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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.

Banana who?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Banana.

Banana who?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Orange.

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.

 

How to transition an employee to a leader

How to transition an 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!

 

 

 

 

Demotivated employees quit

Demotivated employees quit

The funny thing about top performer employees 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. And once they have had enough, that’s it.  Re-engaging a dis-engaged employee is often too little too late.

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.

 

 

Good HR is integral to sustainable business growth

Dood HR is integral to sustainable business growth

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!

Customer retention strategies

Customer retention strategies starts with good customer service

Every thriving business can boast a continuous influx of new customers, but repeat customers are likely a company’s bread and butter.

Repeat customers provide steady income at a greater ROI than new customers. That’s because the work required to entice an individual to make a change, take a risk, and try something different is significant. On the other hand, the work required to keep a customer content is significantly less, because once the decision is made, customers are disinclined to revisit that decision until motivated by a serious outside push.

Customer retention has also proved to be less expensive. One study found that the average company spends 78% of its marketing budget on acquiring new customers and only 2% on customer relations. However, 41% of its revenue comes from existing customers!

Avoiding the Push and Pull

To repeat, existing customers tend to want to stay put until pulled or pushed by outside forces such as:

  • Another enticing offer
  • Inconsistent or poor product quality
  • Unfavorable pricing
  • Poor customer service

You might think that good customer service is an effective counterpoint to that last bulleted item only. Not true. A good CSR can work with clients who are unhappy for whatever reason; making the case for the company’s unique value proposition and reminding the customer of all the reasons it makes sense for that customer to remain loyal.

That’s why your customer retention strategy has to start with good customer service.

Good Customer Service Defined

What is good customer service anyway? Well, for certain it consists of more than a smile and a script. Smiles and scripts can be helpful, but neither can resolve a customer’s problem. And at its core, good customer service is about resolving customer problems with as much courtesy, expediency, and efficiency as is humanly possible.

A CSR who fixes the problem, but with a nasty attitude, will annoy customers even as they grudgingly accept the help. A CSR who fails to fix the problem while expressing an indifferent chirpiness will be perceived as adding insult to injury.

Here are a few things you can do to empower your CSRs to provide top notch service that’ll keep your existing customers happy and grounded right where they are.

Empower Your CSRs to Help Your Customers. Narrow policies that box your CSRs into lose-lose scenarios frustrate your customers and your employees. Instead, give your CSRs room to resolve issues creatively without compromising company values or customer relationships.

Provide Lots of Ongoing Training. The best CSRs have a great way with people and a great deal of knowledge about their company’s products, policies, and practices. Acquiring and maintaining these qualifications requires an unwavering commitment to employee development from employees and employer alike.

Focus on Innate Strengths. Hiring right is one of the best ways you can facilitate your CSRs’ success. Why? Because placing people with the right talent in the right position is the first and arguably best step to ensuring employee success. The Omnia Customer Service Report can help you identify the general traits gifted CSRs boast while testing whether a particular candidate possesses those traits. Taking strengths for granted while focusing on fixing “weaknesses” may be a time-honored corporate tradition, but that doesn’t mean it’s especially effective.

Keep the Airwaves Open. Employees “in the trenches” generally are in the best position to know what’s working and what isn’t. Because your CSRs speak with existing customers day in and day out they’re privy to all kinds of information that could enhance your company’s offerings. Be open to hearing what they’ve learned.

We’ll say it again: good customer service is key to your customer retention strategy. Take that philosophy to heart and enjoy increased ROI across the board.

 

Discover how to engage and motivate your CSRs!
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