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The Battle for Talent

November 8, 2013

A friend forwarded me this article on recruiting in financial services.  The tone is relatively bleak, and the startup is interesting.

Recently, something nearly unthinkable happened on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs, which was once known as the place where extremely smart people went to work insanely hard in pursuit of massive amounts of money, told its youngest bankers to chill out.

Now, that wasn’t the exact wording of the memo Goldman sent to its investment bankers. But the sentiment was there. The memo talked about trying to “improve the junior banker experience” by requiring young workers to take Saturdays off from work unless they have a special waiver. As I reported over at Daily Intelligencer, the bank is prepared to enforce the no-Saturdays rule by, among other things, monitoring employees’ remote logins to make sure they’re not working from home when they should be at the gym, taking in a leisurely brunch, or catching up with their friends.

Anyone under 30 is probably already horrified, and has no plans to ever work at a place that orders you not to work, with the implication that you’re really still expected to do so, or at least want to do so.  But this memo points out that banks don’t really get the modern worker, who honestly would probably rather get permission to take four random hours to hang with friends while working from a laptop on Wed afternoon.  Or whatever.

But the question it raises is valid.  What attracts young workers to your company?  I recently had a stellar young lady come to work for me part time.  It was clear to me that she was not interested in the work I had for her, even if she did a fine job with it.  I could be as flexible as I could, even a bit forgiving on things I normally would not let pass… but I couldn’t inspire the dreams in the kid that motivated her.

And that’s where we’re having trouble.  We can find plenty of college graduates who want to work at the big companies.  Most of them would come with a need for an H1-B visa.  The US students are probably more interested in saving the world and following their dreams than actually advancing the stock of a big company.  At least for now.

To some degree, I think that’s a good thing.  But it forces companies to rethink on how to communicate.  The article points out a few things: getting the message right, pay the right amount… However, it’s still acting like these are people who will grow to be the same as the type writing the article, and I’m not so sure that’s true.  The education system pushed the youth in different directions, there are a lot less hard work examples in front of them, and society tells them that success is the wrong metric.  And then we wonder why they don’t want to be told not to work Saturdays.

We can recover, but it’s a necessity to change the appeal to the kids, and we’re not there yet.

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