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HR Issues in Banking

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Finding skilled, experienced, responsible employees is a challenge for human resource departments in any industry. In banking, honesty, trust and integrity are critical for employee success and protection of the business. In difficult economic times, with employees in varying degrees of financial stress, access to other people's money poses some specific HR issues for the banking industry. Competition between financial institutions for business is tough, and the pressure for employees to bring in the business and keep customers happy can take a toll.

Interview for Character

When hiring bank tellers, HR looks for candidates with basic math skills, the ability to use calculators and computers, and who display attention to detail. Loan officers, financial planners and CFOs all require specialized knowledge, skills and experience. These skills are easy to identify from information on a resume. Values like honesty, integrity, trust and truthfulness are critical to employee success and protecting the business, but they are more difficult to verify. Some managers are reluctant to risk offending an applicant with questions targeting honesty. Reluctance to screen for values can result in a bad hire and possible exposure to a lawsuit down the road. There are a number of applicant-screening sources, available as online questionnaires or pencil and paper tests, that can predict a measure of honesty, truthfulness and candor.

Background and Reference Checks

According to a Kiplinger news story, nearly 30 percent of applicants lie about their experience, education or both on resumes. Six percent of applicants had been convicted of crimes in the past seven years, and nearly one-third had driving violations, including DUIs. Applicants embellish information or lie because they think they can get away with it, and they do when employers do not conduct thorough background and reference checks. Whether it is laziness or the pressure to fill a vacant position, incomplete background checks can result in bad hires. Past performance is a good indicator of future action, and failing to screen out a candidate who was fired for theft opens the door of opportunity. Applicants give you their best references; ask to call another manager at their last job. If they hesitate, there may be a problem. They may have been fired rather than resign. Whatever it is, you will have taken one more step in your due diligence that can protect you from a lawsuit for negligent hiring.

Performance and Incentives

Huge performance bonuses, high stress and few restrictions characterized the freewheeling environment in many doomed financial institutions that led to collapse and subsequent federal bailouts. Part of HR's responsibility is training managers to develop relationships with employees, set reasonable goals and monitor performance. It is not enough to hire in at high salaries, promise huge performance bonuses and step back. HR needs to hold the line with realistic compensation packages and goal setting for employees. Qualifying applicants for loans they cannot afford just to make a sales quota for a bonus is a great temptation when you are upside down on your own mortgage or deep in credit card debt.


Mary Nestor-Harper has more than 12 years as a human-resources director and more than 19 years experience as an HR/management consultant. She has been published in "Training Magazine," "The Savannah Morning News" and on the Web. A television and radio business, career and motivation expert, she shares career and job search tips as Ageless Media Network's career expert on WTKS-AM 1290, Savannah, Ga.

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