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Advisor Insights

Moving to Culture 2.0

Do you have an employee retention problem? It's probably your culture.

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While wealth management firms continue to cling to the archaic assets-under-management-style formula of upward mobility and service to clients, they're losing the talent wars because they don't understand what their own employees want and need.

It might seem like a small problem now, but what happens when retirement hits for your longtime staff, and the increasingly diverse pool of talent isn't swayed by large salaries alone?

As business management pioneer Peter Drucker said, "culture eats strategy for breakfast."

As we ease back into our offices, organizations have an incredible opportunity to hit the reset button. We are currently at a pivotal moment when we can change the inner workings of our industry with a little reorganization and a lot of forward thinking.

It's time to face the music. What have wealth management firms done and what will they do to close the workplace culture gap?

We're at a Crossroads

After a year of working in a virtual environment, employees have had a lot of time to reconcile what a work-life balance truly means to them. They have taken on second full-time jobs of becoming teachers to their children and caregivers to their parents. Like all of us, they have experienced firsthand "what truly matters."

The refrain of "you are more than just your job" is echoing loudly.

So when their company cultures are no longer aligned with their personal values, employees are making a quick decision to pull the plug and seek opportunities elsewhere, opening the gates to a mass resignation. When 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021, The New York Times headline read "How Do They Say Economic recovery? 'I quit.'"

Welcome to what I'm calling "Culture 2.0."

Understanding the Current Landscape

The racial reckoning of 2020 continues to reverberate across the country, weaving its way into important and transformative workplace discussions.

Corporations and companies have been forced to look in the mirror and ask serious questions, perhaps for the first time, including:

  • What are we doing to eliminate barriers of entry into our industry?
  • What are we doing to promote an empathetic, diverse work culture?
  • How are the barriers of systematic and systemic racism being discussed and handled in our industry?

But have they?

Chief Executive and the Society for Human Resource Management recently conducted a study where CEOs were asked, "In which area would you like your CHRO (chief human relations officer) to deliver more value?" The answers were not promising for the development of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Only 29% wanted their CHROs to leverage people data to prevent significant workplace culture issues, and 38% thought they should focus on sourcing talent from alternative places.

If change is going to take place on a national scale, we need to educate leaders on the importance of DEI in the workplace and how it can benefit their overall goals.

Moving Forward, With Purpose

Getting the attention of leaders is only the beginning of a long list of hurdles to make our workplaces more inclusive, diverse, and sustainable.

Although organizations will employ different strategies based on their location, size, and operational structure, there is an incredible amount of opportunity that they can all tap into.

In this respect, there are a handful of mantras that I believe can move us forward:

  • Listen to understand, not to respond: Many times we need to lend an ear so that others can unload, even if we don't have an answer, and especially not to level-set with an experience of our own.
  • Appreciate that information that needs to be shared, must first be received: When communicating with your team members, take into account the external influences that might be impeding their ability to comprehend your message.
  • Add your values to your calendar: Akin to exercising or seeing friends, you'll schedule the things that are important, not just urgent. Be sure that DEI efforts are on the list.

More pointedly, organizations should consider:

  • The real ways that systematic and systemic oppression have impacted our society and the workplace. Are our colleagues diverse? Are our clients?
  • Consider the caregiving roles of women, in particular. Virtual environments have made it easier for them to thrive amid an increasingly large workload and stressful family period of time. Try to understand why they might not be rushing to return to the office.
  • While many of us have faced Zoom fatigue, consider how the mental health of employees of color might receive a boost from working from home. Imagine the freedoms many of our diverse colleagues feel without having to face the daily stress of microaggressions over their appearance or cultural preferences.

The Time Is Now

It's simple: Organizations must work hard against the forced entrepreneurship culture where smart, talented, and able employees say: I know I can do it better than you, so I will.

If you have already begun to feel the repercussions of the Great Resignation, ask why. Gather information on the employees who prefer to work virtually and understand what the non-negotiables are. Look for compromise.

When employees recommit, continue to help them forge their career paths so they know you are committed to their futures, alongside that of the company.

Let them know that you see them in your client base: an ever-increasing mosaic of new cultures, beliefs, and values that can find their place in the American Dream.

Above all, continue to find new ways to lead with an eye to DEI efforts.

The time is now for wealth management firms to leverage their decades of growth and innovation and re-examine their current culture in service to their staff and clients.

If you left 2020 without a good look in the mirror, make sure you don't do the same in 2021.

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP is the co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving first-generation wealth-builders, entrepreneurs, and thriving professionals. Dorsainvil also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.