New Hires Research Highlights Report March 2012

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1 Inside This Report: 1. Executive Summary 1 2. About our Organization The Research Initiative Objectives..2 Methodology.2 Results Highlights 2-5 Results Implications CoE Action.. 5 These research findings suggest opportunities for: Executive Summary The CoE engaged DECODE to conduct focus groups with new hires (New Hires) in the financial services sector and on-on-one interviews with sector employers (Employers) and Career Intermediaries (e.g. post-secondary school career counselors, new immigrant services agencies) to gain further insights into the needs and experiences of individuals transitioning into the sector. In particular, this qualitative study was designed to understand New Hires and Employers satisfaction with the preparation for work in the industry provided by post-secondary education programs and New Hires satisfaction with Employers on-boarding programs. The research results indicated that while both New Hires and Employers were generally satisfied with the preparation for roles in the financial services sector, both groups reinforced the need for additional training and development of soft or interpersonal skills for successful careers in the sector. New Hires were also generally positive about Employers on-boarding programs. enhanced use of work placements, case studies in education programs to increase job seekers knowledge of work environments; explicit focus on soft skills training in education and on-boarding programs to facilitate professional communication across diverse audiences (e.g. diverse group of customers and supervisors); increased career counseling within education programs to help set more realistic expectations with respect to salary and timelines for promotions; Inclusion of diversity training as part of formal on-boarding programs for new Immigrants; broader dissemination of materials that provide an objective and comprehensive view of careers in the industry. In collaboration, with its stakeholders sector employers, educational institutions, professional associations, government, talent servicing organizations and job seekers the CoE, works to highlight these opportunities by raising awareness of the needs of the sector. To address these particular research findings, the CoE will continue to: work with co-op/internship program organizers, providing them with information on the competency requirements of the industry, so that they may help their clients prepare for roles in the sector; inform job seekers, talent servicing organizations educators and career advisors about the specific soft-skill requirements identified by the industry through its information materials, participation on curriculum advisory committees, and outreach sessions; aggregate and disseminate information on the in-demand careers in the Toronto region financial services sector (i.e. through the CoE s Career Advisor site: About our Organization The Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA) is a public-private initiative, established in 2001 with a mandate to enhance and promote the long-term competitiveness of the Toronto region as a premier global financial centre. Its membership encompasses core financial services companies banks, brokerages, investment fund managers, insurance companies, pension funds as well as partner sectors such as accounting, law and education. Sidebar 1 Centre of Excellence in Financial Services Education (CoE) In collaboration with its stakeholders sector employers, educators, professional associations, talent intermediaries and job seekers - the CoE works to attract and strengthen the talent pool for the Toronto region financial services sector by: aggregating research and information on the talent needs of Toronto s financial sector and its educational strengths for the benefit of educators, employers and job seekers; working with employers and educators to enhance the alignment of education programs to meet the sector s needs; encouraging cross-sector dialogue to identify and resolve talent needs; showcasing the region s strengths and career opportunities in the financial services sector. 1

