Employee retention

Employee retention
What are the true costs of bad employee turnover?

First, a definition: Bad turnover is when productive employees leave your workplace long before they’ve exhausted their value. These employees have more to contribute to your organization, but they’re decided to take those potential contributions elsewhere.

Sure, no one is irreplaceable, and you’ll likely (eventually) find another great worker, but what will that cost? In cash? Morale? Lost productivity and training expenses?

According to SHRM’s 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report, the average cost per hire is $4,129. Other sources estimate that number to be much higher, after factoring in the time it takes to craft and place job ads, screen resumes, conduct interviews, and orient the new employee. And while it’s hard to put a dollar to interrupted processes, unfinished projects, and “reinvention of the wheel” (when current employees unwittingly retrace the steps of past employees), for certain there is a hard dollar cost.

All of this is to say – savvy employers understand that it’s smart to take steps to keep talent content. But how? Here are our top tips:

Support Learning

Every A Player knows the importance of staying marketable by keeping up skills, knowledge, and abilities. Help your employees do just that by offering tuition reimbursement, monies toward continuing education, and access to workshops, webinars, and conferences. Whenever possible, allow employees to use work time to pursue learning. Employers who insist that all “extra-curricular” learning occur off the clock may get a reputation among their staff for being stingy and not truly committed to their employees’ personal and professional growth.

Seek and Apply Staff Input

Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace declared: “Most workers, many of whom are millennials, approach a role and a company with a highly defined set of expectations.

They want their work to have meaning and purpose. They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day. They want to learn and develop.” Put another way, your A Players are not interested in being seen as “hired hands” – expected to do as they’re told when they’re told. Instead, they expect to be seen as experts in their fields, and they want to use that expertise to impact the business in significant ways. Employers who reject this ideal in favor of traditional command and control styles of management won’t be able to engage or retain the most sought after employees. 

Encourage and Reward Collaboration

Rare is the workplace in which employees can get anything done by acting alone. Instead, most of us regularly rely on each other to meet our goals. That said, it’s all too easy to ignore your coworkers’ contribution to your success when your company encourages competition and ignores backbiting, backstabbing, and other forms of aggression, all in the name of getting things done. True, we need to get things done, but A Players (especially those who have embraced the more modern workplace values of teamwork, collaboration, and diversity) are likely to shy away from toxic, everyone-for-himself/herself work environments that just don’t feel very good. Behavioral assessments are one way to test each team member’s tendency to enjoy working in teams and/or to be collaborative and accommodating by nature.

Give ‘Em Room

Nobody, least of all A Players, want to work under someone else’s thumb. Micromanagement, constricting rules (both written and unwritten), and policies that run counter to common sense are all a turn off to top talent.

It’s like Lee Iacocca said – hire smart people and then get out of their way.

Low unemployment means competition for talent is tough, yet too many employers do everything possible to drive their most productive employees out the door. The rest, however, are learning the New Rules of Employee Retention and encouraging their best and brightest to stick around for a while.


What to do when an employee lies on a resume

What to do when an employee lies on a resume
There’s no way to hire right without putting in time, effort, and money. The task often requires coordination (anyone who’s ever arranged a panel interview knows this only too well!), organization, and perseverance. Despite the fact that many job seekers secure positions through the hidden job market, highly qualified candidates don’t just fall out of the sky.

So you put in the work, and your shiny new employee joined the team last month. Yippee! Unfortunately, your good feelings of accomplishment were short lived, because you just found out that this man/woman lied on the resume.

Consider this: A recent CareerBuilder study found that 75% of HR managers have caught a lie on a resume. Common lies include fudging dates to cover gaps in employment, claiming accomplishments that actually belong to others, and faking degrees and other credentials. Yes, the job market is tough, and more than one employer has been accused of searching for that “purple squirrel,” but even a little lie (or two) on a resume can signal big problems. That’s why ignoring your discovery isn’t an option. However, rushing into action could complicate the situation even more.

Here then, is our best list of “My Employee Lied on His Resume” Do’s and Don’ts.

DO Verify the Information

Perhaps you heard through your network that XYZ employee didn’t really earn that MBA or that she was fired from her last job and not laid off. Now’s the time to move beyond rumor to fact.

It’s become standard practice to receive consent for and perform background checks on candidates during the hiring process, but things can get a little trickier for current employees. According to the EEOC, while such searches are permitted, employers must still remain mindful of employees’ rights. For example, if the employee’s original consent doesn’t extend to a background check for the purposes of retention, promotion, or reassignment, it’s probably not wise to do the search without letting the employee know what’s happening first. 

DO Confront the Employee

Tell the employee what you learned (“Stan, I met your former boss at a workshop and she told me she’d fired you for cause and that you weren’t restructured out of a job. Is that true?” or “Mary, it’s come to our attention that you didn’t graduate with a BA, although your resume states you did. Can we talk about this?”) and give him or her a chance to clear the record. Be reasonable, be respectful, and remain calm. Tell the employee if you intend to perform a background check at this time and what the potential consequences are likely to be if he or she lied.  

