So here we are again at this stage in the market cycle… Even though the economic picture is somewhat cloudy, activity remains high in most advice firms, income is holding up and one of the biggest challenges for many firms is beefing up their advice teams. Those who are recruiting are looking to pick up experienced advisers from other firms, which in turn is creating a retention challenge in these other firms.
So what can (and are) advice firms do today to keep their best people?
Recognise your best people
Might seem a bit obvious, but some business owners are afraid that they’ll rock the boat if they recognise their best people. So they say nothing and hope the winners won’t leave, which unfortunately they are likely to do if they don’t feel valued.
Yes you might have to back up this recognition with tangible benefits, but at least this is keeping you in control of keeping your best people. It also sends a clear message out to the weaker members of your team of your expectations and that you are monitoring their performance. This may make them uncomfortable and indeed these weaker team members could possible leave. This might not be what you’re looking for, but it’s a lot better than losing your best people.
Support your best people
The temptation of business owners and sales managers is to spend a disproportionate amount of time with their weaker team members; coaching them, monitoring them and trying to lift their performance. While at the same time assuming their best people are “grand” and will just continue to get on with doing a great job. A dangerous assumption.
Spend time with your best people too. While you may not be able to improve their performance by the same amount as you can for the weaker members of your team, they will appreciate all of your efforts to help them grow, even by small amounts. And small improvements by successful people will make a big difference to your revenue numbers.
Challenge your best people
Again many managers will look for ways to challenge their weaker team members, driving them to better performance by “turning the screw”, doggedly seeking higher levels of performance from them. The level that you do this depends on the individual’s personality and the level of under-performance.
However also look for ways to challenge your best people. This should be done in a very positive way, finding ways to enthuse them, to drive them on. You might ask them to manage some difficult clients, open up new lines of business or new target markets or to take on some projects in addition to their normal responsibilities, all the while recognising these additional efforts in a fair and equitable way.
Improve your best people
Yes, you have to be prepared to pay your best people more. But money alone is not the answer. As someone else can always offer your star performers more money. So look for ways to improve them and to help them in their careers. Maybe you could look to pay for them to do more study and to help then in terms of the time required to study to become a CFP? Or if they are not interested in doing more study, maybe they would benefit from and really value time with an external mentor, funded by you? Maybe you can give them greater levels of flexibility in where and how they work? Your best people will recognise your efforts to improve them as people, and at the same time hopefully you will gain from even better performance from them.
Provide a clear career path for your best people
At the end of the day this is the most important factor in trying to keep your best people. It is also the hardest for business owners to deliver as there may be a really significant price to be paid. Your best people will inevitably want to enjoy a greater share of the rewards of the business. And this means ownership of the business, either yours or their own. So if you want to hang on to your best people who may be delivering a significant share of the profits of your business, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to take them as a partner in your business? Because this may be required to keep them into the future. Let them go and watch your firm suffer, or give them some share in the business and grow it together – the choice is yours.