Firms who contact us are sometimes struggling with the dilemma of whether to hire a planner who will stay in an Associate role permanently, or the more traditional planner hire who will progress along a career path to an eventual Lead Planner role.
Below are a few of the opportunities and challenges for the permanent Associate hire to consider when contemplating how and where your next hire might fit within your organization.
Opportunities for Long Term Associate Hire:
- Management – Due to the finite nature of the career trajectory, expectations should be less ambiguous since the scope of the role is limited and straightforward. Managing people could be less stressful for firm owners in this situation, since the “set it and forget it” management and training style is likely to work in this setting.
- Screening – Since you do not have to try and foresee what the new hire will develop into with limited upfront knowledge and track record to review, designing the candidate screening protocol should be clearer. E.g. if the role is to create financial plans, the interview process should entail mainly of the candidate proving to you they can do this.
- Hiring Cycle – Probably the most obvious is the fact that that if you have someone in the position for a lengthy tenure, you do not have to replace them every few years and repeat the time intensive hiring and training process.
In case you find yourself thinking this is a panacea, keep in mind that even someone who has promised you multiple times that they want to stay in the position indefinitely may still end out asking for upside and promotion later. Accordingly, if you go this route, you may want to specifically seek out candidates who have tried and/or failed in a Lead Planner role (which makes them less likely to ask to move up in your firm in the future).
Challenges for Long Term Associate Hire:
- Scalability - Someone in a permanent second chair or even a behind-the-scenes type is not capable of giving advice on their own. Which means this person is not going to be a solution for Lead Planners or advisory firm owners who are seeking to shift off “C” or “B” clients to reduce the number of relationships they manage.
- Business Development – An ideal situation for most firm owners we speak to is to groom someone so they develop into a Lead Planner, start working with existing clients independently, and start bringing in clients of their own as well. This is much less likely to happen with a permanent Associate because they may have tried and failed at this part of the business in the past or harbor certain fears pertaining to these activities they cannot overcome and is not part of their position usually.
- Candidate Talent Pool – Sourcing someone seeking this somewhat unique role within a firm, in an already tight talent market, increases the challenge exponentially. There tends to be less movement of these types already in profession, due to the fact that they are not seeking the next great thing or “seeing what else is out there.” It is also worth noting that hiring someone with limited career growth aspirations could also lack the passion to do a great job in the role. Obviously, this is not the case all of the time, but firms should be aware of this when they are deliberately trying to hire someone who is not ambitious.
The candidates we have seen successful in this permanent associate role are typically baby boomer or Gen X women whom are not the primary breadwinners in their household. In fact, for many firms the problem is that they pursued this strategy years ago – hiring women who were re-entering the workforce after having children – who are now retiring after working a decade or two. So now their firms are scrambling and trying to decide whether to replace them, or go for the full-fledged planner.
The challenge, at least from what we’ve seen so far, is that these knowingly long term support type positions have not been popular with Gen Y. Ostensibly, there will be some Gen Y planners who set out to become Lead Planners, and ultimately decide that the associate roles is best suited for them because giving advice to clients unsupervised, managing staff, becoming an owner in a firm, bringing in clients, etc. are activities not suited for everyone. But recognize that younger planners in particular tend to be more ambitious, and may not be content in a firm that knowingly has no career track.