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Now that the entire world has experienced working from home, professional life has changed forever. Whether or not your company will remain remote in the future, work-from-home days are the new normal and all firms need to strategize for how this shift impacts their company culture. Without detracting from the strong ethos you have spent years, or even decades, building, here are three ways you can build and maintain a strong culture in a remote or hybrid work environment:
1. Have a strong interview process
When you had a physical office environment, you could detect a bad hire from their poor attitude at the water cooler. Now, you must get that same sense of your team’s work ethic and values primarily over Zoom, Slack or email. A poor performer will still show themselves as such, but it is vital that you hire employees who embody the same values you and your company have and are excited to grow with your team. Big egos have a way of self-selecting themselves out of firms and they will likely make themselves apparent during the interview process. But I don’t rely on my intuition alone, and neither should you. Ask those prodding questions to get at what the person’s core values are regarding teamwork, respect and other important values your ideal hire must have. See to what extent the person can be trained and mentored in your way of doing things. If they are inflexible and seemingly incapable of change, then that’s a clue they are likely not for you.
2. Regularly meet with your staff
It’s easy in a hectic work schedule when you are trying to serve your clients to delay or cancel staff meetings in lieu of doing client work. But that sacrifices an essential part of your company culture. Your team must get time with you and other leaders at your firm face-to-face, and when that is deprioritized it loses its power as an opportunity to build camaraderie and motivate team members. That being said, team meetings need not detract from serving your clients. Make sure to use your staff’s time wisely and prepare an agenda that accomplishes the main objectives of the meeting, to motivate, encourage, and align with your team on your firm’s goals.
3. Have clearly defined career paths
People will go along for the ride with you and your vision so long as they can see themselves and where their future is in that plan. They need to know that in a certain number of years, provided that person has met or exceeded their predetermined goals, they will achieve the next rung on the ladder that has been laid out before them. Firms with more amorphous growth plans tend to frustrate talented employees, resulting in staff who are eager for a raise or promotion leaving due to the feeling that it may never come.
One thing my firm does with great success is to have each of our staff complete a Birkman assessment – a researched-based analysis of a person’s professional strong suits – before being hired. We find this helpful because we know what their strengths are before they join. It serves the dual purposes of preventing us from hiring an operations person that could not remain organized, for instance. It also allows us to see how to best leverage people’s skillsets because we’re aware of what would otherwise be “hidden talents.”
As we think about the future of our work and home environments becoming ever more intertwined, remember that many of your younger hires will have lived out most of their careers in a remote-work setting. It is incumbent upon those of us in financial services and other sectors to figure out how to offer training and mentorship opportunities for younger and newer staff. They are the future, and the culture we create must honor that in how the torch is passed down to the next generation of financial advisors.
Craig Stuvland is CEO of tru Independence, an open-architecture platform that provides financial advisors with a full suite of business services needed to operate independently.