DO Consult Legal Counsel

While most states are “at will,” there are plenty of exceptions to the law, and you don’t want to violate any. Before you take employment action based on the information you’ve received, make sure that you’ve assessed the potential risks. And along those lines… 

DON’T Let Your Emotions Get the Better of You

It’s normal to feel disappointed, exasperated, or even angry after discovering that an employee lied and that that lie may have significant consequences for you. However, don’t permit your temper to overcome you. It’s a mistake to take your employee’s alleged dishonesty personal. 

DO Weigh Your Options Carefully

When someone lies on the resume, the employer basically has two choices: (1) fire the employee or (2) not fire the employee. Depending on the scope of the deception and the performance/potential of the employee, retention – and not termination – might make sense. On the other hand, termination might be the only wise option. The point is, a careful weighing of the facts is needed before moving forward. Knee-jerk reactions are not recommended.

Lying on the resume can seem like a terrible abuse of trust, and perhaps it is. Still, smart employers will proceed carefully with the news, which is the only way to ensure that any decision promotes the company’s long and short-term interests.

Life as a Cat Herder - Leadership vs. Management

Life as a Cat Herder - Leadership vs. Management

Life as a Cat Herder! Leadership vs. Management – The Differences and How to Be Good at Both

Running a successful business can be a lot like herding cats. You need a plan for how to get it done, and you need to know what you will be doing with all those cats! You don’t want to corral them all in one place and then wonder, “What now?”

Before the fur flies, it helps to have a good idea of what your leadership style is.  Here at the Omnia Group, we recognize 17 distinct styles, and each of them motivate in different ways. You can’t make your team work as a unit if you don’t understand who you naturally are as a leader. Are you more of a “lead from the trenches” type, waving a squeaky toy in front of the furry hordes, or a “big picture” person who manages from the back with a laser pointer? Are you more empathetic or more logical? Do you seek to build consensus or require a more structured system for getting things done?

Knowing who you are as a leader will help you be a cat whisperer, able to set goals effectively and motivate your team to work toward those goals. That, in turn, will increase your brand recognition and make your company more successful.

Now that you have the attention of all those cats and are communicating well with them, how do you keep them together long enough to finish the job without losing focus and wandering off?

Maybe some in your pride are assertive and want to explore the outdoors, while others are happier sitting on a windowsill providing support. Perhaps others need significant guidance because they are so focused on perfection. Still more may be inclined to make great leaps, knowing that if they fail they can shake it off and try again.

This is all about your management style: not only being able to apply what you know about yourself as a leader, but also your knowledge of the people on your team. Getting them to work together efficiently and harmoniously may sometimes seem like you’re trying to keep the cats off the counter. But, once you understand who they are and what motivates them ─ Personal performance incentives? Perks? Constant challenge? ─ and are able to identify the right approach, it becomes a lot easier.

Understanding how to guide each employee separately as well as help them acclimate to your culture and positively interact with each other can make or break your success.

Leadership and management are often presented as being in conflict, two positions with different outlooks and goals for the future. “Leaders have followers” and “managers have subordinates,” are the classic lines of division. However, these lines don’t really fit into today’s business culture where the roles are now intermingled. Examining each separately and evaluating what they bring to the big picture is important, of course. But so is being able to see how leadership and management traits blend, so you can use both to become better at herding your own particular group of cats.

Leadership and management aren’t scratching and clawing at each other for survival. They are essential pieces needed for success. Leadership is about the ability to influence while management oversees the operations and processes. You need them both, and those roles need each other to become the best that they can be. You can have processes in place, but if the people aren’t motivated it doesn’t matter. Conversely, you can have motivated people ready and eager to work, but if there is no clear direction nothing will get accomplished. Leadership and management are locked together, in purpose and intent.

It doesn’t matter if you are literally herding cats or if it just feels like it some days: self-awareness is a strong starting point for building upon your leadership and management skills. Understanding and utilizing the aspects of who you are as both a manager and a leader will make you more efficient in all your roles. It helps you understand what you need from your team and helps you know what your team will need from you and one another.

The Omnia Leadership Report helps you find clear, cogent answers to the question of what kind of leader and manager you are. With this tool, you can identify the style of leadership best suited to you and manage your team most effectively. Knowing your strengths, potential weaknesses, and how they will manifest themselves in your leadership role is crucial. It’s like catnip for your success.

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring You Learned from a Shape Sorter

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring You Learned from a Shape Sorter
Close your eyes, and think back to when you were a toddler.  Back to when toys weren’t just for fun but were also there to teach you important lessons and help with your development.

For me, one of those toys was a shape sorter.  Pretty much everyone who manufactures toys for children has at least one of them. They have different names and shapes, but the principle of the toy is the same: there is a central structure (a ball or a box) with holes of different shapes, and you put the matching shape pieces into those holes.

