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David Shelton: Getting your people policy right

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Analysis from Standard Life suggests there is a shortage of up to 5,000 advisers, PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted an increase in financial services jobs of 250,000 up to 2020, given the right economic and regulatory conditions and the FCA has launched a further review into how people who sell to retail customers are remunerated.

This mix of analysis and review reminds us of the importance of a clear people policy. This deals with what we want our people to do, how we will recruit and retain them, what they should be paid and how we link that to their performance. 

There is a lot to think about in this jigsaw of people management but there is no doubt it is critical to the long-term success of any business, including advice businesses.

It has always been hard to recruit skilled and qualified people that fit with our way of working and these analyses suggest this will become increasingly difficult. If this is overlaid with the need to adjust the remuneration structure, it makes the task that bit more challenging.

Another factor is that successful firms place people policy right at the top of their reasons for success, which means that existing and potential employees, including those who are shareholders, will become more choosy about who they work for.

As is often the case, there are no shortcuts. You can deal with the process parts of how you recruit, reward and retain people with dedication of time and effort but the so-called softer side is more difficult and arguably more important. This comprises management style and leadership; the balance between control and autonomy, the approach to delegation, how you deal with problem people and how you reward the real contributors to your business. You need to give direction and engender ambition as well as motivate and challenge your people to excel – for themselves and your business.

Most business leaders I know suggest this is incredibly difficult. 

You know when you have got it right. You can see it in other firms but it is hard to define a recipe or process to make it happen. The best advice is to pay great attention to the behaviour of those who have mastered this challenge.

Such examples of good practice can be adapted to fit with your own style and personality. Take feedback from your people and make changes at a pace that suits you. Actions speak louder than words and there is no better example than when setting culture and leadership style.

David Shelton is the author of “The Business of Advice” book and website www.businessofadvice.co.uk

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