How Departing Employees Make Us Better (and Grow)

Many advisors shy away from hiring millennials. It is a common theme when discussing succession or continuity planning – they are not excited about involving the next generation in their businesses. They see it as risk. The millennial stereotype of job-hopping, as well as the risk to relationships and client retention, are all considered potential issues.

It comes down to this: Advisors don’t want to take the time and effort to hire and train someone, just to watch them leave. But even if/when they do leave, what you gain from them can help set your firm up for future success in many ways.

Change = growth opportunities

After over 20 years as a manager, I have both asked people to leave and watched others voluntarily pursue different opportunities. We know that hiring can sometimes be a crapshoot. There are people who I was dead sure would be a home-run hire and others who surprised the heck out of me (positively).

When an employee leaves, I try to put myself in their shoes and ask the why and the so what. Doing that helps me look at it objectively and with a positive attitude. (Let’s be honest, this is not the first place I ever worked, either – and I wonder what my old managers thought of me leaving to pursue a position with a different company.)

Sure, personnel change can cause disruption, but it can be a good thing. Change allows us to:

  • Grow as people, employers, advisors and business owners
  • Bring in new talent, new ideas and a fresh perspective
  • Re-examine processes and re-think what we do and how we do it
  • Reflect on what we have done and ask: Would we do it again the same way?

Do some fact-finding

Most advisors I talk to don’t do exit interviews with departing staff. The staff member leaves and we blame them for being disloyal or “not getting” our vision. But exit interviews can give you some great intel – you really should do them.

If you find it difficult to conduct the interview yourself, ask a colleague, office manager or support person to meet with them and ask questions about how the position could have been better, what the firm could have done differently, and what prompted them to leave. This knowledge is critical to help you hire and keep the next staff member. (In other words, if you are going to grow from this, it can’t be personal.)

When an employee leaves, we need to ask ourselves if we need to replace the employee – and if so, does the job look the same? Is there an opportunity to create a new role, a specialized role or one that has a different focus?  In many cases, the role your ex-employee filled grew to be something different from when they started. That evolution means you may be hiring someone completely different than who you hired before. It is probably best to create a new job description from scratch to highlight exactly what you are looking for in your next staff member.

Based on the new job description and the learned points from the exit interview, a new employee should be better positioned to succeed.

I think it is also time to review the workflows. Is there a way to do some tasks more efficiently? In reviewing these processes, you may find ways to create a better client experience or find cost savings. After my most recent employee left, I took over some of his tasks, instead of parsing them out to the team – and I think there are unquestionably things that will change as a result.

And don’t forget – the hiring process puts a whole new set of eyes on your business. Eyes that can see holes, fill gaps and be engaged in the growth of your organization should be valued. When a new employees starts, it’s ok to have a 30-, 60- and 90 day plan that makes sure they are a fit, but you should also encourage them to provide feedback on you and how they think your business could run better. (Again, don’t take it personally – it’s for the good of the business and your own personal growth).

It’s about more than just the role

When you look back on an employee’s time at your firm, don’t solely consider their job function. Were they a team player? Did they make a positive impact on your firm’s culture and the community? Did they build a career path with purpose and continue to ask for opportunities? Was every chance to do something an opportunity to get better, not just to complete a task? The answers to those questions can help you think through all the qualities that are truly valuable, and help you expand future roles with perhaps a different focus or specialty.

Embrace the changes that a fresh perspective can bring. Your firm will be better for it – and so will you.

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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