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As planners, part of our job is to help clients overcome their decision inertia by reducing any complexity and uncertainty that may exist. This helps them feel confident that they are likely to achieve their desired outcome just by regularly doing everything laid out in their financial plan.

The same is true when it comes to the talent at our firms: When we are able to help each staff member overcome their own doubts and reach their professional and personal goals, our business succeeds.

The first part of this success formula — helping clients — is taught in every CFP program. However, there isn’t a complete course on how to help our staff members reach their own goals. And if you can’t succeed at both parts of the formula, your business growth may stall and your firm may stagnate.

So what are successful firms doing to assure they’re overcoming uncertainty and complexity for their own staff members, and developing effective to-do lists that will help their people grow?

Many small businesses today struggle to create a coherent plan or framework for developing their staff. To overcome this deficit, our own company program focuses on the personal goals of our staff members, as well as professional development and performance.

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Our multifaceted plan for each employee challenges them to describe in detail their one-, three- and five-year life goals, both personal and professional.

To draw from one example of melding the personal and professional, a CFP working on our planning team is mentored by a senior professional who was hired from a law firm, where he was a partner and their estate planning expert. The mentee set a goal to attend law school.

His personal and professional goals aligned with the company values and goals, so he’s now at law school while still working for the firm.

Advisory firms may have performance measurement systems, but most have no human capital development programs. At Savant, advisers discuss objectives in the following areas: client experience and care; business development; community involvement; networking and centers of influence involvement; personal development; professional development; and job specific competencies.

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Personal development metrics include reading both professional and non-industry- specific books, attending conferences and industry meetings for peer-to-peer networking and other individually developed objectives.

Job-specific competencies are for those who grow by managing others. Objectives and metrics include creativity, persistence, problem solving, work planning, attitude, self-organization and, where appropriate, managerial effectiveness and persuasiveness.

Our firm objectives include sharing intellectual capital or best practices through presentations, adviser communication meetings and committee assignments.

At most firms in our industry, salary is generally not the daily motivator.

Community involvement includes working with a local philanthropic organization, with a focus on the position worked and the number of hours volunteered each year.

One of our employees, a mother who works full-time at home, is active with our volunteering program and was tasked with calling around organizations to verify Savant employees were appearing for volunteer duties. At first, the work seemed "mundane," she wrote in a report. But now, she continued, "I can easily say that most employees dedicate WAY more than the 25 minimum hours required for the grant. As I look at the list of grants and the number of hours that we dedicate to organizations and missions we are passionate about, it makes me very proud to be an employee here, knowing we truly are building ideal futures in many ways — even outside of financial planning and investing."

It’s worth it to note that, at most firms in our industry, salary is generally not the daily motivator. Rather, it’s the emotional satisfaction of having done a good job by helping someone else, whether it’s a client or colleague or member of the broader community.

How should this work in your firm? Develop a framework that looks at topical areas, and modify them to reflect the strategic direction and needs of your firm. Don‘t ignore personal development areas. If you get stuck, engage an HR professional or consultant to help you complete your planning guide. Everyone in your firm will be glad you made this effort, and the positive results should make it well worth the time spent.

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