“Personality clash” may have contributed to financial crisis

A personality clash between HR and financial services managers may have contributed to – and even exacerbated – the recent financial crisis, according to research by assessment company Talent Q.

The study, which involved carrying out personality profiles of 5,000 financial services employees, found that the “typical” professional in the sector is a competitive, achievement-oriented, persuasive communicator who likes data, evidence, structure and detail. However, it argues that these traits are very different from those of the typical HR practitioner, who is more consultative, more willing to allow others to take the lead and less likely to rigidly adhere to rules, processes and deadlines. This may explain why HR professionals in financial services companies often experience misunderstandings and even conflict when dealing with line managers and other internal clients.

“Our study shows that, in financial services companies, an HR practitioner has a fundamentally different working style to a typical line manager,” said Richard MacKinnon, head of learning and development solutions at Talent Q. “Confusion and disagreements can therefore occur when the two parties interact with each other, because HR practitioners are essentially trying to be collaborative and supportive in a world that values being forceful and direct.”

Talent Q argues that there needs to be “a significant upskilling of the HR practitioners in this space” and even the development of “a revised role we refer to as the ‘HR entrepreneur’, which emphasises banking and interpersonal skills as well as a technical-assessment focus”.

Reflecting on the role of HR and line managers in the various banking scandals in recent years, the report pointed to bank staff being undertrained or underqualified for some tasks and a failure by leaders to set the tone with professional behaviour. In the future, HR must also deal with cutbacks in headcount and resources, changes to regulation and complex organisational structures.

Talent Q claims that the only real option for HR practitioners who want to become more influential, and want to deal more effectively with internal stakeholders, is to change their role to that of “HR entrepreneur”. In this role, they would be “recognised as a technical expert, confident in managing challenging stakeholders and have a clear and up-to-date understanding of the talent management environment and the industry in which they work”.

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