What to Expect in the 2024 Banking Workplace

What to Expect in the 2024 Banking Workplace

Prognosticators are prodigious this time of year, telling us what we can look forward to, and what we can dread, as a new year begins. Never one to be left out, I’m joining the parade with a short list of three things we can expect to see in the banking workplace in 2024.

1. Continuation of the Worker’s Market

Nationwide, the tight labor supply will probably ease up a little (I mean, it had to, right?), and that should be felt to some extent in the banking profession. But it’s not likely to be enough to breathe too big a sigh of relief just yet. And certainly not enough for employers to get lazy or cocky in their efforts to attract and retain the best talent.

In 2023, I heard mixed reports from the people attending conferences where I spoke, including banking conferences. Some said it was getting a little easier to find and keep people, while others were having the opposite experience.

One bank Chief HR Officer told me, “Last year it was impossible. Now it’s just hard. I guess that’s better…”

The labor picture flatly refused to be predicted in 2023, and there’s no evidence it’s going to be any more cooperative this year. Experts were way under the mark in eleven of twelve monthly forecasts of new job creation in 2023. Phrases like “defied expectations”, and “outpacing forecasts” peppered almost every month’s jobs report. The unemployment rate hit a 54-year rock bottom of 3.4% twice in 2023, and the economy added 2.7 million jobs for the year, more than in any of the handful of years leading up to the pandemic.

So what about 2024? I think we’ll see continued strong demand for talent, outpacing supply, especially for knowledge workers. The high profile layoffs in the technology sector are isolated, and numerically, don’t pour enough workers back into the labor pool to make any appreciable difference.

As for banking, the consensus of the community bank executives interviewed for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) 2023 Annual Survey of Community Banks, published in October was that recruiting, and especially retention, continues to be among the toughest challenges they face.

It’s nobody’s fault. There simply aren’t enough workers to go around for every employer, and, population demographics being immutable, there won’t be, by some estimates, for another 10 – 13 years. But there ARE enough workers right now for the very best employers, so that’s where you have to be.

2. Generation Z will overtake Boomers in the workplace

Complain about them if that makes you feel good, but the under-28 crowd is not only the future of the workforce, in large measure, it’s the present. Glassdoor’s population survey data has the youngest working cohort outnumbering the oldest by the spring of 2024.

Let’s have a contest between two banks. One bank’s leadership team will sit around and gripe about Gen Z, and the other’s will adapt their bank to optimize the productivity of the workforce they have at their disposal. I know where I’m opening my account.

Generalizing about any group will usually surprise us with exceptions. But there’s good evidence to suggest that this group is by and large smart, well-educated, and ambitious, even if their priorities are different in many respects from those of their more experienced colleagues.

We’d all do well to pay attention to what attracts, retains, and engages this group –  things like social interaction, flexibility, and making a real impact through their work. They want to grow in their jobs, and if they’re not getting what they need at your place, they have no problem moving around until they find it. This could help explain the CSBS findings that retention sometimes feels harder than recruiting, especially with younger workers.

And by the way, what this group doesn’t need is a helicopter “supervisor” – or to be on the job 40-plus hours a week, 50 weeks a year.

Later in this article series, I’ll go into more depth on Generation Z. But for now, I’ll just say that we’d better get good at leading people in this age group, because they’re a growing part of the workforce we have. We’re not getting another one.

3. The work “place” will continue to be redefined

Let’s get something straight. Remote work is not going away, managerial protestations notwithstanding.

Of course, some bank jobs can’t be done remotely, but many can, at least some of the time. For those, the market will sort employers into two houses. In one, management will collaborate with all stakeholders to evolve a setup that serves employers, workers, and customers, and that also widens the bank’s recruiting net.

The other house will pour precious resources into fighting a losing battle, and in the process, miss out on some really good people, who by virtue of their talent, have lots of options. Too many people have been to the other side of the river. They’ve seen the promised land, and many aren’t coming back.

No, not everyone wants to work remotely all the time. But there are too many who DO want the option, at least some of the time, for managers to ignore them. Or defy them.

The more successful leaders of remote and hybrid workers will absolutely HAVE to sharpen (or in some cases develop from scratch) their skills around trust, performance management, holding people accountable, communication, and relationship-building.

And not only will work “place” evolve in definition, so will work “time”. Think more flexibility, non-traditional schedules, and the 4-Day Workweek (for 5-Day pay). Those are topics for another day, but one thing is certain: if you’ve not had to wrestle with these ideas already, count yourself lucky, because you will, just as surely as the comfortable temperatures here in North Florida will give way to the midsummer heat. Enjoy it while you can.

Here’s the bottom line for all of the above. It’s your bank. If you can find enough people to play under your rules – go for it! If not, change the rules. Before your talent competition beats you to it.

About the Series

This series of articles was created to provide professionals in the banking industry with useful information to help them lead in the new world of work.

Feel free to share these articles with anyone who might find them helpful, or through your association’s website or other publications.

All we ask is that you publish the articles in their entirety and include the “About the Author” information at the end of the article.

Richard Hadden, CSP

Articles in the series: