- Define success for your firm. What results do you wish to achieve? Let’s say you decide you want your firm to be more entrepreneurial. If so, you need to define what the term “entrepreneurial” means to your firm. Does it mean you want to expand your client base, or does it mean you intend to transform your firm into a high-energy, high-growth titan in the industry? Those are two very different definitions on different ends of the spectrum.
- Close the gap by clearly stating the direction in which your firm is heading and the resources required to get there. Ensure everyone on your team understands both. That will drive their decisions and close the gap between what they’re doing and what they think they should be doing.
- Communicate with and empower your staff. Ensure everyone is aware of your goals. I speak with a lot of human resources directors who tell me what they believe their firm needs. After talking through their challenges and discussing possible solutions, they usually end the conversation by telling me they need to talk with “the Principals” before they can make any decisions. There’s another gap. Some HR directors are treated as simple information hunter-gatherers. They’re instructed to find a solution to a vague problem and then report their findings to someone higher up in the organizational structure.
- Arming these professionals with a clear understanding of the firm’s long term goals, as well as the authority to make decisions regarding training programs (which they are usually expected to manage), will expedite the process and ensure the training is completed in a timely manner. Instead, companies waste precious time endlessly debating whether or not a program is right for the firm.
- Identify the underlying issues, not the symptoms. When a firm says they’re having a problem retaining talented people, one assumption is that they’re simply hiring the wrong people. They lament that their internal recruiting staff had failed to find the “right” people. In an attempt to close the gap, some leaders believe that better recruiters will solve their talent-bleeding problem. The gap here is the chasm between the perception about why talented people leave and the actual cause of the brain drain.
- Perhaps the firm has a much deeper problem. Perhaps the problem is rooted in the firm’s culture or pay and reward systems. An expert recruiter, no matter how talented she is, cannot overcome a weak firm. Who would want to stay with a firm that’s infected with passive-aggressive types or rewards longevity over performance? Of course, your best and brightest will leave; they’re miserable!
- Spending time to uncover the underlying issues is vital to your firm’s long-term health. An unbiased assessment of your entire firm may be necessary to find that root cause. Only after you’ve uncovered it can you begin to discuss solutions. Rubbing ointment on a rash will do nothing for you if the real reason for the rash is an allergic reaction to a medication you’re taking.
This article is from issue 1143 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.