Scheduling and Cross-Training - The Keys To A Smooth Summer And Beyond

there is a tendency to approach June, July, and August as three months where we are more reactive, only to realize in the middle of August that there are real limitations to that approach.

New York: "Summer is supposed to be for time off and relaxation, but in many ways it is even more stressful for me," moaned Harold during our last coaching call. "I feel like I'm short-handed from June through August. It's hard to get things done, and I know the efficiency of our practice suffers."

Sound familiar? You might not expect an experienced team leader like Harold to be confronting this challenge. But he is, and I find that this is a common seasonal affliction for many financial advisors. It made me think of a recent medical practice comparison. My daughter Amy recently tore her ACL and was schedule for surgery this week. Through the entire pre-op process, the orthopedic clinic functioned smoothly on all cylinders, despite having some of their staff on vacation. What's the difference?

I believe it boils down to two factors -- scheduling and cross-training. Medical health isn't seasonal, but neither is financial health, especially for affluent clients. However, there is a tendency to approach June, July, and August as three months where we are more reactive, only to realize in the middle of August that there are real limitations to that approach.

Scheduling

Moving through the summer months as smoothly and seamlessly as the orthopedic clinic begins in May (or sooner) by bringing every individual associated with your practice together to make certain everything will be adequately covered until summer vacations and special events are over.

Here's the most important part. As you schedule those vacations and events, you will discover what roles and responsibilities need to be adequately covered during specific time periods. The question then becomes: Who will cover what, when? That's where cross-training enters the picture.

Cross-Training

Cross-training is more than simply giving extra duties to a team member in order to get by. The objective must be to provide uninterrupted quality service and to maintain the ability to respond to client needs as they arise.

There's a very important reason for emphasizing this objective. Our most recent research on the purchasing habits of the affluent revealed two important criteria that have the greatest impact on retaining the loyalty of this group ...

  • 90% emphasized solving problems quickly and satisfactorily.
  • 82% emphasized consistently delivering high-level, personalized service.
Words like quickly and consistently make it very clear that summer months are as critical as any other time. Careful scheduling isn't enough. Your team must be able to serve clients seamlessly without missing a beat. Cross-training will enable you to achieve that, if it is done right.

Cross-training should be viewed as a way to enrich one's job, not simply expand it temporarily. Here are the steps that will enable you to do that ...

  1. Take inventory of the specific tasks and responsibilities that are critical to maintaining a consistent level of client service and ensuring that the team can respond quickly to client issues and problems.
  2. Identify who should learn specific tasks and responsibilities so that absences for any reason can be covered seamlessly.
  3. Have team members train and coach each other with the specific goal of making certain that all tasks and responsibilities can be competently performed in their absence.
  4. Make certain that every task and responsibility can be performed by two or more team members.

The key is to make certain that each team member accepts and carries out this responsibility enthusiastically. With careful scheduling and quality cross-training, summer events and vacations can be the relaxing experience you all desire. But, there is much more to be gained.

The Added Benefits of Cross-Training

As team members begin the process of cross-training, something very meaningful will begin to unfold. Each team member brings their own insights gained from their unique background, skills, and experience. As they cross-train into other areas of responsibility, those insights can help improve and integrate everything into a seamless, client-centric system. Here is what may happen ...

  1. Your team will break out of their silos and integrate their talents more effectively, and more often.
  2. Having a cross-trained team will enable you to reshuffle on the spot and respond seamlessly when the unexpected occurs.
  3. This growing team flexibility will encourage team members to constantly look for ways to streamline processes and reduce response time.
  4. Because more people will know more, the intellectual capital of your team will keep expanding.
To gain a competitive advantage, it is important that your team become more nimble and agile than others. Cross-training will facilitate that for you, and good scheduling will enable you to anticipate those times (summer months) when the benefits of that training will serve you the most.

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have emailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one.

If you have any topic or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at [email protected].
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