Despite great people being the foundation of a successful business, not enough firms think strategically about creating top teams. By strategically, I mean long-term, at least 10 years’ long-term.
I’m frequently contacted by firms seeking help with various aspects of recruitment; what hire to make next, when to hire, how to go about the process of attracting the right candidates and identifying the right person for the job. All immediate reactions to urgent needs. Very few, in fact, almost none get in touch seeking help with creation of an organisational structure to match their 10-year vision. Meaning very few have a clear idea as to what their team needs to look like to deliver their vision.
Most who get in touch are typically under resourced and think about hiring when they have a vacancy. Or worse, when struggling to keep up with the workload and feeling under pressure to make a hire. Very few look at recruitment strategically in relation to their long-term business plan and add to their team before capacity becomes an issue. Of course, the latter approach is far more productive and yields much better outcomes for all involved. Especially in the current job market when demand for new hires far outweighs supply of candidates looking to move jobs.
Unfortunately, most learn the hard way, stretched beyond their limits and desperate to hire. Rushing the process or not having a process in place. Yes, you’ve guessed it, leading to bad decisions being made.
How do you prioritise the creation of a top team from the start? Here are 7 things to do:
1. Do think strategically. Be clear about your long-term vision.
Having a 10-year clear vision is vital. It allows you to make strategic rather than tactical decisions along the way. Your ideal organisational structure should reflect a long-term business plan. Then you can consider your existing structure in relation to your ideal and work out a way of getting from A to B over the coming years. You will make much better team related decisions when considering the bigger picture instead of basing your decisions only on your immediate or short-term needs.
Devoting time to drafting, or enhancing, your ideal future-proof organisational structure will save you money as opposed to losing money hiring for that quick fix and having to correct your decision.
Depending on the culture of your business and the type of firm you wish to create, consider different structures. Personally, I would avoid the traditional and somewhat outdated hierarchical model!
2. Be a great Leader. Start with yourself.
Leaders are key to developing great teams and enviable working environments. The leadership style of the management team (the Practice Manager and Business Owner(s) in the main) has a significant impact on a firm’s ability to create a top team. If you are a leader of any kind, it’s critical to start with yourself!
Take time to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and reflect on the impact these have on anyone you work with, your work with clients and the decisions you make. All affect your leadership style and outcomes.
You can find out more about your leadership style and where there is room for improvement by taking this test:
You may also want to check with your team in case your self-assessment is very different from what they observe on daily basis!
By identifying our top seven strengths and weaknesses, we can pinpoint who is needed on the team to complement our weak areas. This will help to create an environment where everyone can work to their strengths.
It may seem like a lame exercise but if you give it time, attention, and truly reflect on your answers it will provide invaluable insights. When reflecting on your strengths and weak points, be sure to challenge yourself and question whether your answers are true.
I undertake this exercise annually and I learn something new each time I do this. My team is most definitely better than me on my weak points.
Can you say the same thing about your team?
3. Create accountability. Formalise roles and responsibilities.
Each top team member should be clear when it comes to accountability across all business areas and tasks. Our ‘Accountability Identifier’ helps to work out if certain individuals have too much on their plates or if there are business areas or tasks that lack clear accountability.
There is no such thing as, “We are all accountable” as this equates to “No one is accountable”. All may be contributing but accountability should always be assigned to a specific role.
Having this clarity will empower each member of your team to take ownership of their work and there will be no confusion who to refer to in case of questions. This also applies to clear lines of accountability between the Business Owner and the Practice Manager. There should be no confusion as to who is accountable for recruitment, team development or management for example and, in case you are wondering, it should be the Practice Manager!
Once you are clear on what the accountabilities are, you can proceed with formalisation of roles and responsibilities that correspond with your ideal organisation structure.
A trap that many small firms fall into, is the creation of mixed job specs that combine responsibilities of a Paraplanner and a Practice Manager or an Administrator and a Paraplanner for example.
If you spend time defining a personal specification for each role, including skills, experience, knowledge and the rest, you will see that each role requires a distinct set of skills to perform the role to the optimum. Not forgetting that each top team member is encouraged to work to his or her strengths.
Of course, accountabilities, job descriptions and titles should be regularly reviewed to reflect the evolution of your firm, individual aspirations of your team members, company goals & objectives and individual strengths and weaknesses.
4. Attracting talent to your firms. Address what may be some key issues.
Most small financial planning firms struggle to attract talented individuals, irrespective of market conditions. If you want to attract real talent and, more importantly, keep it, here are some of the key things to address before you begin the recruitment process.
- Company culture
A candidate is likely to ask about the culture of your firm. A standard, “We are a friendly firm” is unlikely to cut it. Spend some time reviewing your purpose and values. Make sure your website and branding reflect those values.
Think about a more flexible approach to remuneration. After all, everyone is different and has different needs, desires and aspirations. Create structures that celebrate diversity and cater to individuality at different stages of each person’s career.
- Career progression and personal development
Often candidates report lack of training and career development as their main reason for leaving their current role. All top candidates look for opportunities to ‘upskill’ and progress. Even a smaller firm can demonstrate opportunities for greater responsibility or seniority further on.
