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The key to the Irish financial services success story is people Back  
The success of Ireland's financial services industry over the last 20 years has been phenomenal - over 22,000 people are now working within the industry. What's certain is that this success will only continue with emphasis on these people. Mark O'Donnell advises on how firms must implement a talent management strategy and start developing, deploying and connecting employees.
The growth of the Ireland's international financial services industry has been one of the great success stories of the Irish economy over the last 20 years. Initially a strong vision coupled with proactive government initiatives attracted key players from the global financial services market who came to view Ireland as an attractive place to grow their businesses.
Mark O'Donnell

The financial services industry has made a significant contribution to overall growth of the economy with over 3,000 net new jobs created in 2006. The total employment in the three core sectors of banking, funds and insurance stood at 22,177 at end December 2006, up by 16 per cent from previous year. The good news is that 2007 has seen similar growth, and this will create new challenges for organisations conducting business in the industry.

The fundamental driver of this success, and one of the main reasons international firms continue to expand their operations in Ireland, is the strong labour pool from which to attract talent. As well as producing high calibre graduates, Ireland also attracts talent from all corners of the globe. However there is still a shortage of skilled employees in Ireland and the war for talent continues to rage. While the war is ongoing, the battle has changed substantially over the past number of years and is now focused firmly on retaining talent as opposed to attraction /recruitment of talent.

Prospective employees are no longer willing to move roles for an extra three, four or five thousand Euro. The candidates are now looking outside of what remuneration is on offer and looking at issues such as work-life balance, technologies employed by organisations (particularly in the funds industry) and what the organisation will offer them in terms of career, personal development and continuous learning. In the main this has been driven by the advent of generation Y (the generation of employees born post 1980) becoming prominent in the workplace.

In order to become an employer of choice, an organisation needs to have a very clear and proactive talent management strategy. Being an employer of choice is important when attempting to attract talent. However, it is even more important when attempting to retain talent. According to the Deloitte Funds Survey 2006, the talent agenda and talent management is one of the top three business priorities for organisations.

What is talent management?
Talent management is an integrated set of human capital processes, programmes, and technologies designed to develop, deploy, and connect critical workforce segments and critical skill sets to drive business priorities.

The whole raison d'etre of a talent management strategy is to develop employees, deploy them correctly and connect them to the organisation. The ultimate aim is that all employees become better human beings, have a raised self-awareness, are fully aligned to the business, enjoy what they do and crucially make the switch from 'I' (thinking in the first person) to 'we' (thinking of themselves and identifying themselves and their values with those of the organisation).

Developing, deploying and connecting employees are vital strands of any talent management strategy. Arming employees with technical skills is obvious. However less obvious is the need to arm them with behavioural skills that are aligned to the behavioural competencies of the organisation. This allows all employees to feel they have a roadmap and gives them a great sense of satisfaction in the way they are developing as people.

Deploying is an extremely important part of any talent strategy. This is particularly important to the generation Y'ers. They insist on enjoying their work and therefore they will demand to be deployed to work that they enjoy, feel suited to and that satisfies them as opposed to the organisation being satisfied. Deployment demands a lot from an organisation however the benefits are enormous especially when it comes to employee engagement and retention.

Connecting with the talent strategy is all about allowing employees to learn from each other. With the advent of generation Y the demand is now for informal learning groups and social networks. The advantages of encouraging this in an organisation are twofold, firstly it fosters the culture of learning from peers and secondly it adds to the work-life balance.

While develop, connect and deploy are the key cornerstones of a talent management strategy, there are other vital components such as reward and performance management. Reward is very important, in particular having an innovative reward package, while performance management and a robust performance management system is vital in keeping learning and development on track.

The financial services industry is still very much seen as a vibrant and dynamic work environment, offering fast track careers in the world of business. The International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) has continued to enhance Dublin as a hub for financial services and we are starting to see a progression beyond the traditional financial services activities. The financial services industry is also creating more knowledge based roles with a demand for very specialist skills and competencies. Therefore talent is crucial in helping all of these organisations to survive and thrive.

The common thread connecting all of these challenges is people. Only by effectively managing talent - from top to bottom, around the globe, on staff and contingent - can companies secure an edge over competitors. The companies that are the best at managing talent are the companies that will win, today and in the years to come. It is a lesson that does not need to be learnt the hard way for firms trading in the financial services industry.

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