Financial Employment Grows in July: Commercial Banking Continues Downward Trend

Jobs continue to decline in commercial banking.
Jobs continue to decline in commercial banking.

Financial Activities employment rose by 17,000 in July and has risen by 156,000 over the past twelve months.  This compares to an average monthly gain of 13,000 over the prior twelve months.  In July, job gains occurred in Insurance, Securities and Real Estate.  Employment in Commercial Banking continues to trend down.

Commercial Banking Continues to Lose Jobs in 2015

arrow up down smallThe Financial sector has gained 78,000 jobs since the beginning of 2015.  This continues a positive trend; 135,000 jobs were added in 2014 and 88,000 in 2013.

Within the sector, Insurance shows the most growth.  After adding 83,000 jobs in 2014 and 54,000 in 2013, Insurance added an additional 37,000 jobs through the end of June.

Real Estate and Securities also continue to show job growth; adding 56,000 and 17,000 jobs respectively in 2014.  Both sub-sectors added jobs year-to-date.

But Commercial Banking continues to slowly shed jobs at an average rate of 2,000 jobs per month.  The sub-sector lost 20,000 jobs in 2014, 16,000 in 2013 and has lost an additional 11,000 jobs in 2015.

Jobs related to Financial Activities generally earn higher wages than most other industries.  Financial sector wages rose 3.4% in 2014 and have risen 2.4% year-to-date.

Source:  BLS Employment Situation Summary, June 2015

Mindful Work at Aetna

Aetna’s stock recently hit a record high and its unconventional CEO, Mark T. Bertolini, is proud of reshaping the corporate culture to include stress-reducing benefits such as yoga and meditation classes for employees.

More than one-quarter of the company’s work force of 50,000 has participated in at least one class, and those who have report, on average, a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain. They also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year.

New York Times, February 27, 2015

Bertolini also sells the same yoga and meditation classes to the businesses that contract with Aetna.

Read the full article:  At Aetna, a CEO’s Management by Mantra, New York Times, February 27, 2015

Technology Improves Performance Management

Reengineering traditional performance management processes is a major HR trend. It’s good to see innovative Technologycompanies eliminate the numerical rating of people as part of the reengineering. Automating the process is the logical next step.   While managers remain the most critical component in effective performance management, technology streamlines the process and gives management the ability to quickly disseminate goals and objectives throughout the organization. But as with any new technology, there are tricks to making it work well.

Track the Process

Technology enables tracking the process to ensure performance meetings with employees are completed. There is a real-time view into which managers are completing reviews and when. No more waiting for paper reviews to be submitted to HR for filing and trusting that managers are engaging with employees.  If the adage “you get what you measure” is true, automating the process guarantees the number of performance reviews completed in the organization will increase.

But the quality of those performance discussions is still an issue.  Freed from the administrative burden of tracking completion of performance reviews, HR professionals can focus on training and coaching managers to facilitate truly meaningful conversations with employees.  An ongoing method to gauge the quality of dialogue between managers and employees is needed to make sure the performance meeting does not become an electronic “check-the-box” exercise. This can be accomplished through focus groups or employee feedback surveys.

Identify Skill Gaps

Want to know the skills in the organization that need immediate improvement? It’s easy to do with performance management technology. Being able to quickly quantify which skills – and which employees – are in need of specific training can be a competitive advantage when employee  knowledge is critical to the business. This is insight HR hasn’t been able to easily quantify and provide to management in the past.

Employees are more engaged when companies provide the training that enables them to do their jobs well.

To achieve this advantage, it’s important that the performance management system is properly configured. Though it’s a time-consuming effort on the front-end to make sure the system is properly set up and skills and competencies are appropriately linked to jobs – it’s time well spent.

Cascade Goals

The ability to communicate company, department and individual goals throughout an organization is a key part of the new performance management technology.  It has been an ongoing challenge for management to ensure company objectives are cascaded to employees and linked to individual performance.  Technology solves this problem.

But, the new systems require goals be well-defined.  This puts pressure on management to set up goals that are specific and measurable; fluffy goals don’t fit well.

Beware!Beware Warning Large

Choose your system carefully! Bad technology will generate the same or worse complaints as those received about paper-based performance management processes.   There is nothing more frustrating than clicking a button that doesn’t work or not being able to configure a component to accommodate a major feature of your process. Performance management should be the dialogue between a manager and an employee. It shouldn’t be an annoyance caused by a technology tool that doesn’t work properly.

