As an ever-increasing number of capital markets professionals jump ship to chase opportunities at competing firms, dot coms or startups, Credit Suisse First Boston is trying to throw a monkey wrench in the process to retain its employees.

Attempting to slow the outflow of human resources, Credit Suisse First Boston late last month unveiled some new policies to its employees in an internal memo titled "Making CSFB a Better Place to Work."

The reasons for the hemorrhaging is actually quite clear, says Alicia Whitaker, a managing director at CSFB who has been hired to spearhead the bank's employee retention initiative.

"The people who are leaving, they're typically young people - the generation X and generation Y - people at the analyst and associate levels. [These people] watched their parents - the baby boomers - sacrifice their families for their careers."

But the younger generation does not necessarily want to make those same sacrifices, Whitaker said. "[For them,] the question is where can I maximize my wealth and still have the life and the career that I want - what is the right career choice?"

Thus, CSFB is not only increasing the base salary of their junior analysts [see chart], the bank is also offering a flexible work schedule, more time off, sabbaticals and fast-track promotions, among other things. All this is in addition to the full-time casual dress code and other perks already implemented.

The idea, said Whitaker, is to alleviate the three main concerns younger employees have, which are compensation, career development and life style.

"HR people probably had these ideas for years, but now there's an urgency and a need. Ten years ago, we made all the rules and you had to follow them. [Now,] firms that want to retain people have to address all three issues."

Highlights of the New Policies

Starting on April 28, CSFB has been allowing employees to adjust their work week according to their and the group's needs, including telecommuting one day a week.

Contrary to expectations, the first person to take advantage of this policy was a male employee, who is spending the off days with his daughter, noted Whitaker.

"Banking, like accounting, has not been known for encouraging flexibility. But this has had to change because of the war for talent' and the need to make our industry as well as our firm attractive to women and men who want to have a career and a life."

For many women in banking, who are coming out of business schools in their late 20s and early 30s, the flexible work policy speaks to their needs "because their peak years for career building and for having families often coincide," said Whitaker.

Employees are also getting more time off for special events, such as having a child or getting married. Male employees can get a week of paid time off if they are expecting a child or adopting one, and they are entitled to six weeks off if they are the primary caretaker.

On the other hand, those getting married will get an additional week of paid vacation time for their honeymoons. The response has been so positive that one CSFB employee jokes: "Some of us are even thinking of getting married a second time."

But perhaps best of all, the bank is offering employees with at least five years of service a chance to take up to three months on sabbaticals. While the first month is all paid, employees will receive 80% pay during the second month and 60% in the third month.

"We have to see how it works. Who knows if it will be successful or not," Whitaker said of this new program, which she believes is the first in the industry. "If our long-term goal is to keep people, to keep them from walking out the door, this is necessary."

Finally, in a new policy shift announced on May 9, junior analysts are eligible for promotion to associates only after two years, based upon merit, instead of the norm of three years.

"[Usually,] there is a very strong pressure to promote people with their class," said Whitaker. "In investment banking, it's typical that people progress with their class. Everyone under managing director positions move together."

Senior Management Counts

"[We've found] that the most important point in an intense environment [like banking] is for the boss to be supportive," said Whitaker. "[So we] wrote to our managing directors and talked about their taking flexible attitudes [toward work]."

For the new policies to be successful, CSFB is counting on its senior management, who have had vastly different experiences than their younger charges, to put the guidelines into practice.

That's because many of these older bankers still see work as their top priority. With their dissimilar set of values and culture, where 18-hour days and six-day weeks are the standard, they will need to be encouraged to see things from another perspective.

But they probably won't embrace the changes for themselves. When it comes to personally taking advantage of some of these offers, one managing director said he probably won't. "To me, [the issues raised by the younger staff] are not a problem."

Nonetheless, he believes the policies are a good for the employees, and especially for their morale. "Why would you ever hold back if it means keeping your people happy?"

"What we do day-to-day in our work environment is as important as what we have in our policies," Whitaker stresses. "We have credibility if people see our managers using good judgement to meet people's needs."

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