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George McFerran

As budgets are squeezed, financial institutions look within for talent

BY GEORGE MCFERRAN

Employees are seeking it and employers are supplying it: mobility.

Moving people internally is an increasingly important way for firms to reduce recruitment costs, plug urgent skills gaps, boost retention rates, and take on low-risk talent with proven track records. And in the current stagnant external job market, it is providing staff with career progression opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise enjoy.

This renewed emphasis on mobility was a critical topic for the 15 senior HR professionals from leading financial institutions who attended a recent roundtable discussion in Singapore organised by my company.

A representative of a big four accounting firm, for example, said he has seen “huge demand” for in-house transfers in the last few months, especially from auditors wanting to work in another department and from employees outside of Asia looking for roles in the region.

Mobility is a must

Recent redundancies, cuts to hiring budgets and longer recruitment approval times have made many organisations revise the way they promote and run their mobility programmes this year.

This is especially true for critical replacement roles. Managers would rather hire quickly from within their own ranks – even if the in-house candidate isn’t a perfect match for the job – rather than be slowed down by having to justify the high cost of going external.

Mandatory two-week periods in which new vacancies are announced to the workforce before they are advertised externally are common place.

Mobility, either internationally or to another department, is also an important retention tool. One roundtable attendee said this was especially true for back-office staff who tended to get “bored with their jobs” and wanted new challenges after about two years. “We are focussing on operations right now, then we will move into IT and other areas; it’s as step-by-step process.”

Education and promotion

The challenge for HR in instigating a company-wide mobility plan is educating managers that losing a good employee to another team or country office is in the best long-term interests of the business.

Moreover, as a roundtable delegate remarked: “It’s critical to tell employees about what mobility really is. It’s not an easy option to escape your boss, or for a boss to shift a ‘problem’ person over to someone else.”

To help ensure that only the best talent is eligible for transfers, one major international bank limits eligibility to the top 25 per cent of performers and insists on at least a year’s tenure.

Encouraging internal mobility is more than just reactively marketing roles to staff as they arise. HR should have programmes in place to identify individuals who are willing to move.

Two attendees mentioned that people at their banks were able to express an initial interest to HR without telling their line manager.

One firm runs an online network in which staff can update their profiles, allowing in-house recruiters to search those who state they are mobile. Another incorporates a mobility discussion into annual development reviews.

A representative from a European bank told the roundtable that his firm recently held an internal career fair, with booths promoting jobs in various departments.

“It’s the first time we’ve been able to do this openly, this has helped changed people’s mindsets in favour of more open discussions about mobility.”

Implemented with care and thought through in advance – with buy-in from HR, line managers and staff – internal mobility can offer timely solutions to some of the hiring needs faced by financial institutions in the current cost-conscious market.

Moreover, with fewer external vacancies available than a year ago and a general candidate reluctance to change companies, many employees are willing to advance their careers via an in-house move.

George McFerran, Managing Director, eFinancialCareers Asia-Pacific

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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George McFerran

George McFerran

George McFerran is the Managing Director at eFinancialCareers Asia-Pacific.

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