Dealing with Employee Turnover
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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It’s been years since we had to hire anyone in our firm. We have operated with 13 people and have run a very efficient business with no employee turnover. We have carefully managed growth and have never wanted to get big and unwieldy.
Reality hit this summer. Our long time director of operations told us she is retiring early. Her husband is facing a number of health issues and she wants to spend time with him. We find ourselves in an odd position – having to hire when we haven’t needed to in the past because no one leaves.
How do we promote this to possible candidates? Do younger people even like the fact that we’re all long-tenured? Would we need a younger person or should we look for a peer (no one here is under 45 and most of us are 50s and 60s). It is terrible to lose this person but daunting as heck to figure out how to replace her.
I don’t know if I should send you congratulations or condolences. It is certainly a testament to your culture that you’ve developed such a team environment where everyone is working together well and wants to stay together but – as you are seeing now – there are risks with having such an insular approach. It must be hard to lose this person, but I’d suggest you look at it as an opportunity to shake things up a bit and entertain new ideas.
There are a few things you should be considering as you embark on this journey:
- For every advisory firm, every hire is critically important. I say this because you haven’t done it in a while and may not want to put the effort into reviewing lots of candidates, resumes, interviews, etc. But take your time. Every single person who comes into an advisory firm matters. It is a team environment, and, in many cases, it is like family. Be cautious and thoughtful about how much time you take to make this important decision.
- Review your culture and work to capture elements of it in the job posting and interview process. It sounds like everyone has been there so long they probably take culture for granted and have ways of operating they don’t even notice. Have a couple of people take a step back and try to capture the culture on paper – “fast moving” or “slow and thoughtful.” “Efficiency at all costs” or “meticulous focus on clients.” “Growth oriented” or “Client service friendly.” None of these need to be “or” statements; you could have some elements of both but this is to give you some ideas of how to start. Be clear on your culture so you can describe it to potential candidates and make sure their values match your culture.
We have had a lot of turnover at our firm. While we are a large organization, it sends a bad message when we lose so many talented people at once. And, of course, many of them are going to our competitors.
As a senior leader, I find it hard to keep upbeat and motivate my team when I am forced to continue to move client accounts and cover the bases for missing team members. It seems like a losing battle and I can’t understand why our senior management doesn’t see the problems created by their bad decisions that affect our team members.
It’s a hot market and recruiters are calling left and right to get our talent. How do I keep my team motivated, and myself motivated, too?
I am hearing this lament from a number of my clients. While a strong economy might be good in some ways, it can create a talent war for the good people. However, it is little consolation inside a firm where there are too many open seats and not enough good people to fill them.
Focus on what you can do. Go out of your way to communicate with your team members and to stay positive in front of them. These situations create opportunity for those left at the firm. If you see specific things that your firm needs to be doing, and you can constructively present some ideas to senior management, then do this, too. Again, I’d frame it all in the positive as much as possible – “We want to be one of the most appealing places to work when people are in job hunt mode but we have to be able to compete effectively” should be the message.
People may be leaving for greener pastures but anyone who has worked for a number of years knows there is no utopia. Every place has its pros and cons. In some cases people leave only asking to come back months later because the new situation didn’t pan out as expected.
So, to the degree you can, keep your head focused on doing the best you can do in your role. Reward your team with praise and recognition. Make recommendations, where possible, for changes your senior team could be making to keep existing team members upbeat and positive.
One of my favorite mantras is, “This too shall pass.” Even those situations that seem desperate and negative will eventually turn and you’ll find yourself in a different situation.
I don’t mean to be overly “Pollyanna-ish” but that’s the reality of the business world and especially of our industry today.
Beverly Flaxington, The Human Behavior Coach® co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. She recently launched the Advisors Sales Academy to provide business building tools for advisors www.advisorssalesacademy.com. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility and Entrepreneurship 101. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.