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Attracting and Retaining Talent – Battling the "Graying" Effect

Date: Sep 03, 2014 @ 07:00 AM
Filed Under: Executive Roundtable

The question is a familiar one: how does the equipment leasing and finance industry effectively attract and retain the best and the brightest to join its ranks both today and in years to come? Equipment Finance Advisor spoke with two industry leaders -- LEAF Commercial Capital's Crit DeMent and De Lage Landen's Bill Stephenson to speak to their companies' views on this critical issue. We also gained additional insight from two human resources professionals — Rita Dube at LEAF and Sean McManus at DLL — to understand their respective firms' multi-faceted approaches employed to tackle the so-called graying of the industry.

Equipment Finance Advisor:  Much has been said regarding the “graying of the equipment leasing and finance industry.”  What is your company’s approach to dealing with this reality?

Crit DeMent:  The problem here isn’t the “graying of the industry” per se — the value of seasoned, experienced people is a given. Our problem is that we as an industry are not attracting enough young people, so the gap between seasoned industry veterans and the next generation is widening. Our top priority is to connect with Millennials in particular, and even the somewhat older Generation X. We think there are several ways to do this.

First though I think you must consider what is going on here. The way we see it, a big part of this challenge is that many younger people simply don’t know what our industry is, what it does, or most importantly, what it has to offer. College students considering possible career tracks and who are drawn to what they know as the finance industry might not even be aware of the equipment financing niche. So we need to connect with these people early on, while they’re still in school, and show them everything the industry has to offer.

Photo of Crit DeMent - Chairman and CEO - LEAF Commercial Capital Inc.

One of the most obvious — although not necessarily easy — ways to do that is to connect via multiple social media platforms. LEAF maintains an active presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I say it’s not easy because you can’t just randomly throw content up on these platforms and hope to connect. Effectively using social media requires planning, curated content, and both the willingness and bandwidth to connect on a 1-to-1 basis when necessary.

It is also important to understand that Millennials in particular are socially conscious and actively engaged with their communities. As one would expect, they are attracted to companies that share these same values and endeavors. A corporate commitment to serving our communities creates a win-win scenario because apart from the obvious value to those we are helping, it simultaneously polishes our image and serves to draw talent into the fold.

Bill Stephenson:  In order for more young professionals to pursue leasing and sustain the industry over the long-term, we need to do a better job actively promoting vendor finance among tomorrow’s business leaders. One small way in which we are bringing leasing into the classroom is through the Equipment Leasing Finance Association’s guest lecture series. This presentation gives members a platform to introduce the basic principles of leasing to men and women before they graduate. Presentations have already been given at some very notable institutions and additional sessions are scheduled. Also, the association has just formed the Emerging Talent committee, further evidencing the industry commitment to recruitment and retention.

Photo of William F. Stephenson - Chairman and CEO - De Lage Landen Financial Services

As for hands-on opportunities at DLL, we have had a consistent and structured internship program for the last three years. This is a tremendous pool of talent and our leadership is committed to ultimately hiring the young people who successfully complete the program. Currently, 5-10 percent of our member base in the U.S. is recent college graduates. Rather than looking for graduates who have completed a specific course of study, all that we ask is that these young people come to DLL with a commitment to bring their best and offer fresh perspectives that in turn can prepare us for the needs of the workforce of the future.

To ensure a transfer of knowledge to the next generation, we have to create a very exciting career path that includes relevant, practical experiences—enabling top talent to thrive and remain in the industry.

Equipment Finance Advisor:  We note that many financial institutions have dispensed with or pulled back significantly with regard to providing formal training programs for employees entering the industry.  What is your view and approach on offering these types of programs?

Stephenson:  Learning and development remains our single largest budget item at De Lage Landen. This commitment has endured even through the most turbulent times like the financial crisis of 2008-09.

What differentiates DLL is that these training programs are not the norm. We have developed our own signature program that takes a holistic approach to developing a member personally as well as professionally. This fosters the self-awareness required before individuals can become leaders within their areas of professional expertise.

This year we also began a formalized Sales Academy to educate not only the sales force, but all areas of the business (including functions such as risk and operations), about the fundamentals of salesmanship. This makes it possible for our members to continuously think about the customer’s perspective in their day-to-day interactions.

These core programs supporting global member-oriented initiatives, enable us to strengthen the organization from within by creating synergies between business lines and functions and enabling every individual to really make difference by matching their strengths with the company’s ambitions.

“Development starts with me” is one of our core company values—values that were created exclusively through member input. To keep that passion for learning alive, we offer an average of 100 classroom development hours per month in our Wayne, PA location alone.

DeMent:  We believe — very strongly in fact — that training and development is one of the key drivers for retaining top talent.

That is why we have taken a much different approach from the institutions that are cutting back — our training programs have actually increased consistently over the last three years. At LEAF, training is not limited to new hires or entry level people — everybody in the organization has access to a wide range of training programs and is encouraged to actively participate.

After their new-hire orientation, a whole world of personal development options open up for LEAF employees. I should mention here though that even for new hires, the program is structured and conducted in a classroom. New hires represent a significant investment for us and we want to make sure they get off on the right foot.

From there, we offer training topics that are LEAF-specific as well as relating to general business. Specialized and advanced training is provided for sales people and managers. We also conduct training related to our individual business units such as those that support our office products dealers, our Small Business Finance Group, our business technology unit and so forth.

These structured training programs are presented by professional experts in a live group setting and are then augmented by additional online training through Using that platform, our employees can access a rich catalog of programs including general business, software and technology, and communication skills, to list just a few. The entire LEAF training environment is both dynamic and effective.

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