Mine was a red and blue ball with bright yellow shape pieces.  Apparently, I used to play with it quite a bit, trying to figure out its mysteries and continuing to practice so that I could not only solve it once but continue to solve it every time.

Of course, there was trial and error. That’s part of learning any new thing – trying to put a triangle into a rectangle slot and not understanding why it won’t fit. Eventually, you figure it out and move on to bigger lessons. But those early toys, and what they teach you, are foundations for everything to come.

The adage “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole” is literally part of that foundational lesson. It teaches kids to recognize different shapes and start to reason out basic problem solving.

Those problem-solving skills are necessary in our adult life, too.

Close your eyes again, and think about where you are now in your organization.

Think about your corporate culture, those central ideas and values you want to instill in every person who walks through those doors to represent your company. Sometimes, that culture is painstakingly crafted, while for others, it develops over time by your choices of who is hired and what they bring to the table. Part of figuring out where you are going is taking a moment to see where you are, and who you are, as a company.

Knowing who you are as a company and developing your corporate culture can be extremely useful in figuring out what kind of people you want to bring on your team in the future.

But much like with the shape sorters, there is a learning curve with an important lesson – a lesson that can often get overlooked: “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.”

Let’s say you’re hiring for a sales position. Sales are king, and the people you want in those seats will aggressively seek out new opportunities and aren’t going to take rejection personally. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get right back to the next chance to close. For those kinds of positions, you want someone who is driven by the need to compete and may be looking for a commission-based pay structure.

Your corporate culture may be focused on what your salespeople are doing and everything revolves around making sure that sales happen. Your reward systems are focused on driving revenue totals and celebrating those who excel. The shape of that person is easy to recognize and a good fit in the box you’ve created.

Yet, you don’t want those traits in someone you would hire for a job in your accounting department. In this case, you need someone who wants to be a part of a cooperative team, who likes stability and dealing with things at a slower pace. You want someone with an eye for detail who will take their time to pour over each and every line to make sure everything adds up properly.

Similarly, you don’t want to place someone who needs more structure in a job where there is a lot to “figure out as you go” or someone who needs to be multitasking in a position with repetitive work.

These people are going to need to be motivated and celebrated in different ways than your business development staff. They’re an important part of the team, but how do you make sure they all feel like a good fit and that you find the right candidates for any given position?

All of these different types of people can exist within the same culture. Each department in your company and every position within that department has unique responsibilities that call for different strengths. They have their own subcultures and their own requirements. You can’t force a peg to go into a hole of a different shape, no matter how badly you want it to. This means, when you are hiring, it is the job itself that should be the focus rather than the overall corporate culture.

This is where an assessment tool, like the Omnia Profile, comes in handy. With this tool, you’ll be able to discuss the needs of your open positions, how they fit into the culture, and set up a benchmark for your ideal candidate.

The Omnia Profile is your work resource shape sorter. It is a tool that helps you learn about your potential candidates, getting the most out of your current employees and organization, and about yourself. It helps you match the shapes to their proper fit.

Matching the inherent strengths of those candidates to your needs is crucial for finding someone perfect for your company and also in retaining them. Understanding who they are and how they fit also gives you the tools you need to help them grow in their roles and in the company as a whole.

Now, keep your eyes open. You have all the tools in front of you to practice those good decision-making skills. Pick up your shape sorter, and find the people who fit just right for your company with the Omnia Profile!

Diversity in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace
You heard it when you were a kid. You probably don’t remember when you heard it for the first time, nor do you recall the first time you passed it along to someone else.  It’s one of those old cheesy pun-filled knock-knock jokes that made you laugh, even if it wasn’t all that funny.

“Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Banana who?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Banana who?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

The joke is old, but the sentiment remains evergreen. Breaking the expected repetition is what makes the joke work.  It’s that same breaking of a repetition that is happening in the insurance industry, and needs to continue to develop. Thinking in the same old patterns gives you the same old results and that includes your hiring practices.

One area that the insurance industry has done a great deal of work in improving over the past few decades is gender equality. Insurance is continuing to push forward with more opportunities for women in senior management positions. Women have transformed the industry and helped make a road map for others to follow in terms of how to create the next generation of pioneers bringing new ideas and insights into the process.  Looking to the lessons learned by the increased involvement of women in the industry provides a unique opportunity to leverage what is already known to continue to develop further diversity.

I talk to industry clients on a daily basis who want to know how to find, and keep, the best producers and customer service representatives. They want to know where to look and what questions to ask. They want to be able to tell the difference between someone who looks good on paper and someone who will deliver once they are actually on the job. They are dealing with the everyday stresses of keeping things afloat while looking ahead to bringing the next generation into the fold.

It’s easy to look at studies into the need for the industry to diversify and attract young minority professionals into the field. But how does that become a reality? If you find yourself staring at another stack of virtually the same applications, the solution is to change where you are looking.

