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One advisor has recognized his team members by giving them a monetary reward as well as flexibility and a sense of self-direction in terms of when, where and how they do their work.iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Financial advisors are finding creative ways to recognize and reward their teams for the extraordinary efforts they’ve made to keep their businesses running smoothly and addressing clients’ needs during months of unprecedented stress while working away from the office.

Paul Edmond, president of Edmond Financial Group in Winnipeg, started recognizing and rewarding his team of 10 junior advisors and administrative staff right after everyone began working from home.

“I noticed as soon as we started working away from the office that frustration and irritability were high,” Mr. Edmond said. “The first thing I did was to hire a psychologist to do a videoconference once a week (to discuss) issues (affecting) my staff. I want them to feel good about their lives.”

The most popular and repeated topics were how to stay positive and productive in difficult times and how to work remotely in a way that balances the demands of work with the requirements of family life all in one place.

“It’s been so successful that I’ve decided to continue the sessions indefinitely, and possibly in person when the pandemic ends,” Mr. Edmond says. “(In addition), now that my team can start returning to the office, with protective measures, we’ve put together a wellness kit to greet them on their first day back – and they love it.”

Each wellness kit includes a gratefulness journal to supplement their weekly wellness sessions, a new plant to replace the ones that died in their absence, a YETI hot-and-cold mug and an annual membership to FortWhyte Alive, a 660-acre urban nature park in Winnipeg.

“You have to find new ways of rewarding employees in the ‘new normal’ because people want and deserve recognition for exceptional performance ... and (going) above-and-beyond everything they used to do before COVID-19,” says Greg Pollock, president and chief executive officer of Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada, in Toronto.

He says advisors who previously held team lunches or meetings to reward employees, celebrate birthdays or acknowledge team successes should find creative ways to continue that ritual. One idea is to make arrangements for restaurant delivery services to bring lunch to team members at the same time so you can eat together and chat via videoconference.

“Hold town hall meetings to congratulate people and announce major accomplishments you’ve made together,” Mr. Pollock says.

Grant Hicks, president of Calgary-based Advisor Practice Management, which provides coaching to advisors, says giving people incentives that keep them happy while working from home is an excellent approach.

“Many advisors previously gave their teams time off during the day to go to the gym, a yoga class, or wellness treatments like a massage,” he says. “But that doesn’t work so well at the moment.”

As such, Mr. Hicks suggests paying for some higher-end online services or courses for professional development or just plain fun, like cooking masterclasses, digital art, and other things they can do alone or together with their colleagues.

Richard Kizell, senior financial advisor at IPC Investment Corp. in Kingston, Ont., took a different approach to recognizing his team. In the early days of the pandemic, he game them a financial reward.

“The first thing I did was write a cheque for every single member of my team in May as a special bonus for the life-altering changes they had to make to keep things going after the lockdown hit,” he says.

While giving team members money was a quick and easy way to acknowledge a job well done, Mr. Kizell is also recognizing the importance of giving staff flexibility and a sense of self-direction in terms of when, where and how they do their work.

“Giving people choices in this environment is a reward in itself, and I think you have a moral and professional obligation to do the best for your clients and your team,” he says. “I’m finding that our clients are just as well served whether they’re physically in the office or not.”

Mr. Kizell says it’s important to allow your team to discern what’s in the best interests of the client, themselves and the firm. If an in-person meeting is warranted, let your team collaborate based on their personal comfort level.

“Work with each of your team members according to what their comfort level is,” he says. “Some are comfortable coming back to the office while others are not, and it’s essential to reward them by accommodating them without minimizing their concerns or making them feel guilty.”