2 The Centre of Excellence in Financial Services Education (CoE) was launched in 2009, as part of the TFSA, to act as a catalyst to strengthen and expand Toronto s financial services talent pool and elevate the region s global stature as a financial series capital. Its key strategies for achieving its mission are outlined in Sidebar 1. The Research Initiative Objectives The ultimate goal of this research project was to identify areas of opportunity to assist individuals with their preparation for and transitioning into roles in the financial services sector. The list of specific research objectives is provided in Sidebar 2. Methodology For the purposes of this study, New Hires were defined as: Post-secondary school graduates between the ages of 20 and 30 years of age, working in the Toronto region financial services sector for a period of more than six months and less than three years New Immigrants, between the ages of 20 to 35, currently working in the industry, who have resided in Canada for 5 years or less The research consisted of two types of consultations: Three focus groups of with New Hires: - New Hires from a college program, including a mix of business and non-business educational backgrounds - New Hires from a university program, including a mix of business and non-business education backgrounds - New Immigrant New Hires, mainly with business educational backgrounds One-on-one telephone interviews with Career Counselors/Intermediaries and Employers - Eight interviews with Career Counselors/Intermediaries - Six interviews with Employers All focus groups and interviews were conducted in Toronto during fall All participants were recruited from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Sidebar 2 Research with New Hires, Employers, Career Counsellors/Intermediaries Study Objectives The objectives of the project were to understand : New Hires satisfaction with their college/university education programs in preparing them for roles in the financial services industry New Hires feedback on how postsecondary programs could better prepare students for careers in financial services New Hires satisfaction with industry/organizational on-boarding programs or initiatives to assist with transitioning into the industry New Hires ideas about how onboarding/transitioning programs could be improved How well the actual transition to work experience aligned with the New Hires expectations The Employers satisfaction with how well the education programs (college/university) prepared the New Hires for roles in the industry The views of college and university career counsellors and career intermediaries about how well prepared the New Hires were for roles in the sector Results Highlights New Hires and Employers generally satisfied with education programs and both groups reinforced the importance of soft skills development. While the research indicated that both the New Hires into the sector and their Employers were generally satisfied with how well education programs and prepared people for financial services roles, it also reinforced the strong recognition by employers and graduates of the need for training on, and development of, soft skills (e.g. leadership, conflict resolution and professional communication). The areas in which New Hires felt well- or less well prepared for roles in the financial services sector are provided in Table 1. In general, Employers agreed with this assessment by New Hires, but also noted a particular need for graduates to be more self-aware and have more realistic expectations regarding salaries and timelines for career progression. 2

3 New Hires suggestions for enhancements to education programs included having: - Opportunities to interact directly with industry professionals, work placements or workplace visits, and case studies incorporated into their education programs in order to help students gain a better understanding of the realities of working in financial services. It is important to note that not all education programs are structured alike some may include the types of learning experiences noted here as mandatory or optional components of the program; - Additional training on some soft skills (e.g. conflict resolution, professional communication). 1 - More robust career-related knowledge and training on how to conduct a job search incorporated into the programs very few participants had utilized on-campus career services during the course of their studies and felt that making such services mandatory would have helped them. - Opportunity to complete a financial literacy course/program element to help them better manage their personal finances as students and allow them to hit the ground running when entering the workforce Employers suggested incorporating career counseling more explicitly into undergraduate program requirements in order to help students with conducting more thorough career exploration and being more self-aware and setting more realistic career expectations. - Employers noted that often, New Hires salary expectations exceeded what employers were willing to offer and that New Hires sought to be promoted before their respective organizations felt it would be appropriate. Employers and counselors felt that more thorough career exploration and self-awareness could assist with these perceptions/misperceptions. Table 1 New Hires Satisfaction with Preparation for Work provided by Education Programs Areas in which New Hires felt well prepared: Communications - oral/written People skills Teamwork Some university graduates felt they had developed a capacity for independent learning Technology (Microsoft products) Areas in which New Hires felt less-well prepared: Knowledge of the financial services industry overall, its structure and products, and in particular, the role-specific skills and knowledge requirements (some graduates of business programs expressed greater comfort with their level of industry knowledge) Professional communication - a number of new hires reported struggling with professional communication in the workplace (i.e. with clients and/or superiors) Industry/workplace culture (i.e. how to navigate social interaction and professional hierarchies/career progress, including corporate culture, office politics) Conflict resolution Job-specific software, processes/procedures New Immigrants felt unprepared because of the low level of their English language skills and were further challenged with learning industryspecific jargon Leadership - some graduates felt they had developed leadership skills while others did not; graduates viewed the development of leadership skills as a matter of personal initiative Analytical skills, critical thinking while new hires may bring these skills to the job market, it was clear that they have difficulty articulating them 1 Additional key soft skills requirements for roles in the financial services sector were identified through the CoE s other research projects. This latter list of skills included out-of-the box thinking, adaptability and mental flexibility, integrity, innovation, judgment and decision-making, customer-focused, analytical thinking, and conceptual thinking. 3

