It’s not the cards you’re dealt, but what you do with them that’s important. Was reminded of this line after a speech I gave on recruiting and retaining professionals at the Investment Advisor/Moss Adams Advisor Summit, fittingly held in Las Vegas last month. Following my talk, I was approached by an advisor who said he had trouble keeping young professionals in his practice. Weird thing was, though I’d never met him, nor spoken to him before, I knew a lot about him already.
The financial planning community is made up of a widely connected good ole’ boy/girl network. It was only a matter of time before I ran into an advisor whom I’d heard about from his ex-employees. As many (dare I say it) “older” people often do when talking to young folk, he approached me by first trying to establish his greater wisdom; explaining that he had over 19 years experience in the industry. He’d built his practice in the “hard times” when there was little in the way of professional training, resources, or technology to help him. Seven years ago, when he couldn’t handle any more clients himself, he started hiring CFP college graduates. Like many of his counterparts, having invested countless hours and dollars training a series of four such professionals (none of whom are still with him), he was frustrated over his track record and apprehensive at the thought of hiring another one.
What he didn’t know was that I already knew that he did most everything “right” in attempting to retain the talent he had hired–that is, all the conventional things we consultants tell you to do to hold onto key staff: Compensate employees fairly with incentive-based pay, develop an organizational structure, have suitable job descriptions, train them properly, and offer a career track toward partnership.
So what was his problem? He didn’t know I already knew that, too: He was missing the kicker that gives some people a winning hand with employees while others are left with a short stack. In the words of his employees: “He gave us everything we could ask for as far as benefits and pay, but he showed zero confidence in us, or in our ability to help him, even after he trained us. We truly wanted to help him if only he’d let us…and that was very demotivating.”
Show Some Confidence
Looking back at my experiences with clients, co-workers, friends, family, and maybe most importantly, myself, I believe the answer to his problem is confidence–the ace in the hole to building a successful firm and retaining talent in it. Not the ego some folks have wrapped up in their tenure, or in the firms they’ve built. Rather, the confidence to trust others to help you achieve your goals. This advisor could have had 100% staff retention, if only he’d made as much effort to build trusting relationships with them as he did with his clients.
Without a doubt, it’s hard to build confidence and trust in other people. Many planners fully understand this challenge when trying to develop long-lasting relationships with their clients. If anything, it’s even harder to build good relationships with employees, especially when you’re reaching across generational lines. But without trust in your team, it’s very hard to grow a business no matter what benefits and rewards you throw at them.
Many employees will tell you that the key to keeping them is bigger paychecks and more benefits. In fact, according to the 2006 Job Satisfaction Study conducted yearly by the Society of Human Resources Management the top four factors in driving retention and job satisfaction in America today are compensation, benefits, job security, and work/life balance. However, in my own research with recruits I’ve placed and many other employees, while it’s easy for them to cite compensation and incentives as their top priorities, the truth is, young professionals almost always crave something else.