How to Keep Your Firm Running Smoothly During Employee Vacations

By David Mehlhorn, Redtail Technology
Reprinted with permission from the August 12 issue of ThinkAdvisor. © 2018 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

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Maintaining a real balance between work and one’s personal life provides real benefits for both employer and employee. For most individuals, some portion of the balance is achieved by taking vacations from work, which means granting time off requests is important for your employees’ overall satisfaction. However, it’s important to also keep in mind the importance of balancing requests against your organization’s needs. How will a given employee’s absence during a specific time frame affect your business? Will tasks and projects fall through the cracks? Will client information, which should have been known, be missed because they weren’t in the office to share it?

The solution is a combination of systematized process management and the preservation of institutional memory, each easily manageable through your CRM.

Clearly Defined Processes Don’t Care Who Performs Them

You may have clients who deal exclusively with you or another team member on most matters, and it’s natural for your team to form bonds with clients. Times will arise, however, when a client reaches out and their favorite staff member is not in the office. These can be make-or-break moments if your processes aren’t clearly defined to provide the client the experience they’re accustomed to. Trust is accrued over time, and if it’s weakened or destroyed over an avoidable service issue, clients are less likely to recommend your firm to family or friends. Even worse, they may be more likely to end the relationship altogetherIt’s worth remembering that on average, more than half of a company’s business comes from its existing clients.

It isn’t only in these situations where having your processes systematized for others to easily follow is critical to your business. Think carefully about your daily, weekly and monthly tasks and you’ll likely find a large percentage of these involve some degree of systemization. Because most processes aren’t one-off affairs, it’s important not to waste time by reinventing the wheel every time they’re needed. While you can update your processes over time as you and your team understand what works best, start by systematizing them from the very beginning. This will prevent a headache later down the road and create a blueprint that’s easy for others to follow. You’ll find that most of these tasks can be delegated to other team members, which is why it’s important they’re clearly defined as processes for others in your office to follow and later perform in your absence.

Most modern CRMs for financial advisors offer tools to allow you to map out your processes, with due dates, assignments, etc. Although their names may differ across CRMs, their primary purpose is consistent: making processes clear to everyone on staff who may have a hand in ensuring they’re completed within a specified time frame.

Meeting client expectations is what’s at stake here, and you don’t want that to be forgotten simply because a key staff member is taking a well-deserved vacation. Replacing clients is far more expensive than keeping them.

Institutional Memory Should Not Reside With One Person

Institutional memory is generally defined as “a collective set of facts, concepts, experiences and know-how held by a group of people.” Contrary to this definition, much of what makes up institutional memory is often housed at an individual level, and thus creates a dangerous state if the entire team doesn’t have access to it.

Your processes are actually a component of institutional memory, which is why it’s critical to map them out for everyone who may conceivably be involved in their performance. However, institutional memory goes much deeper than this, particularly in our industry where relationships are key.

If you are using your CRM properly, you and your staff take detailed notes, document all interactions and record all information learned about your clients and prospects. Much of this you do for compliance reasons, but the majority of this is done so you (and your team) can remember aspects of your clients’ lives to strengthen your relationships over time. Whether this happens through one-on-one interactions referencing back to an individualized piece of data or through marketing campaigns based upon client segmentation around shared data points, the more informed you are about your clients, the better.

In summary, if your team is diligent about recording all available “memories” within your CRM, one individual’s time away should have little if any impact upon client details during their absence.

It Goes Beyond Vacations

If you (and your team) are using your CRM to systematize processes and preserve institutional memory, most of the dilemmas that might arise with a team member’s absence are quickly erased. In the future, these two practices can create a smoother transition when a team member resigns or is terminated. You can also ensure that upon their departure, they aren’t taking the firm’s processes or client knowledge with them (as they’re both recorded in the CRM). That’s one of the great things about best practices, isn’t it — incorporating them can produce positive effects stretching far beyond your original reasons for putting them in place.