Ask Human Resources: Developing Leadership Skills


QUESTION: We are having such a hard time hiring staff for our practice. Not only are we struggling to find employees that fit our culture, we are really struggling to find an office/practice manager. It seems that we have tried everything when it comes to recruiting. Do you have any other ideas to help us?

ANSWER: You are not alone in this struggle. Employers everywhere are having difficulty finding employees to fill positions at all levels. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more and more people have retired or left the labor market for various reasons. With declining birth rates, the challenge of having enough employees to fill positions isn’t going away anytime soon. Practices need to be more creative in recruiting, including developing partnerships with high schools, community colleges and training programs. They also need to be careful about their work culture to make sure they don’t lose the people they have. Continuous learning opportunities are key to retaining employees, so let’s take a closer look at how you can create these opportunities within your practice.

Think about the key skills you need for each role to be successful in your practice. Ideally, you have these key skills included in job descriptions for each position. Things like communication, organization, conflict resolution and teamwork are all skill areas that firms need. You may have others. What do they look like when performing effectively? What resources do you have to help you develop and improve these skills? If you don’t have clear expectations of employees, this would be a good place to start. What are your communication, work organization and conflict resolution processes? Do you have policies and procedures in your employee handbook and/or additional training protocols for each position? Who is responsible for administering this training and how is understanding and proficiency measured? Creating an internal training process for these critical areas of interpersonal skills and team building goes a long way in creating shared awareness and understanding of what is expected. Without these structures, employees guess what to do, actions are inconsistent, and sometimes their habits don’t mesh well with your team and practice, creating conflict.

In addition to clarifying your internal systems, policies, and procedures, you also need to start developing your training and professional development offerings. Now more than ever, firms need to look within themselves to see if there are employees who can “evolve” into new positions, as well as potentially be promoted to leadership positions. You may have someone in the practice who has natural leadership abilities, but needs additional support to take on an office or practice manager role. There are many trainings on supervision, communication, conflict resolution, etc. HRM launches its own online training platform on to support our customers in these needs. We also offer on-site training, tailored to the needs of each client. This is just one of many external resources/providers available to help you develop your leadership. Whatever training you use, make sure the learning objectives match your objectives and that it is delivered in a way that is engaging for your staff.

Training is one step in acquiring new skills, but it is not enough in itself. Training and ongoing coaching and mentoring at the practice level is what creates real change; help employees hone their skills as they adopt new habits. It requires timing and continuous effort on your part to ensure that your investments in training and development pay off. Whether you are focused on developing leaders or building a talent pipeline, you will need to be heavily involved in the process. This will be the way of the future in talent acquisition. Although we yearn for the era of “post and pick”, the truth is that this new path (although longer and more expensive) is also more flexible, more predictable and more likely to pay off in the long run.

By Jodie Schäfer, SPRH, SHRM-SCP | HRM Services |



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