In the US at the moment, there’s a great deal being written about the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ – the perception that millions of employees are quitting their current roles in search of a more meaningful existence, with the pandemic/lockdown acting as a ‘great catalyst’ to the choices that are being made.
While there’s no doubting that staff turnover is higher than we might necessarily have seen prior to the pandemic, it’s also the case that large numbers of employees don’t necessarily want to leave their current job, but they do want to be given a greater degree of flexibility in the way they work.
This is also a major consideration for those looking for new roles, and it presents advice firms and their owners with as much as a challenge as it does for those in other sectors.
If it’s any consolation, this is not just an issue within our industry, it is right across the economy. While on holiday just recently, I got chatting to a woman in a coffee shop who happened to work in HR, and it quickly became clear to me the challenges being faced across all manner of sectors in terms of ongoing recruitment, weighing up the needs of both firms and employees, and how best to hold onto staff given this new environment.
The new needs juggling act
Many of our AR firms are ambitious and want to grow their adviser base in order to meet growing demand, however in talking to them, I also know they are finding it somewhat tricky to navigate through this new jobs’ environment, to meet their own needs while meeting those of both new and existing staff.
Why might this be the case? Well, it’s clear that the pandemic has shifted the argument. The perception that working from home “won’t work for my business” has effectively been blown out of the water because it had to work, and from the anecdotal evidence I have seen, it did work and it continues to work for many firms.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want every single employee working at home permanently. Far from it. I know of one firm who want all new advisers to be working permanently out of their offices. I know others who are happy to have a hybrid option available; indeed, if you look at job vacancy adverts nowadays you are increasingly seeing this offered as part of the ‘package’.
Other firms want staff in the office a minimum of two/three days a week; others want employees to be able to attend meetings/training face-to-face but conduct the ‘bread and butter’ of their work from home/remotely. Some firms simply don’t have the office space any more to accommodate all staff; others are adding more office space with the intention of having employees working predominantly from the office.
At the moment, there is no right and wrong in this regard, and firms have to do what is best for them. However, what I would say, is that you have to weigh up your needs, with those you currently (or want to) employ, and if that individual/candidate wants a certain environment, you will have to make a decision about whether you are tied to a way of working, or you are willing to meet their demands and needs.
Managing the genie
As mentioned, this is a not a problem unique to advisory firms, it is happening right across the board, particularly in traditionally office-based environments. And it is going to continue to be an issue because effectively the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to not working full-time in an office, and the benefits this has brought many people, coupled with the requirements of the firm and indeed, of the individual itself.
In that sense, a hybrid option might be the best course of action. Working from home/remotely can take away some of the key issues people have with, for example, commuting in every day and travel time, not seeing family enough, potentially having a better work/life balance, etc.
However, if this is full-time, we must recognise that we take away some of the key benefits of working together in one place with other people, particularly in terms of team-building, the social aspects of work, building relationships, engaging with people face-to-face, managing and leading people.
All very hard to do when staff are working remotely. Plus, there is a real mental health issue to discuss here, in terms of isolation, potential loneliness, etc. How much more difficult is it to engage and interact with colleagues if you only ever see them on a screen?
Also, be aware that you are unlikely to be the only option on the table? Have a look at what your competitors might be offering to both new and existing staff. Is hybrid working on the table from them? Or are they insisting on employees being in the office? Again, you have to weigh up what you feel you might need, with the fact that you are not an island in this marketplace.
It may well suit you to go in with an open mind. What is the person you employ, or you’re interviewing, looking for? Maybe they’d rather be self-employed – a lot of advisers are? Could that work for you? Maybe they want to be in an office? Maybe they don’t? If not, why not? Can you find a compromise?
Appreciate that everyone is different and recognise that what might have been the standard just a couple of years ago, has now shifted. You can make this work, but it might need for you to think a little differently about the ways and means by which you can do it.
Lesley Sharkey is recruitment director at Stonebridge