4 leaf clover“A great employee is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have”, according to writer Tammy Cohen. Indeed, for any company that requires specialised, qualified staff – investment writers most definitely included – landing the right people can seem every bit as difficult as finding buried treasure. But when you do strike gold, the key question becomes: now you have them, how do you keep them?

The truth is, all employees will, from time to time, contemplate change and have their heads turned by new opportunities, more money or career progression. So, what can company management do to effectively lessen the temptations from elsewhere?

Culture is key

One extremely important factor is company culture. The best firms will have a distinctive culture – think Google or, in the UK, Expedia, both regular poll-toppers of the best companies to work for.

Looking at these companies, some common underlying factors emerge: a lack of bureaucracy, individual empowerment, a strong work/life balance and frequent team-bonding events, to name a few. Employees at such companies generally feel valued and free to express their talents, making them much more likely to stay.

However, a Google-style culture would not suit every employee. The important thing is to find a great match between employees and the companies they work for. In a recent article for Forbes magazine, Brent Gleeson, a motivational consultant, makes the point that determining a culture is key and that “culture fit is the most important aspect of retaining great employees”. The Harvard Business Review made the same point, suggesting that a firm should not just attempt to hire the best, but rather the “people who are a good fit for your organization”.


Challenges to investment writing teams

In the world of investment writing, the challenges are no different from other industries: culture, work/life balance and individual empowerment are all important ingredients in retaining employees. There are, however, a few specific issues relating to the investment writing role.

The work of the investment writer can be repetitive, given the rota of monthly and quarterly reports that need to be addressed. As a result, most of us, especially those of an established and experienced hue, enjoy writing the more ad-hoc articles and blogs on various topics within finance. At the same time, we accept that the monthly and quarterly report writing comes with the territory. Best, then, to expose the writer to a mix of both, as variety is the spice of life.

Where possible, the investment writer should be assimilated into the wider company. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, he or she will normally thrive on being included in the wider issues and needs of a firm, integrated and interacting with the investment teams themselves, able to talk to and interview fund managers. Secondly, from the company’s point of view, it is surely better to have a motivated and integrated investment writer rather than one hidden away in a desk in the corner, only consulted when absolutely necessary.

Many investment writers bring a wealth of experience from the fund management or publishing worlds. Their opinions and experience can be invaluable. It will often be the investment writers who have the best ideas for article topics, especially if they understand the ethos and the aims of the company they are working for.

One of the advantages of the work of an investment writer is the visibility of the workload, its troughs and peaks, which allows the writers and their managers to plan requirements well in advance. Month and quarter-end reports will normally be approached in the first and last days of any month or quarter, normally the busiest time for the investment writer. Firms that manage this period best, by freeing up workloads for writers at these times, and allowing more ad-hoc pieces to be done at other, fallower times, will tend to get the best out of their writers and create a positive environment.

Roles where employees can largely set their own working patterns are highly prized and investment writing does lend itself to this. While appreciating that deadlines must be met, some writers may be morning people, with others preferring a later start and relishing the opportunity to work to their own preferred patterns. Giving investment writers the freedom to work in this way, where possible, can be a hugely effective means of keeping them motivated and getting the very best results from them.


What about career progression?

One problem faced by investment writing teams is career progression. Where there are few opportunities for career progression or where the work is repetitive, other elements – such as pay – will become more of a factor. Why stay, the investment writer may ask him/herself, if I can earn more doing largely the same thing elsewhere?

The better firms will ensure that there is some career progression and individual development in the role. Career progression does not have to be simply about title change but can be around responsibility. A junior investment writer might be incentivised to take on more clients or more varied writing as a means of progression.

Learning and development are also important for the role. Technology and regulations change at a frenetic pace and it is crucial to be on top of these developments. As with most staff, investment writers will generally respond well to training and education workshops on anything from the proper use of hyphenation to how to develop compelling content. The key thing is that the writer should continue to learn and develop.


Getting the culture and atmosphere right

Ultimately, most people want a challenging but happy environment at work, where they feel valued but also able to express themselves and progress. Employees like to be valued and to work at something meaningful, where they can feel productive and see the fruits of their efforts. They also want to better employ and hone their skills.

Additionally, investment writers, like other employees generally, like to be part of a successful enterprise. If they sense that the company is attracting new clients and growing, that can generate both a sense of excitement and relief – as employees will usually feel more secure in their roles as more work comes their way.

If a company can offer all these aspects, then that four-leaf clover may not be quite so hard to find after all.

Mike McNaught-Davis