It may not feel like it, but we have made some great strides as an industry over the last few years. Six years ago, the first financial planning Career Day was put on by the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter of the Financial Planning Association. This event brought students and firm owners together at the same chapter meetings to network and hold private interviews, thereby revolutionizing the way new financial planners began to enter the industry.
However, there still seems to be some frustration on both sides. Let's look at some of the challenges that come up on the owners' side of the equation.
Most financial planner business owners are not human resources experts, so dealing with hiring/staffing issues is often difficult. Additionally, most of us tend to gravitate toward what we enjoy, and for owners that is usually working with clients, generating new business and developing planning and/or investment strategies. This can sometimes leave practice management issues neglected, with employee relations being perhaps the most overlooked area. Here are some of the mistakes that planners most often make when they hire new employees:
1. Not Knowing Or Communicating The Role. This is probably the biggest hurdle, but it is the easiest to avoid! It takes firm owners asking themselves the tough strategic planning and vision creation questions that sometimes they want to put off. Owners need to have a good idea of where they want to end up so they can shape how they want professional staff to help get them there. Often, firms are reactive and hire backward due to an unexpected increased workload and operate in the "just get me somebody" mindset. This type of short-term thinking can lead to bigger problems further down the road. In other cases, when planners do have an idea of what they want their new hire to do and how they want the new position to look, they do not communicate it well to the candidate.
2. Assuming Too Much. This is a symptom of the first pitfall. Owners sometimes assume the new planner knows what the position should entail and the new hire assumes the owners know what they want. All of this assuming is a recipe for disaster because the relationship never gets started off on the right foot. Candidates should have a good idea of what type of role they think they would perform the best in, but the buck stops with the owner to have a strategic vision for the firm and a specific vision for where and how the new candidate fits.
3. Little To No Ongoing Communication/Mentoring. This is a direct effect of No. 2. Communication is critical, especially during the on-boarding stage and directly after. Planners are usually hiring someone because they are beyond overloaded and therefore can't spend the appropriate time getting the new hire up to speed. Yet for many of the top talented individuals, mentoring is the primary reason they choose to join a certain firm. They deeply desire an experienced mentor that is willing to spend the time to teach them the side of the business they didn't learn in the academic setting. In some cases, this is why many gravitate toward smaller firms and sometimes take less pay.
Throughout the mentoring process, regular communication is imperative. Always let your new hires know where they stand. New grads are used to constant and instant communication through texting, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. It would almost be impossible to over-communicate with your new grad hire. If you don't deliver on the mentoring, you lose a crucial chance to help build firm loyalty with your "newbie." If you know you are not a good mentor (and not all of you are), find someone, or work out another process for training your new hire.
4. No Involvement In The Decision-Making Process. If business owners see their new hires as being part of the firm long-term, then these employees should be included in the firm's decision-making. Owners don't necessarily have to use a new hire's suggestions, but a new hire that knows he or she is heard will likely find more satisfaction and show more loyalty. Follow the lead of some of the larger financial firms, which bring all of their new MBA hires together to get their unbiased, untainted, fresh ideas and fuel creativity and company innovation.
5. Culture Shock. Be sure you can mesh with someone in his or her 20s. Many of these new grads are several generations removed from the pioneers of the financial planning industry and most don't realize the difficulty involved in creating a viable planning firm. Like it or not, some feel entitled to many things you didn't have on your way up. For a relationship beneficial to you both, you must understand and be prepared to deal with your generational and cultural differences with this new hire. Students will respect the way you grew your business, but because you brought the industry to where it is today, their paths will look different from yours.
6. Viewing Candidates As "Mini-Me's." Some firm owners try to make new planner hires exact replicas of themselves. From the outside looking in, this often makes little sense, but it is still attempted frequently by owners. Ideally, you want to minimize overlap and maximize talent over a broad set of areas, especially in a small firm. Resist the urge to force your skill set template onto the new hires even if they are receptive. Frustration can build on both sides when this approach is tried. Your firm will benefit most if your new hire has a skill set that complements yours, not one that clones it.