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Financial Management: Managing HR challenges

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2011 85(12) LIJ, p.73

It pays to keep your team happy as well as your clients.

Managing people seems to be getting harder each day as employees appear to have higher expectations of their employer. This includes providing meaningful work/careers (not just a pay packet each week) and keeping them engaged so that they enjoy coming to work.


When recruiting for your team, one of the fundamentals is ensuring that the person is the right cultural fit for your firm and for your clients. Don’t rush this or settle for second best; making the wrong decision will take twice as long to resolve. The individual also needs to be flexible and often multi-skilled, as small practices require “all hands on deck” to achieve deadlines.

Keep them motivated

Once they are part of your team, your next challenge is keeping them interested – in particular Gen Y, who are keen to constantly broaden their knowledge. If you are a small practice, this can place pressure on you to be their manager and mentor. However, have you thought of asking one of your colleagues in another professional services firm if they would mind mentoring your staff and doing the same for them in return? This means that staff get to experience different management styles and other environments, which is crucial to their ongoing development.

Provide meaningful careers

It is important for staff to know that you support them in their careers. This means having meaningful career discussions at least once a year. It can be as simple as asking your staff the following key questions (which they can prepare for in advance):

  • What have been your key achievements during the past year?
  • What have been your challenges during this time?
  • What are your short-term and long-term career (or work) goals?
  • What further development and support do you need to succeed?

These questions give you an insight into their strengths and weaknesses, what they like doing and what they need from you to achieve their goals. Of course, there should be benefits to both the individual and the business.

Just rewards

Research shows that people are more likely to stay in a job if they:

  • like their manager – remember people don’t leave good organisations, they leave bad managers;
  • have meaningful work – this means empowering them to take risks while supporting them at the same time.

All this needs to be complemented with a competitive remuneration package which may comprise both financial and non-financial items. Sometimes this can be a challenge for the small practice as it is often difficult to compete with the benefits and high salaries that are offered by larger companies. Nevertheless, you need to be creative and provide benefits to the employee that are targeted to their needs. For some, this might be greater flexibility of hours to study or care for children. One of the easiest benefits is to offer an additional two weeks packaged leave. This allows staff to have six weeks annual leave (instead of four) as long as it does not impact on business needs.

Be socially savvy

The world of work is changing. This includes keeping up to date with social media, and constant changes to legislation and technology – all while making sure that you provide the ultimate client experience, as clients know what they want and have options if they don’t get it from you.

Once again, think about how you can make your job easier as a manager. We often think it is easier to do things ourselves. However, allocating projects to others in your team helps you and helps them. One example is social media. Does your firm have a Facebook page? Facebook is often used to recruit and promote a firm’s employment brand. It is easy to set up and doesn’t cost anything. Why not ask one of the younger staff members in your team to put together a Facebook page for your firm – after all they are the ones who best know this media. You can then add regular updates which can be accessed by prospective staff and clients alike.

Always remember that you were once young and keen to learn and try new things, so make sure you delegate, motivate and compensate.

Elizabeth Nunez is the HR director at Pitcher Partners Melbourne. She can be contacted at


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