E-commerce steals new graduates

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Banks are facing stiff competition for talented staff from the booming e-commerce sector, and good employees are increasingly setting their own personal agendas.

According to Jonathan Wren, the city recruitment specialists, the brightest graduates, who once saw investment banking as the most prestigious and lucrative career path, now aspire to being overnight dot-com millionaires. Hot new graduates and fast-trackers alike are seeing their contemporaries find fame and fortune in the internet world. 

“The prestige and remuneration of the city is fast being surpassed by the lure of the e-commerce sector, said Shaun McCarthy, managing director of Jonathan Wren. “This has been fuelled by stories in the media of dynamic careerists who have changed direction and made it, fast, by turning entrepreneur. 
“Even blue chip employers can no longer rely on having a queue of the best knocking on the door. They must compete against the excitement, informality and speed of working in the web-related world.”

According to McCarthy, there is more external recruitment and spiralling salaries, as investment banks are less certain of retaining the best staff or being able to feed their talent pool from lower down their own ranks. This leaves two strong messages to city recruiters: ‘put yourself in the candidate’s shoes’ and ‘think creatively about how to add value to the careers of potential employees’. 

There is yet another factor affecting banking recruitment – a renewed surge in employee power as potential staff members set their own agendas when they review their careers. Today’s generation of employees is demanding job satisfaction, recognition and a more flexible attitude to working, without its being interpreted as lack of commitment.

Patience is no longer a virtue. Candidates expect a faster decision-making process – two to four weeks from start to finish is the current expectation. Too many good recruits are lost through tardiness, particularly when there is competition for a good candidate. There is, too, a noticeable increase in counter offers, and employers who fail to see the candidate’s perspective can find fine people slipping through their fingers. Filtering systems are not guaranteed to produce perfect people, so a speedier result is to everyone’s benefit.

The merest whisper of a merger destabilises staff. While the public relations machinery moves into top gear, internal communications are often hit and miss, leading to massive uncertainty. There is an immediate freeze on recruitment, and gossip spreads quickly, leaving employees stuck, like rabbits in the headlights, now knowing what to do. Employers must anticipate these feelings of vulnerability and offer assurances where they can. 

Inevitably, some of the talent leaves early, and the acquiring business loses part of its commercial gain as a result. Many of these who start looking around don’t really want to change job, and will stay if given the chance.

Some statistics don’t lie. The population is ageing and there are fewer 25-35 year olds. Firms need to look for talent from different demographic sectors – older candidates, people returning to the workforce and flexible workers. 

The arguments for more mature staff are well appreciated. Older candidates, sometimes called the ‘dark greys’, can bring a wealth of talent and experience. With one career already behind them, perhaps, they seek new challenges which may not always be money orientated. 

Returners, too, are a productive source for recruitment, and are not necessarily looking for promotion in the traditional sense. 

Interestingly, over 40 per cent of Wren’s flexible placements in financial, IT and secretarial markets are filled by overseas workers, taking advantage of the special arrangement between the UK and Australia and New Zealand. 

Forward-thinking firms can see beyond the short termism of paying huge salaries, burning people out and then having to replace them. Instead they are developing a better understanding of what it actually costs when people leave. Employees are demanding job satisfaction and recognition and in turn may respond with greater corporate loyalty – which should improve the current two-year retention expectation of career-oriented staff.

Jonathan Wren’s advice to potential employers is to think about what you can offer candidates and how you can add value to their careers - and to trust the experience of external recruiters who understand the prevailing trends. Try to avoid tying down a job specification too tightly and be prepared to look at suitable people from non-traditional sources 

Today’s people marketplace is not like yesterday’s. Every conventional business now has to compete with the lure of the internet and the booming multi-media industries.

Created in 1968, Wren has been in the financial markets for over 30 years providing recruitment expertise to the established city institutions. In 1986, the company became part of Adecco Group S.A, the world's largest recruitment company.

Jonathan Wren operates in the UK, Germany and Australia with 70 specialist consultants servicing over 700 client organisations. Some 2,000 temporary or contract workers are working with their clients each week and almost 1,000 permanent staff are placed annually. Consultants work in all specialist financial areas – investment banking, investment management, global custody, stockbroking, private banking, internet and pensions. 

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