We are suffering from an all-round lack of skills and abilities in our sector.

    We’ve spent decades putting financial advisers on a pedestal.

    Traditionally, the focus when it comes to recruitment has been on hiring advisers to build a team. This has resulted in an overwhelming focus on sales and people skills, and of course, the technical knowledge that go with these. 

    But this approach of a good all-rounder, where advisers are given almost ‘messiah’-like status in the business, is now backfiring.

    We’ve ended up with a situation where support roles have effectively been undervalued and subsequently undersold.

    Administration has been seen as the poorer relation compared with advice, when it’s actually an essential component of a great financial planning process and business.

    Administration and support roles are fast becoming the emerging superpower, and we are paying the price for not having recognised this shift sooner.

    Paraplanning is being built up as a career, which is great to see, but we’ve got a long way to go in terms of supply meeting demand.

    There is a lack of access to great resources and talent, and that is strangling the sector. This is the root cause of the recruitment problem, and also the retention problem.

    Attract and retain

    Michelle quote

    Given that backdrop, the question you have to ask yourself is: What are you actually doing to attract and then keep amazing people?

    There are thousands of great people in the advice sector who are, quite honestly, working for mediocre firms.

    Some firms have dedicated their time to creating amazing client journeys and amazing client outcomes. This is all good.

    But you need to put that same amount of effort into your team proposition, journey and experience, because a happy team makes happy clients.

    If you care about your team, the rest will come as clients will be taken care of by people who love you and what they do.

    What to do when it’s not working

    By their nature, financial planners and advisers are fixers.

    You often see the best in everybody, and you’re changing lives. You are investing time in relationships, and what’s more, you’re great at it.

    But that can be a problem if you’re having to tackle the issue of an underperforming member of the team.

    The logic of being able to make things happen and turn things around, as you would with clients, doesn’t apply when it comes to team performance.

    Your instinct might even tell you at interview stage that a particular person isn’t quite the right fit for your business. There can be a temptation to think that having somebody in the role is better than nobody, but this is absolutely not the case.

    Where you are struggling with someone who is underperforming, it helps to tackle the issue together as a team.

    Have an honest conversation with the rest of the team, and present the predicament. Your honesty and vulnerability will show your team you need some help. If they are the right people, they will soon step in and step up.

    It's likely be the case that once the situation has been identified and discussed, the team will do what it takes to relieve the burden, offer their help and support you (or another) to tackle the project head on.

    Collaboration is the difference between simply surviving and thriving, so get your team involved. If it proves their support is not an option, I would question whether you have the right team in place, or whether you have created the right environment for them to want to help?

    As owner managers, this is where having a great leadership team comes in, so that you yourself have a team of strength and support around you.

    An empowering workplace culture

    One of the key factors in empowering your team is trusting in your team member from the moment you hire them. This is as opposed to starting with the assumption that trust is earned over a period of years.

    The default position can be to hire someone and give them a little bit of their role. As the weeks go on, that person is given a little bit more so that potentially by the two-year mark, that individual has only just been given their whole job.

    I would argue the case for giving them their full job immediately, so they can get to grips with the amount of work that’s needed.

    Otherwise, you run the risk of never trusting them with some aspects of the role, or when they are given their full job they feel like they don’t have the time or the capacity to do it.

    The empowerment comes from letting people do their job, and the role you promised them at the outset. If they feel like they’re being curtailed in some way, they become like a butterfly in a matchbox. And then they’ll leave.

    Another important factor here is understanding your team and getting to really know them.

    Take the time to understand what their passions are outside of work, and what their life-long aspirations are. Invest the time in getting to know your team like you get to know your clients. There should be an equal measure of ‘know your client.’

    There is a wariness that understanding what’s important to the people you work with and asking them these kinds of questions is somehow inappropriate.

    But for many people, their earnings are the only vehicle for securing the kind of life they want. If you as an employer don’t understand those drivers, there will be a disconnect.

    There may be some members of your team who are less motivated by money, and more interested in time to spend how they want or with the people they love.

    You could give those people a pay rise, but what’s actually more meaningful for them is an extra 10 days holiday.

    That person will feel more empowered, and it creates a greater sense of ‘buy-in’ to your firm and what you’re about. But all that can’t happen without first understanding your team.

    What I’m not saying is you have to be best buddies with the people you work with. This isn’t about socialising with them at weekends. There is a line there – you are someone’s employer over being someone’s friend.

    But there is a sense of employees being in your care – while they have to meet you halfway, ultimately you are responsible for their growth and development. Care for your team like you care for your clients.

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