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Build a great staff with incentives

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Last month, we stressed the importance of a mission buy-in by clients and staff. This month, I want to address how and why many advisors fail to keep staff, amid the myriad of missed opportunities they have every month to appreciate them.

In coaching high school basketball for many years, I’ve learned that all players are not created equal. They have different skill sets, aptitudes, levels of motivation, and both intellectual and emotional intelligence. The same is true of employees. While some are motivated only by money, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by people for whom respect, appreciation, and being a key contributor to something unique and lasting are even more important. As our newest team member said to me two years ago in her third interview, “I had an unfulfilling job before I left it to find something worthy of what I know I can give to the right organization; I’m not just looking for a job, I’m looking for a home.”

Below is a short list of indispensible keys for maintaining an efficient and thriving workplace, as well as contented and fulfilled staff teammates:

• Define their roles, and place each in a position where their unique strengths can develop and thrive. Remember: Failure is still the best teacher, but don’t place employees in situations where they’re likely to fail—trust them with responsibilities wherein if they make a mistake, the damage is minimal and the opportunity for growth and learning is great.

• Appreciate them with words—publicly and privately—as well as with dollars. My team works creatively and conscientiously—not just because I pay them well, but because they understand that their contributions are integral to our success, and because I (and their teammates) recognize that in emails, conversation and staff meetings.

• Appreciate them with dollars. I highly recommend some form of profit-sharing for your management team, and season-end bonuses for your key contributors. And it’s important to set their base wage at least 10 percent higher than what your competitors are paying for the same skill set/duties at their firms. Build a benefits package. Don’t be a cheapskate. Be flexible at times of family crises in their lives.

Set a tone of decorum and civility with your staff while at the office and one of familial fondness when socializing out of the office. Be a gentleman and lady. Say, “Thank you” often. Take your team to lunch or dinner once a month—and laugh a lot.

Life is not about material or professional success; it’s about the relationships that enrich us along the way. Surround yourself with excellent people, treat them well, and watch great things happen.

Next month: Hiring for excellence and growth.

Once hired, it’s important to keep your staff happy.

Thomas K. Brueckner is president and CEO of Senior Financial Resources, Inc. in Nashua, N.H., and Strategic Asset Conservation, Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is a Senior Market Advisor 2011 Advisor of the Year Finalist.