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2 Ways to Boost Staff Morale — Remotely

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COVID-19 has caused a massive culture shift in advisory firms today, largely because most employees are working in a virtual environment.

In fact, 46% of advisory firm leaders are worried about the impact working from home in the crisis is having on their firm cultures, according to the recent Herbers & Company Culture and Client Service Study.

This means they are concerned about employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement, client service standards, burnout and how to they can best connect with their teams.

For the past two months, independent financial advisory firms — their leaders, advisors, investment management teams, and client service and operational staff — tirelessly have been working to serve clients and recalibrate their firms’ operational processes and procedures for the new virtual environment.

As these have been designed, created and deployed, improvement and development of advisory firm’ culture has taken a back seat to serving clients.

The “new normal” of COVID-19 has become an accepted reality for many advisory firm leaders, and that means leaders are seeking to improve their firm cultures.

In doing so, they are attempting to get a handle on what impact the coronavirus will have on their relationships with staff, the next generation of leadership, their own leadership styles and methodologies, how they interact with teams, and the best ways to manage employee productivity now and in the future.

Why Happy Cultures Are More Productive

“Culture” comes from Latin meaning care. One of the major cornerstones to caring for a group of people is helping to cultivate their happiness. By doing so, firms can raise staff productivity and keeps remote teams connected.

Starting in 2008, we began studying the happiness of staff working for independent advisory firms. Our goal has been to figure out what firm leaders can do to influence and enhance happiness in their teams.

The results were published in 2011 in our research paper, “P4 Cultures: The Key Elements to Creating Great Business by Creating Great Cultures.”

The past six years we have continued to study happiness in firms and their cultures, especially in those firms with remote staff.

Before COVID-19, with the surge of M&A, many firms with regional offices across the country and/or young talent faced challenges on how to manage and maintain their cultures for remote employees.

Here are two places to start to enhance your firm’s culture in the virtual environment:

1. Give up on managing people; instead ask.

The biggest issue in creating, improving, and maintaining a culture in the remote environment is managing people. But, more management — by you — is not the answer, at least not if you want your employees to be happy and productive in your business.

A better, more effective option is to build an environment in which all staff can manage themselves.

This is especially true in the time of COVID-19, when we’re isolated at home, taking care of children and other family matters and social distancing. All these issues have radically changed how we socialize.

The best way to ask, rather than manage, staff is to query employees about what they want and need for their jobs.

Even if you’re a small firm with just a few employees, you can get their input  through a survey. This allows staff members to be honest with you about how you can best help them and provide them with the tools necessary for their success.

This feedback also will help you to review their struggles in the virtual environment and start focusing on the firm’s most significant challenges.

2. Develop and/or enhance career tracks together.

One of the biggest issues in the remote environment is working together on the business and not getting stuck in a cycle of only serving clients. When you’re working together, yet alone, it can be easy for employees to get burned out.

Employees can feed off each other’s energy in the office. Enthusiasm is contagious.

But when working virtually, you have to be very intentional about connection and creativity. As a result, one of the best ways to pull people together is to work on a larger goal for the firm, and a goal that should get employees motivated for the future is career development.