By Suzanne Patrick-Lawrence
“Culture” has become a buzzword over the past decade as companies have increasingly recognized the challenges that come with attracting and retaining talent. Financial services firms develop unique relationships with their clients, requiring access to financial documents and sensitive information, further necessitating a high-trust culture. Burnout is a huge problem in the financial sector, which has worsened considerably since the COVID-19 pandemic. (1) Stress levels can exacerbate feelings of mistrust and resentment. Here are some key factors that can go a long way to creating a solid foundation.
Create Fair and Transparent Pay Structures
Unequal pay structures constitute a major source of contention and resentment, especially when the disparity occurs along lines of gender, race, or any factors that have nothing to do with performance. When one person makes disproportionately more than others performing similar job functions, word eventually gets around. Nothing kills the trust of a loyal and hardworking team member more quickly than a discovery of unfairness in pay.
A firm should strive for uniformity and consistency in the way that it awards salary raises and bonuses. For instance, everyone might have a quota for billable hours, closed projects, or other measurable factors, with quarterly bonuses for exceeding expectations. When pay is consistent, there are no surprises when it comes time for performance reviews.
Make Sure Everyone Actually Takes Time Off
Overworked employees often forgo vacation and PTO, or come into the office on a paid holiday. The highest performers often sacrifice their time off without complaint, giving the false impression that they are happy with the arrangement. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, a top performer announces that they are moving on. The problem often snowballs as the remaining team ends up with more work on their plates and management struggles to staff adequately.
Giving people the time off they have earned is harder than it seems. Some may even push back and insist that they don’t mind taking calls during their vacation. But every manager needs to recognize that overworking is a symptom of a deeper problem on the team. Maybe there isn’t enough cross-training or teamwork. Maybe the company is understaffed. Putting too much on one person will ultimately make the problem worse, and will also foster a culture of resentment.
Make Time for Face-to-Face Engagement
When everyone has a full plate, people tend to view face-to-face meetings as a waste of time. But even on a fully remote team, people need live interaction with their colleagues. Meetings are not the place to relay information that could have been sent via email, nor do they take the place of one-to-one conversations offline. A team needs a forum to collectively discuss issues and concerns about the workplace. Without the crucial component of seeing each other’s faces, a workplace can begin to feel sterile and impersonal. Communication breaks down when people rely solely on textual media such as email and instant messaging.
Many small businesses fail at creating a culture of trust, because the hardest-working team members sometimes don’t know what to ask for or perhaps lack the self-confidence to speak up for themselves. It takes more than hiring technically proficient individuals to create a great company. In an increasingly isolated world where people value independence, business leaders need to exert continuous effort to create an atmosphere where people feel valued, respected, and supported. While no easy solution exists, a business can surmount the challenge, if its leaders choose to make culture a high priority.
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We specialize in working with owners of firms in the financial sector to meet their business goals and create a fulfilling retirement. If you would like to learn more about working with our firm to grow your business, take the first step and reach out to Advisor Business Solutions by emailing [email protected] or calling 562-439-4804 to learn how we can help.
Suzanne Patrick-Lawrence is the CEO of Advisor Business Solutions. She is a business planning and communications specialist with over 20 years of experience developing business and marketing strategies for financial services, global corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, and small businesses. She is passionate about working with financial advisor practices seeking guidance, support, and structure to position their firms for a successful transition. To learn more about Suzanne, connect with her on LinkedIn.