Adviser's Consultant: Create work environment that makes greatest employees want to stay

Think outside the box when it comes to employee benefits and flexibility

Jun 6, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

By Liz Skinner

Clarissa Hobson
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Clarissa Hobson

Clarissa Hobson knows that the best way to hold on to her firm's star employees is to provide flexibility that offers them the chance to enjoy fulfilling lives outside the office.

“To some degree it's generational, but even interns today ask for time off to volunteer,” said Ms. Hobson, senior financial planning adviser for Carnick & Kubik.

She and other leaders of the Denver-based advisory firm know they will breed loyalty by loosening requirements about set hours employees are required to work and, in some cases, the location as well.

With fully networked systems, many people can be just as productive toiling from home or at other remote locations once in a while, she said.

That flexibility, even for just a few days a month, can allow someone to handle life's curve balls — like a broken refrigerator or air conditioning system — and still get the day's work done, Ms. Hobson said.

It's more common than ever to have two parents working, so firms with policies that seem to understand this are attractive to potential employees.

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In the end, it's better for the firm to keep a good employee than have to hire a new one.

“Hiring is really hard work and finding the right cultural fit is not easy,” Ms. Hobson said.

Providing employees with excellent training and a career path that shows how advancement can work at the firm are two other ways to reassure them that they are a valuable part of the team, she said.

Firms also should examine their benefits package and think creatively about what employees might appreciate.

In addition to traditional health care and insurance benefits that Carnick and Kubik offers, it allows employees to bring their pets to work and keeps on-hand any beverages that employees request.

(More: RIAs are losing their competitive advantage)

Ms. Hobson encourages firms to ask employees which benefits they care most about because the answers may be surprising. For instance, an adviser at another firm told her that executives asked their employees to rate how much they valued different benefits that were provided, and employees didn't even mention the health insurance that the firm was covering for themselves and their families.

Tip Sheet

- Think outside the box when it comes to what benefits employees might embrace. One New York firm brings in a masseuse once a month.

- Cultivate a culture that encourages support among employees. At Carnick and Kubik, employees are happy to pick up the slack for each other because they know they'll receive the same support.

(More: Have founderitis? Learn to let go)

- Develop and discuss career paths for all positions at the firm so that everyone recognizes the opportunities within the business and the steps that can propel them forward.

- Offer flexibility to employees to allow them to have full lives outside their work. This will mean something different to every star employee so figure out what's really important to each.

- Flexibility, though, shouldn't be limitless. Policies and expectations should be formalized, especially as a firm grows.

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