Here are concrete steps you can take to get a little more orange and less banana in your stack of applications:

  1. Go to local colleges and universities for fresh young talent. Speak with the dean’s office about regularly scheduled talent and job fairs. Consider setting up an internship program. Your company will serve as a role model to help cultivate their interest. This personalizes the process by showing an active interest in their future.
  2. Be active in your community, especially among minority populations. Talk to groups and professional organizations who might have future leads.
  3. Embrace the new. It’s not easy to adapt in a world that feels like it is changing every time you turn around, but being able to connect with a younger generation and an increasingly diverse population means that you need to be able to break from the old patterns. Being able to adapt to changes and turn them into opportunities is a standard good business practice that doesn’t change just because we are talking about recruiting.

The most important part of finding “the next great employee” is about going out to find where they are right now, and getting them excited about the opportunities of the insurance industry. These relationships are the pipelines that will not only bring in fresh new faces and ideas, but also future clients and revenue.

Where does diversity fit into the framework of your organization’s culture? It’s one of the first big questions asked when people start discussing “diversity”. How it is prioritized makes a huge difference in how effective your efforts will be. On the corporate level there is often a dedicated Chief Diversity Officer who implements strategies to help with outreach and recruiting among underrepresented populations.  For smaller companies, having a human resources leader who is able to devote their time and efforts to the task is vital.  If you are running your own independent agency though, that task might be yet another one that is resting on your shoulders.

Diversity is one of those trendy words that gets thrown around as a catch-all for “not the same”. But it’s not just multi-culturalism, or having an age and gender balance, or inclusion of LGBQTA+ people, although those are all important.  It’s about finding the best people from different backgrounds, and bringing their experiences together to help your company continue to grow and prosper. It is about being open to everyone bringing their “whole self” to work; building and maintaining an environment where every voice is important and people feel like they have a stake in the process. When recruiting the next generation of insurance professionals, this is a baseline of what they expect when entering the workforce.  It is not just “doing a job”: they want to feel like they are a part of something special, and they want to work somewhere that respects them for who they are.

Which is why, for those with the interest, the insurance industry is so full of rich possibilities for personal fulfillment. There is a lot of room right now for a young professional who is willing to work hard, to advance quickly in many independent agencies, to become a part of something greater than themselves, something they can believe in.

When speaking to potential producers, that opportunity is a definite selling point.  These are the self-starters, the ones who are driven by a competitive spirit and who are motivated by the idea that their salary is tied directly to their ability to make the sales. They want to be around people and have that spark to get other people interested in what they have to offer.

The industry is exciting in a different way for the potential customer service reps. Insurance is the bedrock of achievement. It does for innovation what a parachute does for skydiving. It makes it possible for people to take calculated risks without fear of catastrophe. The people who want these positions are the ones motivated by stability and being able to count on when their next check is going to come. They excel at being a part of a team and to them, the details are the part of the engine that makes everything run.

These are two very different kinds of people, who want very different things, bringing their own skillsets to the table. Bringing in a new generation, and allowing them to be their best, truest, whole selves in the process is a challenge. But figuring out where each individual would best fit within the diverse tapestry of your organization doesn’t have to be one.

That’s where a behavioral assessment tool, like the Omnia Profile, comes in handy. The Profile breaks down the mysteries around the 17 behavioral types, helping you understand more about your candidate and how to help them unlock their potential.

Your dedication to expanding diversity in the workplace, and finding the best and the brightest of the new generation regardless of background helps to continue to grow the potential of your business. It gets the best applicants to your doorstep. The Omnia Profile helps you determine which of those candidates will be the best fit with your existing organization and how to develop their long-term potential. It helps you break out of the same old hiring mistakes and find that orange in a world full of bananas.


Transition Your Employee to a Leader

The world needs good leaders, that’s a fact. Look around. Whether in the political arena, the spiritual arena, or the workplace, people need leaders to provide direction, guidance, resources, and inspiration.

Still, raising up a leader in your organization is easier said than done. A 2015 report from Gallup posited that only 1 in 10 individuals actually have what it takes to manage. Repeat: 1 in 10. If you’re a manager, you might take objection to that statistic—until you consider your own manager, or the manager down the hall or around the corner, that is.

Fortunately, none of that means you can’t transition your chosen employee into a dynamic, effective leader. And like we said, the world needs good leaders. So what are you waiting for? Here are three tips to get you started.

Tip#1. Recognize that Leaders Are First Born and Then Made

Whether you agree or disagree with the Gallup report, you have to admit that not everyone is suited to be a leader. Great leaders are patient, assertive, organized, and skilled at communication, among other things. While all of these qualities can be learned, there are limitations. Consider the following:

  • People who don’t want to learn most likely won’t.
  • Multiple deficiencies in multiple areas makes for one huge learning curve.
  • Excellence occurs when natural talents are strengthened through practice and habit.

