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Hiring and Empowering an Assistant

11 Aug 2017
Hiring and Empowering an Assistant

Adding people to your team can be daunting, but the benefits of having additional assistance with your business will be worth it if you hire – and train – correctly.

“If financial professionals are so consumed by clerical administrative tasks and paperwork that they aren’t able to focus on growing their business, they need to consider hiring an assistant,” said Laurie Burkhard, senior business consultant at Securities America

Job Description

All hiring decisions should begin by sketching an organizational chart mapped out by function, not individuals. Financial professionals should include all duties associated with various business tasks including marketing, sales, compliance, money management, office and administrative duties, and the estimated time it takes to complete those duties. This will provide an overview of duties not being fulfilled by current staff, and duties to be included on the job description for a new hire.

One of the mistakes financial professionals often make while hiring an assistant is they hire for the person and try to mold them into the position, instead of finding the need for a position, defining the duties required in the job description and then hiring a person who best fits the job description.

Clear job descriptions serve multiple purposes. They define the roles and responsibilities of the job and give applicants a realistic job preview of expectations. Job descriptions can also be used to train new employees, used in appraisal of employees’ performance or used to write “help wanted” ads and interview questions. They can also be used as legal protection should an employee later state they are being required to do work they never intended to do.

“The job description is the whole foundation of the hiring process,” Burkhard said. “Your new hire’s entire career will center on this living, breathing document that should be updated regularly.”

Posting the Job Opening

Once your job description is complete, you are ready to begin recruiting. Your first goal is to build an applicant pool of qualified candidates. According Burkhard, this is where all the tough work begins, and financial professionals need to go into the recruiting and hiring process with realistic expectations.

“With hiring it takes two, to three, to four times longer than financial professionals ever anticipate,” Burkhard said. “Many financial professionals think when they want to hire someone, they can just put out an ad and have them start in two weeks. That is not the case.”

Financial professionals should plan to spend at least two months working through the hiring process if they hope to find the best candidate to fill the needed position. Burkhard warns financial professionals from taking shortcuts, such as asking clients for referral candidates.

“While it may sound like a good idea, I always advise against hiring someone referred to you by a client,” Burkhard said. “If things don’t work out, how do you let go of your client’s relative or friend? It just makes a bad situation for everyone.”

Placing an ad in the local newspaper used to be the most common source for job recruitment and depending on where you live and the labor market, this may still be a good starting point. But newspaper ads can be expensive – anywhere from $500 to $1,700 for a one-time slot.

While Internet sites can save you time and money and reach an expanded pool of interested candidates easily, there are many disadvantages to consider before posting a job opening online: Half of all visitors to job boards are just browsing and are not seriously considering changing jobs; more unqualified candidates will apply because it is easy to do so and it can be more time consuming to review and respond to applicants.

The Interview Process

Once you’ve narrowed down your pool of candidates, it’s time to begin the interview process. When managing an interview, set the tone from the beginning and keep to a strict schedule.

“Your objective is to gain information about the candidate regarding the fit of his or her knowledge, skills and abilities to do the job,” Burkhard said. “Make sure all the questions are job related, and stick to asking only open-ended questions that are situational or behavioral. Be sure to listen to the candidate. Pause and wait for responses and do not give too much feedback. You want to hear what the candidate truly believes, not a regurgitation of your own thoughts.”

Focus on the applicant’s work background and educational experiences, encouraging the applicant to be as specific as possible about the duties of his or her previous jobs. Avoid biases that can lead to discrimination. Don’t ask an applicant about marital status, child care, disabilities, pregnancies or citizenship. Instead ask about work ethic, ability to be on time, to perform essential job functions with or without accommodation, career goals and if hired, can the candidate supply proof of eligibility to work within the United States.

Training and Development

The final step of the hiring process actually comes after the applicant is officially an employee, but it is the most crucial component. Training and development of new employees from day one is essential to adding the right people to your team,” Burkhard said. “The key is to train on what you expect with good, open feedback on those expectations. Doing so will most likely guarantee you will have a long-term, loyal employee.”

In the short-term, Burkhard suggests you provide the basic fundamentals to your new hire so he or she can be successful in the current position. This step usually tends to focus on tasks and behaviors you expect daily. In the long-term you will focus more on development, providing training and support to the new hire to develop skills to be successful both in current and future roles. This step focuses more on skills and abilities.

“Some financial professionals have a tendency to do the baptism by fire technique of training,” Burkhard said. “Here’s your desk, here’s a computer, have fun! That’s not really going to help in the long run.”

Having a set training and development plan for new hires before they even begin will save you a lot of time and potential frustration later. Training plans set clear expectations for employees so they know what knowledge, skills and abilities are required for the job, both in the beginning and in the future, and what training support tools are available for them to grow.

“You have to have a plan, so don’t just wing it,” Burkhard said. “Have at least a two-week training agenda that includes the most important tasks to be completed even before your new hire begins. This shows you care about what they do and how they do it. Then, explore what training and development opportunities are available from your broker-dealer, your branch, within the local community and professional organizations to show you want to see them grow in their position and set them up for success.”

Reinforce the value of training and development by allowing paid time for training, budgeting for employee training sessions and providing incentives for skill development. Follow up with employees to show interest in their growth and request feedback from what they learned that could be implemented into your business.

“Tell, show, do,” Burkhard said. “Tell them how to do the task. Show them how to do the task, then have them do the task while telling you what they are doing. Then, 24 hours later, do it all over again. Don’t do something once and call it good. Repetition will reinforce the knowledge and help it stick in their long-term memory.”

To meet expectations, employees need to know exactly what those expectations are from the start, beginning with the job description of a help-wanted advertisement. From there you build the entire hiring process around what is required, from interview questions to training and development, to help your employees develop the skills needed to meet all expectations. You are responsible for achieving results through your staff. Careful planning of hires to meet your business goals will help you hire the best candidate available, and an effective hiring process will reinforce your business’s goals and strategy. Reinforcement of those goals through training and development will leave you with a valued office team member, ready to assist you in growing your business.

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