce requires more skills training than that of ten years ago. That’s probably unsurprising to you, given your industry’s imperative to embrace digital transformation.

Invest in your people’s skills to overcome your skills challenges

This all adds up to an amazing opportunity for your business to boost morale, consolidate its talent base and beat the digital skills crisis – all at the same time.

Perhaps more than ever, employees are looking for jobs with better, stronger career trajectories. They’re looking for both recognition and development. And the McKinsey research shows they’re not afraid to walk away if they don’t get it.

Also, as an established financial services organisation, it’s likely that you have expensive people running essential legacy technology. You can’t afford to lose their skills, yet they could also make a much stronger contribution.

Investing in your people – by introducing a strong culture of ongoing learning and development – will help you both cultivate the digital skills that you need, and also provide that sense of belonging and appreciation your workforce needs. It will enable you to improve the efficiency of all your employees, retain critical skills in-house, and also potentially break down silos and help valuable knowledge to be shared.

Boost your employee numbers to embrace Agile development

By opening up the candidate pool to include people who don’t yet have the necessary skills, you’ll be able to build up technical capability within your ranks much faster. A whole legion of new potential candidates will open up once you’re confident you can get them up to speed quickly. Rather than being one of many organisations chasing the scarce few candidates with strong experience – who are more likely to churn and cost, on average, 20% more – you’ll be able to quickly develop your own.

Your ability to embrace modern Agile project methodologies – including flexible DevOps approaches and "fail fast" innovation tactics – will be transformed. You’ll quickly build up strong expertise within your workforce so you have the capacity to support experimentation, and can compete more effectively against agile FinTech competitors. And, if you have enough of the right people, you won’t need to worry about extra risk as you’ll have the resources you need to stay compliant.

Indeed, you’ll become better able to think and act strategically when you know what it takes to grow your skilled workforce, and so production capacity.

An imperative for success

Learning and development for digital skills in financial services has now become essential. Fewer entrants to the sector overall, a scarcity of people with strong digital skills across industry, and worrying developments like the Great Resignation all make it an especially attractive option.

Plus, across all of industry, McKinsey estimates that, in about 75% of cases, it actually makes strong economic sense for an organisation to reskill an employee anyway. That’s before accounting for any of the specific scarcities of digital skills in financial services. So when you factor in the potential to cultivate continuous growth and success from a monsoon of reskilled digital employees, learning and development starts to make a lot of sense.

Strategies for success

It’s much easier than you might think to get a comprehensive learning and development programme up and running for technology skills. You can build programmes that are tailored around your specific needs, including intensive training or re-training; recruiting mission-critical staff on your behalf, and insourcing expertise to manage the overall programme. QA recently helped the Bank of England to accelerate new digital ways of working.

Every financial services organisation has its own unique legacy and set of priorities, so you need the best possible support to succeed. For more information on what’s possible, and how to unleash the power of technology learning and development in your own organisation’s digital transformation, visit our Keep Advancing page.