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Need a Human Resources Strategy? Start with These 6 Best Practices

Does merely the idea of developing a human resources strategy make you want to run for the hills? You’re not alone; many independent advisors simply don’t view it as a priority. For small firms, however, a human resources strategy can mean big rewards.

The team and culture you build as a result of that strategy can affect everything from how your staff interact with one another to how you collectively serve your clients. In addition, having the right employees doing the right jobs can go a long way toward building a more
efficient, profitable, and scalable practice.

So, if you’re creating a program from the ground up, what should it look like? Here are a few best practices to have in your back pocket as you establish your human resources strategy—whether you’re hiring a dedicated human resources professional or managing the
responsibilities yourself.

Job Description

1) Develop Job Descriptions with Clear Expectations

Every role in your organization—from administrative to C-suite level and lead advisor positions—should have an accurate and up-to-date job description that’s reviewed at least annually. Job descriptions are the workhorses of the human resources function because they serve multiple purposes, including:

  • Helping ensure that staff members understand responsibilities and expectations

  • Guiding compensation structure and decisions

  • Providing insight into organizational structure and helping identify where there may be deficits or overlaps of functions

  • Serving as a baseline for measuring performance and development

  • Helping recruit new staff into roles

The bottom line? When everyone is on the same page, it helps the whole team be successful.


2) Institute a Formal Performance Appraisal Process

Employee reviews are essential to ensuring that staff have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them, as well as how they’re doing. This process can help drive staff satisfaction and encourage development. Your human resources function should design this appraisal process, including developing a rating system and specific criteria for helping you assess performance. You might implement a four-point scale like this, for example:

  1. Needs development

  2. Meets expectations most of the time

  3. Meets or exceeds expectations

  4. Consistently exceeds expectations/raises the bar

Remember, though, simply discussing performance once per year isn’t enough. Consider
meeting with your employees at least monthly to provide ongoing feedback and try to engage in an informal discussion on specific topics that you and the employee agree to ahead of time. That way, when you conduct the annual review, there won’t be any surprises.


3) Keep Pace with Compensation Trends

Compensation is integral to employee satisfaction and retention, so it’s essential that your human resources function stay on top of industry trends and standards through research and data from formal studies. With all the chatter about “the great resignation,” along with recruiters and other outside influences enticing people to change jobs, keeping on trend with compensation could be a critical factor in maintaining staff. Many advisors adjust salary annually, and you can find ways to research compensation trends for your roles. In addition to purchasing industry studies, you can explore sites such as to research salaries based on similar jobs in your area.

Staff Development

4) Commit to Staff Development

Employees need to learn and grow; otherwise, they may feel stagnant and unchallenged. Why not consider sending your staff to industry-specific training, covering certification fees, offering tuition reimbursement, providing a local membership to a professional association, or paying for online classes?

On a simpler level, encourage staff to read industry publications to stay current. Keep in mind that for every learning opportunity, there should be action steps and an implementation strategy to apply that learning to the employee’s position.


5) Foster a Culture That Motivates Employees

Employees often work for more than just a paycheck. A positive, inclusive work environment and culture of belonging matter. As a small firm, you may feel you can’t match what a larger firm offers, but the experience you provide for your staff can make them feel like they’re part of a team and the work they’re doing is meaningful. A human resources program helps you achieve this by implementing motivational tools that reinforce positive behaviors and recognize jobs well done. Think about ways to surprise and delight your employees, creating the kind of experience you aim to deliver to your A clients.

Here are a few elements to consider integrating into your program:

  • Celebrate wins and thank employees with a handwritten note.

  • Let staff leave early on Fridays during the summer.

  • Offer a paid day of volunteer time off (VTO).

  • Provide lunch once per month.

  • Give employees the day off for their birthday.

  • Take the time to get to know employees and connect with them.


6) Be Accessible

Whether your staff is experienced or new to your firm, it’s important that you make yourself
available to them. Your employees need to feel a connection to your firm—and you are that link. Why not conduct a five-minute stand-up meeting every morning? It’s a great way to quickly review what’s on everyone’s calendar for the day. It also allows you to work with staff to prioritize tasks. Another idea is to block time on your calendar for questions. By scheduling this time for queries or other discussions, it eliminates interruptions, allowing everyone to stay focused on the task at hand.

Worth the Effort

Creating a human resources strategy and getting a program up and running may seem
daunting, but implementing some or all of these practices can help make it much more manageable. And, if you commit to defining expectations, enhancing the work experience and environment, and developing staff, you’ll likely end up with a more productive and, ultimately, more profitable firm.



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