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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

To Retain Talent, Focus on These 4 New Realities

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What You Need to Know

  • One recent survey found at least 1 in 4 employees will be looking for new opportunities, while another found 40% of workers globally are considering leaving their jobs.
  • Leaders need to understand how the pandemic has changed the way people work and how they think about work.
  • To keep talented employees, you must focus on what matters to them.

Numerous studies released over the summer have discussed the future of work in the United States because of the pandemic. According to one recent survey of American workers, at least 1 in 4 employees will be looking for new opportunities, while another found 40% of workers globally are considering leaving their jobs.

And workers aren’t waiting for the pandemic to end. Other research indicates that one-third of employees have already changed jobs over the last year. Doing a simple internet search on the future of work shows that employees have changed how they work.

We don’t know yet how the independent financial advisory profession is tracking along with these estimates, but the financial services industry has been hit hard, with the highest turnover of people in its history.

When the results of the health care crisis do finally come out, I believe independent advisory firms will — unfortunately — be part of the group that loses talented people in record numbers. I believe this because it’s remarkable how many calls our consulting firm is getting regarding help with turnover.

The shutdowns of 2020 caught many firms flat-footed in how they transitioned out of the office. And now, transitioning back to the office has caught firms flat-footed as well. Reentering the working world of “before” is no simple process, and the firms that treat it as such will lose the most team ­members.

Your firm doesn’t have to experience that. But you will have to adjust your thinking to avoid it.

Importance of Life Rhythms

In the late summer of 2020, my firm began talking with our clients about what returning to work might look like. It was still early in the pandemic, but those conversations were necessary to have early.

Without preparation, our clients knew that the shift back to the office would be difficult whenever it did occur. Interestingly, those conversations revolved more around health and wellness than traditional human capital conversations such as compensation or benefits. We focused on intangibles such as culture, empathy and compassion.

As those discussions evolved, I began to think of how often we go through changes in rhythm and routine throughout our lives. The best example is when we go from high school to ­college.

In high school, and the years before, our lives were fairly rigid. We were usually in class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then might have had after-school activities like sports practice. The day and our responsibilities were dictated to us.

The transition to college could not be more different. Suddenly, we found ourselves in total freedom. Our first class might have been at 10 a.m. one day and 2 p.m. another. Some days there might have been work, and others there might not. We discovered a new rhythm of life as we constructed our own routines for the first time.

But after college, we were pulled back to the old rhythm as we entered the workforce. This was the first reentry. Suddenly, we were again being told where to be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. Our ability to create our own routine vanished.

The pandemic threw people back into a period where they could construct their own routines as they did in their college years. Some thrived; others failed. But now that re-entry to the office is on the horizon, we again have to face a transition like the one that happened after college.

If you want your firm’s re-entry period to go well, you need to understand how the pandemic has changed the way people work and how they think about work. It may help you to think about how you approached the shift from high school to college, and then to your first job after graduation.

When it comes down to it, though, advisory firms should pay attention to four key areas.

4 New Workplace Realities

If you want to keep your talented employees, you must focus on what matters to them. Most firms think this means compensation — and that is the wrong place to begin. For employees, work has become a matter of lifestyle first and compensation second.

Here’s how that mindset shift will influence your firm and the way you lead your return to the office.

1. Empathy is the new test of a good leader.

Empathy is understanding where someone else is coming from and relating to it. If you can’t make a connection beyond business, making money and telling your employees to show up when you say so, then you will have a hard time keeping good people in the new era.

2. Freedom is the new culture.

The pandemic taught people what many already knew: They have unique times during the day when they’re most productive. Some might work best from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.; others might be most productive starting at 6 a.m.

Employers need to adjust to allowing work to happen when it gets done best. Now that the pandemic has allowed workers to determine their own routines, there is no going back.

3. The workforce is divided.

The pandemic and the return to the office have shown a clear division of the workforce. In general, trading teams have already come back to the office to work together. Operations staff might have more flexibility to trade off who comes into the office on what day. And advice professionals receive 100% autonomy.

Instead of forcing a full return to work, employers need to ask “what does the job require?” and then make decisions about office flexibility.

4. Self-leadership is on the rise.

This is one trend I could not be happier to see. In traditional office environments, rules create accountability and responsibility. But when those limitations are removed, as working from home did in the pandemic, people become more self-led.

If you don’t, you likely fail. With no bosses or co-workers to force a routine, the most valuable employees in a firm quickly become those who could lead themselves and accomplish their work with autonomy.

With these four changes in mind, firms have to begin by implementing human capital programs that emphasize self-leadership. Executives need to learn it for themselves, and then it must be taught to everyone else in the firm. This approach will not only ease reentry into the office now, but will also further strengthen your advisory firm’s culture for years to come.

Self-leadership begins with trust. The silver lining of the pandemic is that a deeper focus on trusting people to work when no one is watching proved to be exactly what most cultures needed.

Angie Herbers is an independent consultant to the advisory industry. She can be reached at [email protected].


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