Financial advisers are fighting against a critical shortage of new talent coming into the industry, but conducting exit interviews could hold the key to keeping talent in the profession, a conference in Hobart heard last week.

Building an enduring relationship with staff so there’s a high degree of trust means that exiting talent may feel able to be open and honest about why they’re really handing in their resignation. This is an important part of the job for anyone in small business, said Erin Prothero, associate director, people and change for KPMG Australia.

Speaking to around 60 financial advisers from across the country at the Boutique Financial Planners conference, Prothero urged advisers to consider the importance of workplace planning to retain talent within their firm.

To achieve this, advice firms should stand back and consider the tasks, the types of work, the tools used, the timing and the technology being deployed by the firm. This type of thinking enables a firm to understand which staff members bring genuine value to the table, and where technology can be deployed to save on repetitive tasks, she explained.

Workforce planning isn’t just for the big firms. Small advice firms should be thinking about their business’ needs in the future, for example, considering and planning for potential changes about to hit the advice profession, such as understanding what the impact of the professional year could be if potentially shortened, said Prothero, who has 21 years in HR experience across government and private sectors. She also holds a small share in a financial advice practice.

Workforce planning means considering the potential impact of two people with similarly critical roles in a firm resigning at the same time. This sort of scenario planning can be mapped out in an Excel spreadsheet so that the data is readily available and regularly revisited. Advice businesses should be looking three years in advance, said Prothero.

The concept is particularly critical for the advice sector given the talent drain facing the industry. Coupled with the pending changes about to hit the industry after the Quality Advice Review is finalised, considering workforce planning more closely could have a big impact on the job of proving advice in the future, Prothero said.

The importance of understanding the employee value proposition was also explained, which is critical to understand what a firm does well and why clients use their services. “This might be about standing out in your region, delivering advice quickly or something else. Having these statements to understand how you’re different in the market will help you structure your organisational change and can impact how you operate,” she said.

Her session on workforce planning also explained the importance of implementing attraction and retention initiatives for firms about to embark on growth.

Advisers should be scanning the changing regulatory landscape and exploring future scenarios within their business to be able to understand and plan for the future.