In recent years, businesses across the country have struggled to attract and retain a high-quality workforce, a trend that’s been exacerbated by a highly disruptive pandemic. Community banks are not exempt from this predicament, and, in fact, they must grapple with a unique set of challenges.
Universal issues include workforce diversity. However, besides demographics such as gender, race, and age, you should consider diversity in terms of perspectives and life experiences — traits that can help you build stronger relationships with your customers.
What are the human resources challenges that set community banks apart from many other types of businesses? Think about what you sell besides financial products. That’s right, trust. So, obviously, you want to bring in people who will reinforce the trust you’ve worked so hard to establish in your community. Another big and growing issue for community banks is whether and when to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) tools and digital labor with your human workforce — and how to do it in a smooth, conflict-free manner.
In all of your HR decisions, don’t forget about how you’re perceived by the general public. Most likely, you operate in a relatively small community that has few large employers. Your HR activities, from recruiting, hiring, and training, to laying off workers, have a profound impact, and not just on the individuals involved, but on public opinion.
The road ahead
Conversations about workforce diversity certainly will continue. However, keep in mind that diversity by itself does not mean equality. Expect to see a redoubling of efforts to close gaps in senior leadership positions, recruiting, and other areas of HR.
As we’ve seen during the past two years, employee expectations have shifted significantly and will continue to evolve. Younger generations, in particular, are looking for more than just a paycheck. They value intangibles such as working in flexible small teams and the freedom to be creative. Many individuals welcome candid coaching discussions about career paths. Above all, they want to work for a company they feel they can trust.
The right technology supports and enhances HR initiatives. And, while community banks have invested a lot in HR management systems, adoption has been woefully low. In many instances, corporate culture needs to change before this investment pays off. Expect to see changes in incentives to drive real adoption and use of these tools.
Questions to consider
Achieving a high-quality workforce starts with asking the right questions, including:
- Does your hiring process, from recruiting to training, reflect your corporate values?
- Do employees embrace and reinforce the trust you’ve sought to build in your community?
- Do you understand what today’s young job seekers want from their employment besides a paycheck?
- Have you created a work atmosphere in which employees can thrive?
- Are you using an HR management system? If so, is your corporate culture preventing you from making the most of this technology?
Kevin Fread serves as CIO and CFO of Ironcore, Inc. He possesses more than 40 years of banking and technology experience in a variety of settings, including a community bank, a data services firm, and a global FinTech and payments company. Kevin works closely with Ironcore clients to assist with technology, integration, and strategic planning. You can reach him at email@example.com.