At the 2013 FPA NorCal conference, I was asked several times what firm owners should do to ensure their new planner employees will stick around for more than a couple of years so they have a chance to recoup the investment of developing their next generation of planners. There are many avenues a firm can take to integrate, cultivate, and retain new planners. Here are a few strategies from firms that have experienced success in employing new planners.
Client Meetings: Firms who integrate their new planners into client meetings early on create loyalty and begin building the skills new planners need to be successful with clients. For example, a firm in the southeast has prioritized including new planners in all client meetings to build their talent, hone interpersonal skills, and provide continuity when owners are out of the office. Initially, the firm owner leads the client meeting while the new planner is an active observer, data finder, and note taker. As the new planner’s skills progress and her confidence increases, the firm owner scaffolds her involvement in client meeting conversations. Early involvement may include presenting a portion of the plan that the new planner developed and increasing participation may involve answering client questions. For most new planners to achieve their high career goals, they will have to spend hours observing experienced planners work with clients and have opportunities to participate in client interactions with the supportive oversight of the firm owner. Caveat: If you don’t envision your new planner having client contact, tell them upfront in the interview process to avoid leading them on.
Work/Life Flexibility: Gen X and Gen Y have different motivations and views of leisure than previous generations. While financial compensation is important to new planners, work/life balance and career satisfaction are strongly heralded. One of my colleagues has been with her current firm her entire career for over 10 years (hint: that is a long time for a Gen Y planner!). One of the reasons for this, she shared, was due to the flexibility that she had earned and had been granted to have a fulfilling life and career in tandem. She was given opportunities to work on tasks that she valued, treated as a respected colleague, regularly presented with new challenges, and supported in dedicating time to volunteer for industry and charitable organizations. Additionally, when she was dealing with some serious family health issues, she was able to take significant time off out of the office with full support from her employer. New planners are focused on continuous learning in meaningful activities and investing time and energy helping clients and causes they care about.
Ownership Potential: Successful firms have found ways to reward their employees for extraordinary contributions and tenure through equity ownership. One firm on the East Coast has their own definition of NexGen (Next Generation of Firm Owners). Rising star employees, who could have ownership and/or management potential, are identified by the current management team early on and invited to participate in strategic planning meetings that are normally closed door. Future firm ownership and succession planning are crucial issues in the progression of the financial planning profession. There can be a certain level of unmet expectations of the path to ownership from the perspective of both firm owners and new planners. New planners who are seeking ownership might not fully grasp what it means, what it entails, and how it might impact them. Firm owners should be cautious to not try to remedy employee discontentment by throwing ownership at the problem, hoping it will go away. Parceling out ownership to cover up for poor mentoring and management is one way to assure the proverbial can gets kicked down the road.
Remember there is no silver bullet when it comes to ensuring employees will stay with you long term, but consider the aforementioned success stories as a starting point for developing strategies that align with your firm. This will shape an attractive culture to integrate, cultivate, and retain new planners – giving them little to no reason to seek employment elsewhere while elevating client confidence, increasing enterprise value, and leveraging your time to focus on components of the business that you enjoy most.
Caleb Brown, MBA, CFP® is a past President of FPA NexGen and Partner in New Planner Recruiting, LLC, a recruiting firm that places financial planners in financial planning firms nationwide. He can be reached at www.newplannerrecruiting.com
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