Every two years, we get to enjoy the pinnacle of human athletic achievement in the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
Athletes who train to be Olympians gain every advantage within a structured environment built for their success. They live at a training center with a sleep program, daily training and a dedicated nutritionist. This comprehensive approach creates an environment where they can become the best in the world at their sport.
Often, advisory firms will try to bring on a new employee and expect them to be the best at what they do, right out of the gate — without providing the tools and support necessary for that to happen. Then those same advisors wonder why their employee does mediocre work, leaves the company, or fails at their job outright.
Let’s look at four foundational elements you need to have in place before you hire a new team member.
1. A Job Description
It may seem obvious, but when you’re hiring for a new position, you need a clear job description — before you put up the posting announcement.
One simple way to create a description that resonates is to ask the rest of your team for help. Feedback from your team can be invaluable to help you understand the views of others in your firm on what is really needed from your new hire.
Once you’ve gathered feedback, pare the description back to its initial elements. Focus on what that person will be doing 80% of the time.
Let’s imagine that you’re an Olympian short distance runner, but you also get thrown into water polo and discus throwing. You probably won’t be as good at what you’re supposed to be doing — running track — because your focus isn’t tight enough on your main responsibility.
The same concept should be applied to your new hires.
2. The Right Expectations
Success can mean different things to different people, so it’s important to work from a shared definition. Ultimately, success is tied to expectations based on needs.
To avoid subjectivity and favoritism, set objectives. When you set an objective, fill in the details of how it aligns with each of these criteria.
Even with a written objectives, however, communication is still the key. Think of how clearly you know who the best Olympians are—when running track, a leaderboard shows the best times. When you speak with your new hire, strive for that level of clarity in your communication about their performance with relevant and timely examples.
It’s important to note that these expectations should be set immediately, not six months after someone has started with your firm. Also, they must be measurable.
3. The Right Support
No one is a gold medalist on their first day, and your employees won’t be at level when you first hire them either. The right support in place will make all the difference.
To begin, create an onboarding path for the first 60 to 90 days as a new hire learns their job and your culture. Like you did when writing the job description, work with your team. Ask them what they wish they had known when they started.
Mentorship and shared ownership can also make all the difference. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a whole team to train up a new employee.
A more seasoned employee, who is not your new hire’s direct manager, can act as a mentor and internal advocate for them. Additionally, that mentor can fill in training gaps and answer questions the new hire may not want to ask of their manager.
4. The Long-Term View
The final foundational element is to give your new hire a plan for their future.
It’s easy to avoid this conversation for a number of reasons, but that is a mistake. A defined career path shows the employee what they can work towards, and why their current work matters.
Similarly, money may not be a motivating factor, but we all work to get paid. Ambiguity in how a person is compensated only leads to distrust and unhappiness.
Jobs and roles naturally shift over time; review your team to be sure you are compensating each person based on the highest value they deliver to your firm, not their lowest value responsibility.
All of these foundational elements tie back to the culture you create in your firm. Through your actions, you will either create a culture of transparency or one of ambiguity.
Avoiding a compensation plan and career path, as well as providing inadequate support, are symptoms of misalignment between culture and values.
When misalignment occurs, your best employees will leave for other firms where they are more engaged and more valued. Your firm will be left with a team that doesn’t value your firm’s success to the point where you may be hindered from making a true difference in the lives of your clients.
By involving your current team and valuing their opinions, and by clearly communicating with new hires from the start, your firm can establish a culture that raises everyone up.
Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP, is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent growth consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.