The number one challenge facing our industry continues to be Human Capital—how to retain people, how to find them and how to motivate them to do their best. If solutions to human capital dilemmas were easy, we would have solved them years ago, but (as we all know) they are anything but easy!
Our experience working with professional services firms has revealed much about the plight of trying to get a handle on human capital. While every firm has many great team members, they need even more great team members—and don’t have a clear plan for solving this predicament. Follow these steps and observe how a few simple improvements in team management can impact your human capital needs.
Step 1 - Share Vision-Driven Goals
Many firms establish well thought-out, visionary goals. Owners have spent hours working on these goals not only to escalate their firms’ positions each new year but also for the future. Too often, however, goals are mysteriously locked in a big "owner’s vault,” never to be shared. Firms that consistently reach their goals are those that succeed in retaining staff by sharing the owner’s vision with every employee.
Step 2 - Share Written Objectives And Action Plans
After revealing the overall vision and goals for the firm, you must follow-up by sharing objectives and action steps that illustrate HOW the firm will make these goals become a reality. Your team needs to know that the vision is not just "fluff.” They must see the action steps that support the big picture. Without objectives and action plans, the vision is just a dream and will be forgotten within a few days.
Step 3 - Allow Leadership
Even after sharing the vision, goals, objectives and action plans with the team, there is yet another step many firm owners forget to do – ask for and consider feedback! Emerging firm leaders will surface during this important exercise. They will be the ones who step up and get involved. Some will volunteer to be a part of a task force, others will ask questions that had not been considered and still others will volunteer some of their own team members. Watch for signs of emerging leadership, and encourage the growth of those who do rise to the challenge.
Step 4 - Demand Accountability
If a firm seriously intends to retain its current staff, it must demand accountability at every level. If team members are not accustomed to being held accountable for the way they perform, this may be a delicate exercise at first. Nevertheless, statistics prove that great employees respond best when told what is expected of them and are held accountable for those goals. Remember, individual goals and objectives must correlate with overall firm objectives. This will demonstrate to the team member exactly how he or she will help the firm succeed.
Step 5 - Develop A Team Environment
The saying "There is no I in team” is particularly relevant to today’s work environment. Firms need a diverse work force with men and women, a variety of cultural backgrounds, differing work styles and an ability to take the best of each person and mold it into a team that yields incredible results. Many owners are apt to hire "Mini Me’s” instead of luring talent that complements what’s already available within the firm. A team comprised of complementary skill sets will be much more productive and successful.
Step 6 - Hold Regular Meetings
One of the most important strategies for encouraging a team environment is to hold regular meetings. These do not have to be marathon events. In fact, many meetings may simply be short sprints. They must, however, be consistent. Make the effort to find a convenient time and add a recurring meeting for you and your team. Make certain that YOU attend. Remember, leadership begins with you.
Step 7 - Communicate Internally And Often
How many have heard that a manager should practice "management by walking around”? Most owners and managers of firms whom I know believe this is the best way to increase internal communication. Other firms use instant messaging, e-mail, weekly meetings with managers, etc. The point is, ongoing communication with each team member is imperative to the success of retaining staff. Don’t overlook what appears to be an obvious step to team success!
Step 8 - Encourage External Networking
When I ask successful owners to share the keys to their performance, they almost always suggest the ability to network with people outside of the firm. They want and need professional contacts who help them navigate the business world and push them to higher levels of service and professionalism. While some networking can be found internally through mentorship programs, having a professional network outside of the firm is highly beneficial on an individual and firm improvement level.
Step 9 - Consistently Update Your Progress
Each firm needs a "planner” to monitor its progress on executing its overall vision and goals and update the team on that progress. Without a person assigned to this task, good intentions will probably be lost along the way. Successful firms hold someone accountable to ensure that the overall plan is followed and that all team members are informed of its progress.
Step 10 - Celebrate!
This step is vital to the success of your team. Plan celebrations and make them fun! Celebrations do not have to "break the bank”—they should just be sincere, heartfelt and come directly from the ownership group. Don’t forget one of the most welcome celebration devices available today. It’s cheep and very easy to administer. Simply tell someone "thank you” when he or she has done something well. It is also the one thing that team members almost never hear!
Okay, there is your challenge. If you need help getting the process started, give me a call and I’ll help you navigate through some of the initial hurdles.