Putting it all together then, before you decide to transition an employee into leadership, make sure you’ve targeted an employee who’s demonstrated he/she has the natural ability for the job. Ideally, this individual has a history of using informal power effectively and has had his/her natural tendencies verified through a reliable behavioral assessment, such as the Omnia Profile. Testing employees identified as potential future leaders is a smart way to ensure a healthy return on your investment.

Tip #2. Create a Culture Where Good Leadership Can Flourish

Your efforts to transition an employee to a leader will be hampered without a solid foundation. For example:

  • Does your organization value good leadership? “Duh!” might seem to be the obvious response, but let’s think about this for a minute. Are your leaders formally evaluated on how well they get work done through others, or are independent contributions deemed more important than team accomplishments? For instance, does your company excuse the toxic consequences of abusive leadership by pointing out how much bad leader so-and-so knows about thus and such? No? Yay!
  • Is yours a learning culture? Are employees encouraged to self-reflect and learn from mistakes? Are people allowed to make mistakes without fear of reprisal? Are managers comfortable with being challenged? How often does your company let the best idea win, regardless of who presented it?
  • Is the organization committed to regular employee development? A commitment to ongoing employee development is not a casual thing. Employers and employees alike might bemoan how training takes people away from their “real jobs,” but deviating from business as usual to learn about a new way of thinking or doing is critical for sustained high performance. Steven Covey calls it sharpening the saw, and it’s one of the seven habits of highly effective people—and by extension—workplaces.
  • Are mentors in place and willing to serve? Every leader needs a confidant and coach to help show him/her the way when “the troubles” start. Formal mentoring programs have their limitations (we learn best when we’re mentored by those we’ve choose based on common interests and personality similarities), but the basic idea is sound. Make sure your emerging leader has a trusted, wise, and engaged member of the staff to call on when needed.

Tip #3. Finally, Make Sure Your Employee Wants to Lead—and For the Right Reasons

As we’ve already noted, not everyone is suited to leadership. It’s equally true that not everyone wants to lead, but few are willing to forgo a promotion if that’s the only option. As the employer making these decisions, you need to be aware of your employee’s motivation to lead and take pains to ensure he/she truly wants what you’re offering. You’ll also want to steer clear of employees attracted to leadership because they desire power but not the responsibility that comes with it.


>>>Check out this recorded webinar on tips to transition your employee to a leader!





5 Ways to Demotivate Top Performing Employees

The funny thing about top performers is that while they rarely need external motivation, the wrong kind of management will quickly result in serious demotivation.

Also noteworthy: these folks tend to be politically savvy enough to hide the worst of their frustration from their managers. Instead, one day they’ll just up and give notice, thanking their clueless employers for the “valuable learning experience” as they skip out the door.

This is the bad type of turnover that smart employers try and avoid, especially in the current economy, which is becoming more and more a seller’s market.

As every employer knows, talent acquisition is an investment. Failure to get the proper return on that investment hurts the bottom line. It also hurts morale and engagement when talented folks are driven out needlessly. It’s discouraging and causes remaining employees to have to reboot and regroup.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Here then, as a blueprint for what NOT to do, are the 5 surefire ways to demotivate your top performers.

#1. Micromanage. I’d guess that a literal ton has been written about the evils of micromanaging. Nobody likes being told exactly how to do his job, over and over again, as a matter of course. Top performers value autonomy and the ability to think for themselves. Anything else feels demeaning and stifling. Give top performers an objective and a deadline (if necessary) and then leave them alone. If they need help, they’re skilled enough to ask for it.

#2. Flip flop. Indecisiveness drives top performers batty, because they like getting stuff done. A habit of obstructing progress by failing to make needed decisions is guaranteed to send your top performer racing to the job boards.

#3. Be opaque. “Why” is a very important question for top performers, who appreciate knowing the reasons behind requests and directives. Managers who view “why” as a threat to their authority and/or who feel entitled to give orders without considering anyone else’s need to know, will find themselves continually on the look out for good employees.

#4. Underpay. When rewards aren’t commensurate with results, most employees will get a little antsy, and top performers are no exception. However, top performers tend to know their worth and will more quickly seek other options. While cash isn’t the end-all-be-all motivator for everyone, money is needed currency to obtain food, clothing, and shelter (among other things of worth), and it signals value, to boot.

#5. Routinely engage in petty politics. Politics is an unavoidable part of corporate life, and top performers certainly know this. Still, there’s a difference between healthy politics, which entails the use of power and social networks to advance interests in an assertive and respectful manner, and the toxic, tiring games of the truly unenlightened. The latter requires too much emotional labor and makes work hard for all the wrong reasons. Top performers don’t want to be bothered with that.

Top performers give more, and they require more in return. They want their ideas and their intellect respected, they want to be paid what they’re worth, and they don’t want their efforts choked by needless roadblocks and petty politics. These behaviors are all surefire demotivators and surefire ways to find yourself on the losing end of the war for talent.



