The number one asset and conundrum in our business models today; TALENT.
How to source, retain, and incentivize all levels of talent will remain top-of-mind for small businesses
and boardrooms as financial services evolves.
There is no need to mention the past simplicity of managing talent. People were hired, grew at a certain
pace based on the person and company, and at some point, retired for a calmer lifestyle. Today,
complexity reigns with our talent and will metastasize with everything from fewer employee entrants to
Now is the time to execute strong incentivization to enhance and sustain top talent in our businesses.
Talent means people (for now) and as the Depeche Mode song clearly states; people are people. That
means incentivizing is not as easy as a few more dollars and better coffee in the breakroom.
Developing true incentivization models is a business development strategy that will pay dividends for
Incentivize by definition is simple; provide someone (something in the not-so-distant future) with an
incentive for doing something. Easy. Not so fast. All a business must do is add in the word behavioral
to know this means many things to different people.
There are three core incentive types we believe should be cornerstones for today’s financial services
Education is empowerment. Empowering our employees to feel competitive and ahead of
the marketplace. With ongoing peer competition and forthcoming artificial intelligence, learning
advancement through education is crucial. Education is enhancing to the person and the business at
the same time. Education is not an expense, rather an investment in the employee and the future
growth of the business. Often, we hear two rebuttals many business owners adhere to in NOT
implementing core educational platforms: cost and time.
The cost of secondary education has gone down drastically in the past 10 years and has improved in
quality at the same time. From basic office personnel training on subjects like CRMs and grammar
skills to advanced designations or coding learning, competition for education dollars continues to
benefit the candidate and the business footing the bill.
“If my employee is educating, they are not spending time in the business”. A scheduled systematic
approach to education will debit the business some in the near-term, but the enhancements exhilarated
from the education will far outweigh the time investment long-term. Some businesses may decide to
further incentivize if education is completed during non-office hours.
Everyone knows the adage “Time is Money”. If time were marked-to-market its trendline would
be due north. Time is more valuable today as families are more diverse and schedules are
inconsistent. Searching for an extra few minutes of time for an employee’s favorite things to do could
be the simplest and least expensive incentive available to the firm.
Time as an incentive does not necessarily mean time off. Many will appreciate paid time off, or slightly
adjusted work schedules. For example, a random hour off early for completion of certain project
deadlines will go a long way.
However, consistency in time also matters considerably. The complexities of personal, business, and
family life dictate randomness which may impact performance. In financial services, consistency in work
hours is usual but may change as markets adjust to consumer’s needs. Providing regular scheduling or
a certain day of the week as “completely off” may provide added-value. Chick-fil-A is an example of a
closed-day model that has proven increased productivity and profitability over its peer competitors
based on the idea of firmness. University of California researchers worked with Gap stores in two cities
to test productivity efficiencies based on employee scheduling. Results showed test-store sales rose 7%
with regular associate work schedules, which means millions of dollars per month across a company
the size of Gap.
The third incentive is Consistency itself.
Consistency creates business models that allow the employee to contribute to the highest degree and
experience the value of their input via firm success. Nothing is worse to an employee than firm
inconsistency. Inconsistency in processes, goals, and even management or ownership behavior can
drastically impact employee morale and motive.
The famous Forrest Gump opined “life is like a box of chocolates”. To some readers that induces
excitement. Randomness can make for a lively life. Employees, however, are not necessarily
programmed the same way as entrepreneurs. They understand the Forrest Gump quote but want the
little candy map that comes with the box of chocolates.
A timely example of sporadic inconsistency is regularly exhibited within our federal government. Policy
and personnel changes happen intra-day in some cases. This can cause immediate strife and anxiety
which almost always leads to non-optimized results.
One common denominator to all this commentary is care. The one incentive that seeps through the
most successful financial services enterprises is care.
Care is not difficult but can be sniffed out in seconds by most employees. You may struggle with the
right balance of incentive and try multiple ideas before getting it right. However, employees will remain,
grow, and want to do their best for a hierarchy that cares. Care is inexpensive. Care can be as simple
as a weekly meeting whereby you are listening to the needs and ideas of your people. Care can be a gift
card to buy random dinner for your employee. Care may be remembering an anniversary or birthday
and sending a simple card.
Money may make the world go round’, but it is rarely the true incentive driving tomorrow’s top
performers. Take time to examine your incentive structure and seek the right counsel in designing your
firm’s best practices.