Blog Post

Business Strategy

Don't let the stuff distract from your main game

Terry-Bell's avatar
Icon for Advisely Partner rankAdvisely Partner
5 months ago

There's so much "stuff" happening and the goal posts seem to keep moving. Is it any wonder that many of us are feeling a tad disengaged, uncertain of the path ahead and a little stressed?

It’s no surprise that against a global background of political, economic and societal change, we’re noticing increasing levels of disengagement in business – between employer, employee, clients, service providers and so on. 

We notice it every day in the advice firms we work with. It’s not something new (and it certainly doesn’t indicate a failing) and it’s something that most of these firms are working hard at overcoming.

According to the most recent Business Health analysis, the average Australian advice practice employs six staff (including two advisers), has a sole working owner, serves around 500 clients and is currently juggling relationships with multiple manufacturers and service providers (many of whom are facing similar challenges of their own). This is a tough gig at the best of times, and one in which "disengagement" remains a perennial threat.  

Here’s what some of our clients are doing to address potential disengagement in their business;

First up, these owners are both optimistic and pragmatic; they fully appreciate the impact of hybrid working.

Returning to the office is causing stress for many – for the employees who feel they have lost something they really value (flexibility, life balance) and gained higher commute costs. For the employer, its desire to require more office attendance is causing some concern through staff resentment, push-back and, in some situations, staff leaving.

As much as they can, they try to do practical things to alleviate these stress points. For example:

  • ­They have determined their remote working policy and communicated it to staff, clients, alliance partners, recruiters – anyone who connects to their business.

  • ­ They keep abreast of the latest remuneration and employment trends.

  • ­ They proactively check in with staff on an ad hoc basis. They ask. "How’s things? How are you going?" It's unstructured and personal (and in-person, if possible). 

  • ­ Complementing the "how’s things" calls, these principals look to keep on top through anonymous and confidential staff feedback surveys. In doing so, they have signalled their desire to listen, accept and act as required.

  • For them, "remote" doesn’t mean "disconnected".

People management 101 is applied consistently for every staff member who, as a result, has an up-to-date job description supported by a clearly-defined set of objectives (measurable, achievable, reasonable) and whose performance is reviewed and appraised at least once every 12 months.

These firms have documented their key systems and processes. This allows the owners to objectively assess productivity and overall performance of each staff person in a way that is measurable, reasonable and achievable, irrespective of where they’re working from.

Communication has become one of the key weapons in their armory for engagement. Self-evident, we know, but communication really works – as long as it's frequent, meaningful and personal.

Apart from the regular team work-in-progress style meetings, the owner looks to reference the bigger picture by providing "state of the nation" updates (involving all staff) at least once a year (half-yearly is better) to share progress towards business goals. In doing so, they have recognized that there’s less stress in knowing, not assuming.

And the tone of their conversation is positive, uplifting and collaborative. Their glass is invariably half full.

The owner strives to incorporate the positives and wins into these meetings. They open with something that went well and call out specific examples of the good work being done by team members. This is also a good place for them to recognise team anniversaries, achievements and client kudos.

It’s better to work in a happy, fun environment, right? Here’s how some of our clients are going the extra mile to recognise and engage with their people:

  •  ­Allow staff to bring their pets into the office.

  •  Offer subsidised fitness/gym memberships and health programs.

  •  Recognition of outstanding work/achievement (i.e. gift cards, all-expenses-paid dinner, anniversary awards of two weeks' pay after five years and one month of pay every five years thereafter.
  • Support for local community causes and volunteerism. Some firms offer unlimited vacation time for charity work.

  • Mobile masseurs.
  • Establish a "fun committee" with allocated budget (and some ground rules) and let their people decide.

Rounding off our top 'engager' tips: when hiring, hire slow and hire the right person (think culture and fit. not just competency). Also, intervene quickly if you observe behaviours that don’t suit your business (culture-killers, dropping standards) and be ready to move fast – discuss, address and implement an acceptable solution.

For your consideration.

Updated 5 months ago
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