Ask anyone responsible for recruiting, hiring and managing people and they will tell you that we are definitely living in interesting times. As an industry, wealth management is facing a shortage of key talent, despite being an attractive sector that is growing and has all of the aspects for being a great place to work – excellent salaries, good benefits, flexibility and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. The lack of skilled candidates is resulting in many advisory firms finding that attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent is becoming a top management issue.

According to a recent survey by Schwab and TD Ameritrade, over 37% of advisors say finding talent is a top concern as firms are growing. In order to support this growth, advisory firms are looking to add new back-office and advisor staff to continue to be able to support their high-touch service models; however, they are having a difficult time doing so and potentially missing out on growth and profitability opportunities as a result.

What can firms do? In my experience as the HR executive for Mercer Advisors with over 700 employees, we are seeing the following strategies and tactics help – not only to find and hire great talent, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, to retain your top performers.

When recruiting talent, it is critical to know and understand your competition and how you differentiate your firm. This is important as prime candidates now have more choices than ever, as it seems that just about everyone is hiring, not only for skilled positions in wealth management, but also in the broader professional services industry. Being able to elegantly articulate your differences will be key in convincing candidates to join your firm versus the shop down the street (or the one willing to let you work virtually). Along these lines, being able to explain, beyond compensation, the key factors, culture and opportunities that make your company such a great place to work will go a long way in closing the deal as more people are looking to grow their careers in ways that don’t necessarily involve money.

As a result of this escalating competition for talent, firms need to expand their reach to find the right people for the jobs at hand. Particularly in this remote-work environment, perhaps the best candidate may not be local, but can be an effective contributor at a distance through today’s workplace technologies. One way to expand your search to help find these outstanding professionals is to arm yourself with both internal and contract recruiters to increase the pool of candidates in your search.

Once you do find a great candidate, be ready and able to make an offer quickly. Things move fast in today’s job market, so the best policy is to strike while the iron is hot and gain commitment so your top prospect doesn’t get scooped up by someone else, simply because of a bureaucratic delay. There are significant costs for delays in the recruiting process, not only from missing out on growth opportunities, but also for alleviating internal morale issues from burnout current employees are experiencing due to understaffing.

On the other side of the coin, it has become critical for firms to be able to retain their existing staff so that they don’t worsen their recruiting challenges. A good place to start is with employment engagement surveys so you gain key insight into the sentiment of staff and identify the issues that may become future retention problems. At the same time, these surveys will uncover where your highest levels of engagement are so that you can leverage those in your internal communications and job prospect messaging. If you’re a small business and don’t have the resources or expertise to conduct an engagement survey on your own, consider hiring an outside consultant to help frame and execute on the project; and then, even more critical, assist your team in taking action on the results.

When it comes to compensation, make sure your employees understand their total compensation: base, incentives, equity, benefits, time off for charitable causes, etc. Some of the best firms are creating a total rewards statement to communicate this in more detail. Arm your managers with tools like these to help explain this total compensation concept and show employees how this has grown over time.

As mentioned, it’s not always all about money for your best employees. Career growth is also a critical aspect for staff retention, so ensure you have career paths in your organization that are well defined, and that staff can see employees progress through them.

Communication is key for staff retention, particularly as they are potentially being inundated with calls from recruiters or offers to leave. As part of this approach, create a culture that celebrates employees and treats them with respect; find ways to be transparent in your communications, be open to feedback and follow up on questions that are raised.

Lastly, these past couple of years of work from home have been hard on everyone. Be sure to recognize this and find ways to create in-person connections now that things are opening up. Ultimately, we are still human, and humans need to feel a sense of community!

Martine Lellis is Chief Talent and Administrative Officer for Mercer Advisors, an SEC-registered investment advisor principally located in Denver, Colo., with various branch offices throughout the United States.

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