Conduct the proper due diligence to select a system that is configurable and reliable. Failure to do so will hurt the credibility of the performance management process.

Technology improves the performance management process, but it will not create better performance management. Only managers can do that.

Update:  A version of this post originally appeared on on April 15, 2015.

Financial Jobs Report Positive in April

arrow up down smallThe Financial sector has gained 44,000 jobs since the beginning of 2015.  This continues a positive trend; 135,000 jobs were added in 2014 and 88,000 in 2013.

Within the sector, Insurance has shown the most growth.  After adding 83,000 jobs in 2014 and 54,000 in 2013, Insurance increased an additional 26,000 jobs year-to-date.

Real Estate and Securities also continue to show job growth; adding 56,000 and 17,000 jobs respectively in 2014.  Both sub-sectors added jobs year-to-date.

Commercial Banking continues to slowly shed jobs at the rate of approximately 2,000 per month, on average.  The sub-sector lost 20,000 jobs in 2014, 16,000 in 2013 and 7,000 jobs year-to-date.

Jobs related to Financial Activities earn higher wages than most other industries.  Only Utilities, Mining and Information earn higher weekly pay on average than the Financial sector.  Financial employees’ earnings rose 3.4% in 2014 and 1.6% year-to-date.

Source:  BLS Employment Situation Summary, April 2015

How to Improve Performance Reviews: First Eliminate Ratings!

Can we talk about performance reviews?

This corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging, and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities.  Everybody does it, and almost everyone who’s evaluated hates it.  It’s a pretentious, bogus practice that produces absolutely nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.

Harsh and provocative, isn’t it? This is an opening paragraph to Samuel A. Culbert’s 2010 book, Get Rid of the Performance Review: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing – and Focus on the Results That Really Matter. Culbert is a Professor of Management and Organizations at UCLA.  He wrote what I’d been thinking for a long time. And I’m not alone.

Deloitte Consulting recent surveyed over 2,500 organizations in more than 90 countries and issued a report on Global Human Capital Trends. Deloitte’s performance management research found:

  1. Only 6% of organizations believe their current process for managing performance is worth the time;image
  2. Only 8 percent of companies report that their performance management process drives high levels of value while,
  3. 58% called their process “weak,” with North American companies 20% worse than the rest of the world;
  4. More than half (58%) of the companies said the process does not drive employee engagement and higher performance.

So why do we continue this ineffective practice?  According to Dr. Culbert, one of the reasons is because of the perceived power it affords HR professionals as administrators of the process.

I beg to differ with Dr. Culbert on this point.  After reading Get Rid of the Performance Review, I collected additional research, prepared a business case and presented a proposal for replacing my bank’s performance review process to the executive team.  I urgently wanted to eliminate the process step of assigning a numerical rating to summarize an employee’s performance.

I, too, have always believed that placing a numerical rating (or ranking) on an employee as part of the performance process is highly subjective and detrimental to teamwork.

After a brief moment of C-Suite jubilation at the bank, fear set in.   The executives worried about how they would explain base pay decisions to employees, how regulators would react to a such change in the performance management process, how bottom performers would be managed, and a whole host of other possible corporate calamities.  I watched as the executive team talked themselves out of changing the status quo.

Fear of change and the unknown is holding us back. And the biggest fear is how a change in the performance review process – specifically eliminating performance ratings – will impact compensation decisions.

The good news is that viable alternatives are being developed. Several major companies, including Adobe, Expedia, Juniper Networks, New York Life, Motorola and Kelly Services, have re-engineered their performance management processes, eliminated ratings and experienced improved business results.

Best practices reported by the trailblazing companies include:

  • Focus performance conversations between managers and employees on coaching and development for improved results;
  • Train managers in performance feedback;
  • Delink compensation decisions from performance and coaching discussions. Consider market and skill-based compensation determinations;
  • Simplify the process and forms to reduce administrative burden on managers.

Financial AdvisorCompanies that have successfully re-engineered their performance review processes retain the most productive components of performance management:  a focus on coaching, development and frequent feedback conversations with employees.

HR’s role in performance management is not that of administrator of a broken and ineffective process. HR professionals are in the best possible position to lead a process improvement revolution.   There are ways to develop people and improve workforce performance without the negative effects of traditional performance review processes.

It is HR’s role to evaluate the current process, build a business case and lead the change to a better way for their business and employees.

Note:  A version of this article was originally posted on Blogging4Jobs on March 16, 2015.