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The Foosball Table is Getting Dusty

Remember when you could entice talented young technology resources to your firm with promises of Friday beer parties and foosball? Remember offering unlimited snacks to keep people from roaming too far from their cubicles? Remember casual Fridays? Once upon a time these initiatives were hallmarks of progressive technology departments that could attract top talent. These days they can come across as outdated gimmicks. But if you’re still using them, you’re not alone. Cutter’s investment management clients tell us it’s challenging for them to find, hire, and keep high quality, motivated technology staff, and they cite several factors:

  • Cool wins out. Developing software or managing technology at an investment management firm isn’t as glamorous as doing it for the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). Who regales friends after work with tales of building enhancements to a corporate actions system?
  • Money centers are too competitive. Investment management firms in major financial centers compete for technology talent not only with industry peers but also with technology-focused companies. The geographical concentration of potential employers makes it easier for staff to jump ship.
  • Smaller cities mean fewer resources. Investment managers in smaller cities must contend with a shallow pool of qualified candidates. But when firms in smaller cities hire a good technical resource, they find it easier to retain them. These people have chosen to live in smaller communities for the quality of life they find there for themselves and their families. But location isn’t the only way to attract capable candidates.

Investment managers need to do more than offer casual Fridays to resolve their technology resourcing challenges. They need to change their corporate culture in fundamental ways to give employees greater job satisfaction and improve the quality of their lives, and the following are just a few examples: 

  • Ask what they want, then give it to them. It’s so simple but so easy to overlook: Ask your technology staff what they want and be prepared for a variety of answers. In the 21st century, people want their work to be convenient, including flexible work hours or working from home.
  • Give them autonomy. Employees want autonomy to do their job the best way they know how, without being micromanaged. Giving them autonomy means that you trust them. That improves their self confidence and makes them happier about getting up to go to work each day.
  • Let them make a difference. Employees want their work to be interesting and meaningful. They want it to make a difference in people’s lives, and they want to be recognized for that. Promote the benefits of their work within the department and throughout the firm. How does their work improve their co-workers’ lives? Is there a better user experience because of their work? Can you demonstrate a specific client outcome? How does it improve profitability?
  • Show them off. Technical employees want to enjoy the company of people from other departments. Don’t tuck them in a corner where their jeans and hoodies are hidden from view. Look for ways to expose them to other departments, to senior management, and even to clients. The exposure will remind them that they belong to a larger community and that they are an important part of it.
  • Host a hack-a-thon. Don’t just humor your staff; ask your technology teams to engage with the business to solve real problems. And don’t let the results gather dust on a shelf; implement the best ones and broadly recognize the creators.
  • Partner with a technology firm. Explore nearby technology firms or technology departments within other firms for potential partnerships. These experiences might include casual knowledge exchanges among your technology departments or more formal efforts such as mentorships or even employee exchanges.
  • Act like a tech firm, not an investment firm. Not all investment firms are stodgy, conservative, slow-to-move behemoths, but that’s a common perception and it’s a hard one to change. Foster a culture of innovation. Encourage staff to try new ideas and if they fail, don’t penalize them. Thank them for trying something new, and let them know that failure is usually just a valuable learning experience.
  • Look for technology talent outside of the industry. If you’re trying to promote your firm’s innovative culture, consider hiring staff with experience outside of investment management. Seek out candidates with top technology skills and teach them your business.

These techniques can help you hire and retain technology stars. And unlike foosball and beer, they’re likely to improve productivity at the same time.

Members, be sure to register for our upcoming meetings in New York or Los Angeles. You‘ll hear more on the topic of talent retention from our guest speaker, Keith Robinson of Focus Consulting.

Best Practices for Attracting and Retaining the New Generation of Technology Talent

Focus Consulting Group is known for their work advising investment leaders on leveraging their investment talent worldwide. Our guest speaker will share the firm’s research and best practices for attracting and retaining technology talent in our ever-changing industry. New expectations about work such as access to cool technology, autonomy, development, and career pathing are having a big impact on engagement. Getting these right is critical to success because competition for this talent pool is no longer limited to investment firms. As one leader put it, “Our competitive edge goes up and down in the elevators every day. My biggest fear is that one day they’ll go down, and won’t come back up.”