4 New Hires were generally satisfied with Employer s on-boarding programs. New Hires and Employers felt that post-secondary education and employer/transitioning programs each have a role to play in preparing people for work. The former should provide graduates with a strong fundamental base of knowledge and skills, and the latter should train New Hires on the specific process and procedure requirements of their new firm and/or position. New Hires suggestions for ways to improve on-boarding programs included having a more thorough introduction to diverse business units of the organization. New Hires felt this could help them with their transitioning into the corporate culture as well as building a network of co-workers with expertise in various areas that they could approach for input as required. New Hires also noted that digital/online access to the training materials would allow for study outside the office and would make implementing updates to the materials easier. Table 1 New Hires Satisfaction with Employer On-boarding Programs Effective components of on-boarding programs: Use of: training manuals role playing job shadowing experienced co-workers as contacts for information about the organization/role Training on: sales role-specific software appropriate communication styles including general business writing and company-specific communication nuances (e.g. incorporating slogans in client greetings) Ineffective elements of on-boarding programs: Absence of introductions to wider team in the department to which they are assigned/organization Training manuals were not always up-to-date, do not always include guidance on all/many exception to the rule circumstances, and not easy/allowed to take home for independent study One participant noted inadequate preparation to assume sales roles as sales targets for New Hire were set immediately upon completion of the on-boarding program with limited time to learn the products and services of the organization While New Hires had few clear expectations with respect to moving into financial services roles following completion of their education programs, they noted their expectations regarding the quality of their managers were exceeded, while those regarding salary and timeline for promotions were seldom met. Some New Hires were surprised by the rigidity of processes and systems their roles required them to use. In contrast, others encountered more opportunities to think and problem-solve creatively and enjoyed solving business problems in a team environment. New Hires from business programs seemed more satisfied with their roles in financial services and were more interested in continuing in the industry. While this finding is based on qualitative data and,therefore, not necessarily reflective of the opinions of the wider population of graduates, research in the field of educational psychology suggest that individuals are more likely to be interested in learning more about a subject they already familiar with. Perhaps also contributing to the business graduates satisfaction with a role in financial services is that they had more of an opportunity than non-business students had to gauge their interest in financial services prior to entering the industry through their education programs. An important message for job seekers, however, is that sector employers value both business and on-business degrees. Specific requirements for programs often depend on the specific role. 4

5 Beyond post-secondary education programs, research participants mentioned previous work experience and financial services certifications as factors that could help New Hires prepare for work in the financial services sector. Those New Hires with previous work experience felt better prepared in terms of their professional communication skills, comfort with corporate culture, and relevant work experience. While new immigrant New Hires had more work experience than local graduate Hew Hires, it was widely recognized by the foreign talent, Career Intermediaries and Employers that this experience had to be combined with Canadian education or experience to be of value in their job search. New immigrant research participants spoke positively of the support provided by various public and private career development and placement agencies (e.g. general career counseling, training on resume writing and interviewing skills). Employers also noted that what candidates do beyond their education is a key differentiating factor. For example, participation in an investment club would indicate interest in the industry, as well as help to raise knowledge of financial products and financial market operations. Results Implications The research results highlight several areas of opportunity for the CoE and its stakeholders to help New Hires into the industry transition into their roles. These opportunities are listed in Sidebar 3. CoE Action In response to these opportunities, the CoE: participates in on-campus events and career fairs, to inform potential new hires about in-demand careers in the industry, the work context, and the competency, education and experience requirements for these roles in order to help job seekers better prepare for these roles; works with college and university deans, faculty and curriculum advisory committees to help align curricula to the needs of the industry (including raising awareness of the importance of soft skills); shares with career intermediaries information on the in-demand careers in the industry, the work context, and the competency, education and experience requirements for these roles so that they may help their clients better prepare for these roles; provides objective and comprehensive information on the industry and the in-demand job profiles to a wide audience through the Career Advisor site: Sidebar 3 Research Implications Outreach and education Create more opportunities for postsecondary students to gain exposure to the financial services industry s professionals and workplaces. Work with post-secondary institutions and industry partners to build capacity for workplacement and case study delivery to both business and non-business students. Explore opportunities with educators and industry partners to develop an initiative aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of the financial services industry through financial literacy education. Explore ways to enhance New Hires soft skills in conflict resolution and leadership. Explore ways to enhance diversity training as part of formal onboarding programs for New Immigrants. Messaging and communications For further information, contact: Rocca D Angela Director, Talent Research and Continue to develop materials for students that provide an objective and comprehensive view of careers in the industry. Address graduating students unrealistic expectations around salaries and promotions. Develop communications that convey the value of career exploration and self-awareness. 5

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