The skills needed in the new financial services work environment may not be strictly technical; rather, workers need the ability to learn and adapt to rapid change. To find individuals who can learn and adapt quickly, firms will need to look at non-traditional sources of talent and at new ways of developing needed skills.

There is a steady drumbeat of news coverage about how many companies are finding it difficult to recruit and retain employees with the technical skills needed for the digital era.  Yet, as it turns out, some of the skills that are most important in the digital workplace aren’t really technical at all.

In the Accenture Technology Vision 2016 survey, insurance executives reported that “deep expertise for the specialized task at hand” was only the third most important characteristic they required for employees to perform well in a digital work environment. The “ability to quickly learn new work requirements” and “proficiency with digital technologies” ranked higher; also ranked highly was “the ability to work differently with minimal notice.”

This indicates that financial services firms are seeking candidates whom they believe will evolve with their business.  Finding such individuals requires new approaches to identifying, attracting, training and retaining talent.

Partnerships with technology start-ups and universities can introduce financial services firms, not only to new sources of talent, but to entirely new skills.   Online exchanges, skills platforms such as Kaggle, and crowdsourcing platforms are also potential sources of talent. Technology is driving these workforce disruptions, but it is also creating some of the solutions. These include massive online open courses (MOOCs) for scalable training; communication tools such as Slack that foster collaboration; and predictive workforce analytics that allows large insurance organizations to make better decisions.

To anticipate and meet these changing workforce needs, financial services HR teams and senior management should be thinking about these questions:

How does HR enable the organization to shift gears from finding people with deep technical skills, to identifying the behavioral and personal skills that allow for agility and rapid adoption? 

Does the organization know the attributes of successful players in the digital workforce?  How does it find and attract people with these attributes?

Are there programs now in place to identify and recruit talent from non-traditional sources such as tech start-ups, incubators and universities? 

The evolution of the workforce – and of the HR function – is a vital concern for financial services firms.  In my next blog I will discuss some approaches to talent transformation strategies.

Read more:

Register to download the Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2016

Andrew Woolf’s series on Human Capital Analytics

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