How Do You Keep A Large, Diverse Staff Engaged? Step 1: Ask Them.

Banks and financial firms everywhere are wrestling with how to work with millennials.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, firms struggle to persuade younger employees to stick around and rise through the ranks, as generations of have done before them. Instead, they’re seeing these valuable workers jump ship after six months or a year for the hipper pastures of Silicon Valley.

Diversity As A Virtue

The knee-jerk reaction for many companies is that somehow mirroring technology startups – free food, yoga, and funky furniture—will win over millennial workers. This is a terrible strategy for any business, financial or otherwise.

Why? Because, for all the “changing the world” today’s startups claim to do, these companies are often terrible examples of homogeneous groupthink. There are few women, fewer minorities and even fewer generation X and baby boomer workers at these companies.

In the financial services industry, our workforce should reflect our customer base with workers from every generation as well as more women and minorities (though we can improve here).

Firms must build inclusive organisational cultures that motivate and unite all generations – as well as genders, races, nationalities, etc. Easier said than done, right?

Where To Start?

Start the same place you would when creating a new product or service—with the target audience. I commonly advise my clients (with varying success) to conduct regular anonymous employee surveys to identify the shifting norms and values of their staff.

Try it and I guarantee you’ll be surprised by the results.

For example: Think it’s the 20-somethings who want foosball and ping pong tables? Not according to Harvard Business Review, which found that it was really the baby boomers who wanted fun distractions.

The first step to attracting, engaging and retaining the best talent is figuring out what really motivates people. You don’t need to hire overpriced consultants. You just need to ask.