- Strength in diversity
Diversity provides balance when it comes to problem solving. This includes personality, age, experience, ethnicity and gender bias to name a few. Diversified teams generate innovative solutions and encourage looking at challenges from different perspectives.
For most of us there is a strong desire and attraction to people who are similar to us (known as ‘similarity attraction bias’), but it’s important to recognise that we are not looking to hire our ‘organisational soulmates’ but to create top teams! Different roles and responsibilities require very different skills and personalities. Always bear this in mind.
Creating a great employee value proposition is an important aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked. You can find more considerations and helpful tips, including a salary guide, in our Recruitment and Salary Ranges Guide.
👉 Download your copy here.
5. Follow a robust recruitment process. Help identify the right person for the job.
A robust recruitment process is key to identifying the right person for the job. It pays to be thorough and to reinforce a point I made earlier:
“A bad hire can cost 15 times the annual salary of the person that you’ve hired.” –Scaling Up by Verne Harnish & the team at Gazelles
To this end, it’s important to do some testing:
- Test general skills, like accuracy and IT skills.
- Undertake role specific testing. This is sometimes overlooked. It means to test the candidate in relation to the role that they will be hired to perform.
- Be mindful of your ‘desire to hire bias’ and look for reasons to say ‘no’, not the reasons to say ‘yes’.
- Explain your recruitment process at the outset so candidates understand what’s involved.
- Always inform candidates of next steps and stick to your promises! Great communication is critical!
- Hire people that are better than you – at least at the tasks that you’re hiring them to perform.
- Make sure you know what your firm’s values are, so you can hire people that share them.
- Hire based on culture, values and attitude as these can’t be trained. Remember that skills can be trained, experience can be gained.
- Great candidates share some top qualities. These are: intelligence, integrity, passion and enthusiasm, so bear this in mind when interviewing.
- Don’t feel pressured by time frames but equally, don’t elongate the process unnecessarily. Have balance – don’t rush into a decision but be decisive at the same time.
- If it takes time to find the right person be patient!
- Remember that it is a two-way street, so don’t forget to create an unforgettable recruitment experience and make a great impression.
6. Help your team grow and prosper. Spend enough time on team development.
We thoroughly recommend making training one of your top priorities! According to the Association for Talent Development:
“Not only do firms with comprehensive training programmes report a 218% higher income per employee than those who don’t, but they also see a 24% higher profit margin.”
It’s also been shown that increasing the quality of training programmes achieves a greater productivity uplift than increasing the quality of equipment!
In my experience of interviewing candidates, I’ve found that support for professional development from potential employers is a key requirement for most candidates.
This is consistent with the findings from Udemy, which show that:
“42% of employees say that learning and development is the most important benefit when deciding where to work.”
This means that if you want to attract the best talent to your firms, offering opportunities to upskill is critical!
Some team development tips:
- Make sure to identify training needs. It’s hugely important for creating high performing teams. A-players always want to improve and upskill. Allowing them to do so will mean they’ll stick with you. Remember that assessment of training needs starts during the interview process. The role specific assessment tasks are likely to help you uncover knowledge and or skills gaps.
- Develop a training plan. Tailor it to an individual’s aspirations, and align it with your business objectives. It’s a win-win situation. The team member feels fulfilled and continues to grow, and the business reaps the benefits!
- Continuously review and evaluate. Continuous coaching helps individuals to be the best they can be. Provision of ongoing feedback, structured and unstructured, helps individuals to grow.
7. Give good reasons to stay. Engagement, communication, appreciation.
Top talent is ambitious by nature. You will need to pay more for top talent but just focusing on money isn’t enough. (Remember to look at our Recruitment & Salary Ranges Guide).
We’ve already touched on meaningful incentive schemes that reflect individuals’ aspirations and life stages and the importance of creating opportunities for growth and development but there is still more that needs to be done.
Top people want to be involved and have the autonomy and authority to do a great job, mastering the skill of delegating, communicating and involving your team is critical.
Appreciation, recognition of your team’s efforts, goes a long way when creating an inspiring and supportive working environment. It’s key to achieving business objectives, creating the right culture and top team that will survive beyond you.
Timing is everything
Always look for talent! It’s not often that true superstars cross our path and when they do, it’s important to grab the opportunity and to treasure it.
It’s the people you hire that will make the true difference to your working life and create a legacy worth leaving behind.
Good luck creating your top team!
If you need help fuelling some ideas, I found this a truly inspiring read:
An Illustrated Invitation to Join the Conversation on Next-Stage Organizations.
by Frederic Laloux
If you are a member of our Master Practitioners Club, here are some of the relevant resources you can find in our library:
- Example organisational structures
- Accountability Identifier – to help you work out if certain individuals have too much on their plates or if there are business areas or tasks that lack clear accountability.
- Numerous Job Specs
- Recruitment process and templates that go with it, including role specific assessments and questions.
- Training Needs Identifier to help you identify knowledge and skills gaps.
- How to increase your chance of attracting & hiring great people with Dominika Sieradzka
- How to nurture & maintain a great team with Dominika Sieradzka
- OKRs vs KPIs with Dominika Sieradzka
- The Development Process with Arah Perrett Effective Leadership with Dominika Sieradzka
- The grass is greener where you water it: growing & nurturing a top team with Anna Butcher.
- Effective Leadership with Dominika Sieradzka