Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Communication in our firm has come to a complete standstill.

We always functioned well by getting together in our big conference room, ordering in a few boxes of coffees and muffins and talking about what’s working and what’s not. Now all of our advisors are head-down trying to handle clients who are worried about planning for next year with an election pending. Our support staff is responding to client and advisor needs. There is no longer an exchange of ideas that germinates naturally.

I’m the COO of the firm and have been trying to reach out to each team member (17 of them) individually to make contact and just let them know I care. But there is no collaboration. Our president has the view of, “leave them be, they’ll come around when they have time.” But I don’t believe this is true. We benefitted from informal formality in our office and we need to figure out what this looks like now.

D.V.

Dear D.V.,

If communication weren’t hard enough before, add in the virtual experience, clients worried about changes coming with the end of the year looming and most people in our industry working longer hours with fewer breaks. Your term of “informal formality” is a good one – without structure, very little when it comes to communication evolves naturally, on a broad scale, within any firm large or small.

I am curious though – how do your employees think and feel about what’s going on? Do they miss the interaction or are they happy to have the time to focus on what they need to get done? The past experience you describe, in the office with coffee and muffins, might have been your approach. You might have gained good insights. But did the team see value in it?