Win a free conflict resolution workshop for your employees

Need help keeping the peace in your office?

Since rock-paper-scissors and cage matches are frowned upon as effective conflict resolution strategies…

Enter to win a FREE conflict resolution virtual workshop on June 13th for your office!

How it works:

  • Entry deadline: May 31st.

  • Winner will be announced via social media on June 1st.

  • Your employees (up to 15) receive a link to take our behavioral assessment prior to the workshop webinar.

  • Each employee receives a professional development report for review prior to the webinar.

  • June 13th – attend the webinar!  Our resident expert, Kim Busse, will be talking directly to you about your team’s strengths, challenges, hot and cold buttons, and how to better collaborate with each other.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to turn conflict into constructive/positive outcomes

  • The rules of engagement

  • Strategies for increasing collaboration

  • And much more!

Follow us to see if you are the winner on June 1st!




Contact:  Kerry Benik | Marketing Specialist

HR has come a long way from the days of being called “Personnel,” but in some ways the old stigmas hold strong.

Some of the blame rests with the HR profession itself. Now, I know many in my field would strenuously disagree, and they’re certainly entitled to their opinions. However, I stand by my assertion. If you count my jobs as a teen (and I do), I’ve been in the workplace more than 30 years, and my interactions with HR have been mostly underwhelming. At least in the circles where I’ve traveled, HR still struggles with demonstrating core knowledge, thinking strategically, and gaining trust.

On the other hand, HR is routinely and unfairly held accountable for things no HR department can control, like poor performance management, lack of transparency (especially within senior management), inequitable wages, workplace bullying, and managerial favoritism. News flash folks – HR operates within the same system as everyone else and is bound by the same rules. Put another way, HR can’t change the company culture. If the culture sucks, HR is as much a victim as anyone.

And yet, I always come back to this inviolable truth: companies need HR. They really, really do. There’s a lot of people stuff that requires attending to in the world of work, and individuals suited for and trained in HR are the best folks to attend to it, hands down. Every time I enter a new company and assume the function previously handled by a CFO, COO, or other operating/finance expert, I discover a fine mess – no matter the talents of that CFO, COO, or other operating/finance expert. I realize this is my experience, but I’ll bet $10 that somebody reading this article can relate.

HR is a defined skill set and not everyone can do it. We generally recognize that with other professions (marketing, finance, communications, business development, sales, and so on), but not so with HR. Instead, we hold off on hiring an HR professional until things have reached a boiling point. That’s a mistake. HR is so much more than a necessary evil. Allow me to elucidate:


  • HR is the people persons. I tend to cringe whenever I hear that someone wants to get into HR because he/she is a “people person,” because, well, it sounds so darn Pollyannaish! Still, a concern for people is a necessary prerequisite to good HR. Cold, analytical strategy alone won’t do. HR can’t afford to be cynical. Practical, yes. Cynical, no. Good HR thrives on hope and the possibility of positive change. You have to have some faith in people to keep that going. Great HR professionals do.
  • HR is the people experts. Good HR practitioners spend lots of time studying humans on the micro and macro levels, because a knowledge of what motivates, energizes, and infuriates humans has real implications for how and how well the work gets done.
  • HR thinks differently, and companies need that. A former boss (a CFO) was sharing with me his and the President’s plan for a reorganization. I listened and then told him where the personnel pitfalls hid – how This One would resent the change for that reason and how That One would resist the change for this reason and what messages would have to be communicated to manage the transition well. When I asked him why he hadn’t thought to consult me sooner, he told me that it never occurred to him that this decision was a human resources issue. Good grief, man! If you need people to make something happen, it’s an HR issue. HR people get that and we have the people knowledge to see it through.
  • Good HR people have the patience required of capable risk managers. Running a business requires adherence to many tedious rules and regulations that most visionaries simply consider a big yawn. However, ignoring the rules is definitely not the way to go. Enter HR, compliance masters extraordinaire.


I could go on and on (seriously, I could), but suffice it to say that progressive employers get that good HR is integral to sustainable business growth. Now that’s far from a necessary evil!



















Providing good customer service

It’s a rare company that can thrive despite its reputation for bad customer service. To be sure, such companies exist, but they’re not common.

Perhaps the company offers a product most consumers simply can’t live without, or the organization is practically a monopoly in a market where people have few choices. Or, maybe the company’s product is so integral to how we work and live that consumers couldn’t avoid it if they tried. (We see you Google!)

Alas, insurance providers generally don’t fall into this category. Instead, good customer service is a differentiator between your team and every other team selling what you sell.

But take heart! In a real sense this is good news. Developing quality customer service is within your control, and the rewards are high.

So here’s the $64,000 question: how do you know if your customer service is good?

