Maximize Your Human Capital

Hire, motivate and retain top-shelf staff

By Jonathan Powell

Key Takeaways:

  • You need the help of qualified, motivated people—human capital—to achieve great success.
  • Consider hiring top job candidates as consultants first.
  • Communicate clearly with staff through regular meetings and status reports.
  • Your compensation should essentially convey the message, “If we’re successful, you’re successful.”
  • Evaluate staff using specific, measurable metrics that are directly related to job performance.

The best financial advisors know that true success cannot be achieved by acting alone. To build a world-class business, you need the help of qualified, motivated people—human capital—to get you there.

To fully leverage your human capital, you need to develop methods for systematically addressing key areas such as the following:

1. Hiring. Finding qualified staff is an ongoing challenge these days. In CEG Worldwide’s most recent survey of top-earning financial advisors, 70 percent said they are very or extremely concerned about finding qualified staff—and 90 percent are very or extremely concerned about retaining their high-performing staff members.

Use a hiring process that identifies individuals suitable for participation on your team. Start by writing a detailed description of the job and the type of person you would prefer in the position, and then identify the most likely places where such a person would be working in a similar job. When it comes time to approach these individuals, start with a brief phone interview. Then conduct an in-person interview with those you feel are the best fit.

Here’s a key step that most financial advisors miss: Consider hiring your best candidates as consultants first. You want to be able to see how they work under pressure. Hire likely candidates to draw up a proposal of how they are going to add the most value to your organization over the next 12 months. Give them two weeks to interview the team members with whom they are going to be working and a few of your clients. Then they should prepare a presentation for the group. This helps you evaluate not only their presentation skills, but also their ability to hit the ground running. You and your team can then evaluate the candidate, which creates a sense that everyone is involved in the process and part of the decision whether or not to hire the candidate.

2. Staff communication. You have to keep staff focused, committed and working together with passion to develop a strong team. Systematic communication is key to this. Consider creating a weekly status report that identifies the responsible players, the mission, the six-month goals and for what the firm will be accountable. List all specific action items that are in process and report on the status of each item, report any new issues that have come up, and record any major accomplishments as well as what was learned during the week.

Also hold weekly staff meetings, with the goal of arming the management team with information necessary to achieve your business plan. Agree on a process for dealing with each agenda item. Stay on track and manage time with vigor, always ending the meeting on time or earlier. End each meeting by reviewing the action items out loud to ensure there is agreement. A key assignment for each staff member is to ensure that the critical information from each meeting is communicated to all contributors in the firm so that everyone is always on the same page.

3. Compensation. Compensation must keep up with what is offered in the marketplace and must increase as a team member brings more value to the business. Otherwise it won’t be an incentive. Your compensation should essentially convey the message, “If we’re successful, you’re successful.” If your employees get to share in the rewards of the company, they’ll be more engaged in their work, more focused and better motivated to help you make the company successful.

Many elite financial advisory practices base compensation not on tenure but on performance, skills, productivity, knowledge and contribution. Individual compensation is variable and is often tied directly to tangible, overall results. The intended result of an effective compensation structure is that your employees commit to continuous improvement in their knowledge and skills and focus on teamwork and results. You need improved flexibility in a rapidly changing environment. Compensation that is based on meeting customer needs ensures a response that better matches demand.

4. Evaluation and recognition. At the core of any successful evaluation system is a written performance plan that describes what is expected of each individual and the goals they’re expected to achieve. You need to break down the desired outcomes into metrics that are specific, measurable and directly related to each employee’s job performance. Simply stating such broad goals as, “acquire five new ideal clients” or, “retain all existing ideal clients” is not enough.

Quarterly (or even monthly) progress reviews are essential to determine whether or not each individual is on track. This is an opportunity to provide feedback about performance compared to the goals that have been set and to provide coaching on areas of possible improvement. Also, all employees should conduct a self-evaluation plus an evaluation of their peers every six months.

Increasingly, financial advisors are finding that compensation alone is not sufficient to achieve and sustain the level of motivation needed to perform at world-class levels. Recognition (in the form of plaques, gifts, merchandise, travel, training in exotic locales, etc.) and rewards (in the form of bonuses, awards, perks, etc.) are used successfully to reinforce important attitudes and behaviors that contribute to a firm’s success. In general, these types of rewards are subject to the same limitations as any external form of reinforcement—that is, the desired behavior ends when the reward ends. Nonetheless, supplemental rewards can be powerful if they are surprising, personalized, given in recognition of a specific behavior and presented in public.


Your team can be instrumental in helping you carry the ball across the goal line and achieve huge wins for your business—today, next week and for decades to come. Make the most of your people and you’ll find yourself with a hugely successful practice, happy clients and a high quality of life for yourself.

About the Author

Jonathan Powell is a managing principal at CEG Worldwide, LLC in San Martin, California. Working with many of the nation’s top financial firms, he enjoys helping financial advisors transform their professional and personal lives by implementing CEG Worldwide’s research-backed principles.