Between The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and the surge in growth the RIA industry has experienced over the past 3 years (even when accounting for the recent market pullback), most RIAs have been turning over staff at a rapid pace and struggling to round out their teams and ensure each functional role of the firm is filled by the right person. This has led COOs and hiring managers to feverishly post on job sites, tap their professional networks for introductions to qualified candidates, and some have even considered working with recruiters for the first time in their careers. Regardless of the method, the bedrock to any hiring process is a well-defined and accurate job description.
Composing that perfect job description can be tough – how can you communicate your firm’s values, describe the role in an enticing fashion, convey the growth opportunities of both the firm and within the role, and detail your benefits package, all in a limited number of bullet points? When looking to add a new member to the team, most hiring managers simply grab the job description they have used previously, and post it. “This worked before when we hired John, I’d love to have another John!” they think. What they aren’t considering is the fact that the specific and current needs of the organization likely do not align with the old description of the role, nor the strengths and weaknesses of the other members of the team. While John was a perfect fit when he was hired several months or years ago, the firm already has a John – they need someone to fill other duties and bring a different skillset to the organization.
The Portland Trail Blazers famously passed on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft because they had drafted Clyde Drexler the year before and felt the organization was covered in the guard position -- they didn’t need Michael Jordan in 1984; they needed a center, so they drafted Sam Bowie. Bowie filled their immediate needs better than Jordan did at that time. Jordan, of course, eventually became a much better overall player, but the organization had a specific need they were trying to fill, and Jordan did not meet those requirements. Hiring managers must think about the firm’s specific needs, beyond just, “We want to do more business next year.” They need to craft the job description into the business’ strategic plan, considering the specific needs of the organization and how each role serves those goals.
Hiring managers should not only think of the job description for the role they currently are looking to fill – they must also have up to date job descriptions for every member of the team, detailing each person’s contributions and responsibilities. From there, they can map out specifically what talents they need the new hire to fulfill to meet the most pressing needs of the moment. When Jeff Fuhrman of Coastal Bridge Advisors joined us for the very first episode The COO Roundtable podcast back in 2019, he spoke to the importance of up-to-date job descriptions:
“As we continue to build out our organization, we must consider how everyone’s position fits in the greater scheme. Job descriptions may seem like a trivial matter, but I believe that crafting and maintaining a well-defined job description of each team member is of fundamental importance. Most job descriptions look more like a recruiting document, detailing the education requirements and certifications and technical skills required for the position. Once hired, that person’s job morphs over time and the job description that they originally signed up for bears no resemblance to what they are doing today. So, we spend a significant amount of time drafting highly detailed descriptions of every single role in the organization -- laying out functional responsibilities and expectations for each. And to make sure that they’re up to date, the employee and their manager review their job descriptions every 90 days to ensure consistency and agreement between those two people. This helps us with training and development, career pathing and even resource allocation. It’s a key element of our human resources strategy.”
Jeff was the first COO who brought this practice of reviewing job descriptions on a regular basis to my attention, and ever since our conversation, I’ve seen the need for this process at countless RIAs. You simply can’t hire a new teammate without possessing detailed information on what every other team member is performing. Relying on a job description used several years ago when the firm looked and acted completely differently will not successfully meet your current needs. Before you draft the next job description for your current opening, be sure to update the descriptions of each member of your team, and then look for gaps to determine exactly what (and who) you need to hire today.
Matt Sonnen is founder and CEO of PFI Advisors, as well as the creator of the digital consulting platform, The COO Society, which educates RIA owners and operations professionals how to build more impactful and profitable enterprises. He is also the host of the popular COO Roundtable podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @mattsonnen_pfi