Your Customers Say So
Customer praise, whether private or public, is an indication your customer service is good. Notice that you’re not looking for the occasional positive comment, although that’s nice. You’ll know you’re on to something when you’re getting regular positive feedback via multiple channels (e.g., snail mail, email, social media, client surveys) from various delighted customers.

Your Customers Recommend You 

It’s one thing for a customer to do business with you herself but another for her to recommend your product or service to someone else. A recommendation is a huge vote of confidence and ought to be regarded as such. When we recommend a product or service, we show our willingness to be held accountable for our opinion. Most people won’t do that unless they’re supremely secure in the quality of that good or service.

Your Customers Stick With You

Repeat business is a big way customers say “well done!” There’s no shortage of insurance agents and no reason for any client to give you his business unless you do your job well.

So when the competition is high, but your customers are loyal, most likely you’re giving them what they want and need (i.e., good customer service). 

Customer Complaints Rarely Reach the Executive Level (Or Heaven Forbid, Go Viral)

You know your customer service is good when complaints (and every company has its share of customer complaints) rarely reach the executive level. Most likely, that’s because your team is skilled and adept at resolving conflict before it gets out of hand. Consider this: when your customer service is good, problems solving almost looks easy!

Your CSRs Are Happy

Is a happy employee a guarantee of high performance that positively affects the bottom line? Probably not. As the author of “Employee Happiness Isn’t Enough to Satisfy Customers” put it, employers must “engage employees by giving them both reasons and ways to please customers; then acknowledge and reward appropriate behavior.”

Even so, it’s hard to image that deeply unhappy employees who blame the company for their grim attitudes are treating customers well. Putting aside any intentional malice, these employees most likely don’t possess the zeal necessary to interact with customers in a friendly and solution-oriented manner.

Truth is, we’ve all encountered the robotic, noticeably-lacking-in-enthusiasm CSR who didn’t seem to care whether we ended the encounter satisfied, unsatisfied, or even angry. Happy employees plugged into the company mission have a totally different attitude, and it shows in the way they address customers and their concerns.

Your Customers Are Engaged

Do customers respond to your survey invitations? What about your email or text messages? Are they commenting on your blog? Do they return phone calls? If the answer is mostly yes, your customer outreach is working, and you have the satisfied customers to prove it.

Your Customers Don’t Begrudge You Making a Living

Insurance can be expensive, and most customers are aware that part of the cost goes to pay the services of insurance agents. However, when customers like the job you’re doing, they’re okay with that. Everyone has to make a living, so why shouldn’t you? Plus, you’re serving their needs so you’re worth every penny.

Last Words … 

Recognizing what good customer service looks like, or even what it can sow (that is, increased business) is not the same as recognizing how to deliver it. Here, then, are a few tips for creating a work environment that encourages good customer service:

  • Hire the right people for the job. Behavioral assessments help employers identify individuals with the traits needed to get the job done.
  • Set clear expectations. When employees know what’s expected, they’re in a much better position to perform satisfactorily.
  • Invest in quality employee education. Continuing education is a must. When employees are growing personally and professionally, they’re more connected to the business and its customers.
  • Treat employees well. What do high performers really want in a job? It’s not a mystery, and a gazillion surveys have already provided the answer to employers with ears to hear. We’re talking good pay and benefits, work/life balance, opportunities for advancement, a chance to impact the business, and a sense that their bosses care about them as people. Anyone who’s getting all that in a job won’t be going anywhere anytime soon and will take pride in doing the best job possible.
  • Develop policies that provide as much responsibility as your employees can handle. Intelligent policies that actually allow for decision-making and problem solving will be welcomed by your team and your customers. On the other hand, policies that tie the hands of employees and prevent them from making customers happy are challenging all the way around.

Even companies that can afford bad customer service don’t want it. However, it’s not enough to merely think your customer service is good. Knowing is so much better.



2016 Human Resource Blunders

Everybody makes mistakes, and HR is no exception. As 2016 comes to a close (and what the year it was!), it’s always good to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and where the new year might be headed.

If you’re an HR professional, manage HR professionals, or are somehow responsible for overseeing traditional HR functions in your organization, we invite you to begin that process now, by focusing on these top HR blunders (and how to correct them).

Let’s get started!

Blunder #1 — Mindlessly repeating the company party line. As a company agent, HR has a duty to represent the company and support its policies without hesitation. This duty most especially applies to policies HR doesn’t like. That said, when employees bring issues or concerns to HR, it’s a mistake to do anything but listen while responding with the highest level of integrity. Employees appreciate being dealt with honestly and fairly. Being too careful to the point of refuting the obvious and unpleasant truth (e.g., XYZ policy isn’t being enforced fairly, XYZ manager demonstrates bullying tactics) will only result in lost credibility for HR and a missed opportunity to nip a troubling situation in the bud. 

Blunder #2 – Not keeping confidences. Naturally, HR should never blab private employee information to anyone without a need to know, but sometimes HR forgets that those who don’t need to know are in management. Employees need a safe place to vent and strategize. If HR can’t give them that, HR will never gain employees’ trust or the chance to de-escalate sensitive situations before they get out of hand. (See Blunder #1.) 

Blunder #3 – Not keeping up with what’s new. Anyone who works in HR knows that compliance is a big part of the job. New laws are passed, and old laws pass away. Keeping up is a job in itself, but that’s not the half of it. HR professionals also have to stay on top of trends in learning, motivation, engagement, recruiting, technology, and so on. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, but staying out of the know deprives you of a more robust career and your employer of information that could make your workplace smarter, happier, and healthier.

Blunder #4 – Not trying anything new. HR is a great profession because it’s deep, it’s wide, and there’s always a puzzle to solve. If your old solutions aren’t working, try something new even (or maybe especially) if that means going outside your comfort zone. Having a hard time finding top talent? Try enhancing your recruiting process with a an employee behavioral assessment or two. Ditto if your teams are producing more conflict or less creative ideas. Learning better who people are, and deliberately managing to those strengths, is smart leadership. 

Blunder #5 – Not keeping your ear to the ground. You can’t know what’s good for your company if you don’t know your company. Refusing to work in a silo—by making a concerted effort to get out and about—is the best way to gain the needed knowledge. Take the time to chat with folks and find out what makes them smile, what drives them crazy, and why they work for your company and not somewhere else, and then use that information to develop intelligent policies and practices that add value. 

Blunder #6 – Not focusing on what HR does best. It’s essential that HR understand the business, but HR are the people people, and there’s no shame in it. No serious leader could fail to grasp the importance of solid people practices to the health and longevity of the company. So, quit making excuses for how you see the world. Empathy, emotional intelligence, and caring for something other than the bottom line aren’t character flaws. Savvy employers understand there’s room at the table for multiple viewpoints and that you can never take the human out of “human resources” without significant cost. 

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!

When Your Employee Drive You Crazy

When Your Employee Drive You Crazy

Now and then, the employees you manage drive you crazy. In most cases the feeling is fleeting.

But not always. We’re all different, and at times those differences can be a bit too much to bear. What can you do when someone on your team regularly gives you a case of the grouchies?

First Things First: Take a Step Back

What is your job as a manager? It’s a simple question but one you’ll need to keep front and center as you find yourself becoming frustrated with your employee. Frustration has a way of causing us to think less than rationally and act less than fairly, and you can’t afford that. You have a job to do, regardless of how you feel about a particular employee. Your job is to get work done through the individual. Your job is to coach, counsel, and mentor your employees. Your job is to develop their gifts for the good of the organization. You can’t do all that if you’re focused on your negative feelings instead of your responsibility as a manager and leader.

Okay, So Now What?

Granted, putting your annoyed feelings aside may be easier said than done. How do you keep yourself on track?

After you’ve reminded yourself of your duties as a manager (and this will have to become a habit; the first reminder probably won’t be enough if your employee is truly challenging), be prepared to continue with the cognitive therapy, because let’s face it: changing your attitude about this employee is your best chance of reducing your stress where he/she is concerned.

Here’s a few truisms to keep top of mind whenever you find yourself getting exasperated with your “problem child” employee:

  • Your employee isn’t you. No, seriously. If you’ve ever hired someone who had a similar work ethic, work style, and worldview as you, you know how great it feels and how rare it is. Mostly, your employees won’t be you, and that’s generally a good thing. Diversity teams are most productive. So ask yourself: is your employee driving you crazy because of a legitimate performance deficiency, or is he/she simply being him- or herself when you’d rather he/she act more like you?
  • Your employee isn’t paid to think like you. Yes, I know it’s popular to take the position that a good employee will behave as though he’s as invested as the boss, but come on. Unless your employee’s position comes with the pay, perks, and autonomy of your position, he/she shouldn’t be expected to act as if it does.
  • As the manager, you set the standard. On the other hand, you have every right to expect an employee to work to a reasonable standard. If your employee makes you nuts because his/her work is not to standard, well, perhaps you’ve been a little lax in enforcing said standard? It doesn’t take much laxity for some employees to get the idea that certain unacceptable behaviors are, in fact, acceptable. Before you get annoyed with an employee who’s not getting the job done, be sure you’ve clearly communicated your expectations about how it should be done.
  • Realize you don’t have to like an employee to work well with him or her. You may truly dislike your employee’s personality, but if he/she has the traits for the job; interacts with you, other leaders, and his/her peers respectfully; and gets work completed to your satisfaction, that’s about all you can ask for. Let the rest go. 

We spend a lot of time at work, and it’s only natural to want to like everyone there. That’s probably not realistic, though. It’s also not realistic (or efficient or particularly good leadership) to fire everyone who makes you a little crazy, even if you have the authority to do so. Instead, figuring out how to manage your time with him or her is in everyone’s best interest.

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