When you started out as an agent, did you dream of screening resumes, creating a sick leave policy, and overseeing a payroll? Probably not! Chances are you became an agent because you’re independent and dislike bureaucracy. The insurance business was an opportunity to make money and have the flexibility to work when you wanted. When you chose this profession, you weren’t looking for a management position.
The irony is that the more successful you became as an agent, the more you needed other people to help carry on your business. At some point you had to hire staff, and now you need to develop some management techniques.
For many of you, this is paralyzing. Why? Because you don’t have the instincts or interest in being a manager. Running a staff with different skills and personalities is a challenge. Who should you hire? What will they do? How do you keep them happy and productive? How do you hold them accountable?
Being a good manager is easier than you think. It requires thought, time, and a willingness to listen–all of which are stumbling blocks for some agents! But it can be gratifying to assemble a team of people whose particular skills support your business. It can be fun to help people reach their potential and enjoy their work. And it definitely improves your bottom line to have competent, well-managed people on board.
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The question is how to do it. The three problem areas for managers are:
–Eliminating staff turnover.
First, let’s look at staff turnover. If your office is a revolving door–in other words, you’re looking for a new person every two years or so–you need to examine both your hiring and management methods. Here’s what can happen to agents who do not invest the necessary time and thought in the hiring process:
–You hire the wrong person because you are impatient, desperate, tired of the process, or unclear about what you really want.
–You outgrow your employee because you hired someone for your present needs instead of your future needs.
–Your employee outgrows you because you don’t give him or her an opportunity to learn new skills, increase responsibilities, or earn more money.
There are other reasons why things don’t work out with staff, but these three are the main ones. So let’s break down each point: First, how do you hire the right person?
Before you start the process, really think about the position and the skills required. Create a detailed, written job description so you are clear about the person’s responsibilities and your expectations. Look around your office to make sure you have adequate space and equipment for your new hire. Think about the kind of training you’ll provide. And most important, come up with an acceptable compensation package.
If you give some thought in advance to job responsibilities, office logistics, training, and compensation, you will have a good head start.
Next, get the word out about the position. You can run an ad in the newspaper or post one on the Internet–whatever works for you. The key to effective advertising is being explicit about what you need. For example, if cold calling is one of the job requirements, say so. Don’t beat around the bush. Your objective is to get resumes from qualified candidates who will be able to do the job.
During the interview process, don’t rush things. Don’t inflate the job, or disguise some of the tasks. Be honest about what you’re looking for, go over the job description, and be sure the candidate has the ability to perform the job.
Too many agents skip important interviewing steps–such as reference checking and testing–and hire the first person who seems qualified to do the job. Whether you need someone for telephoning, service, or basic secretarial skills, take time to make sure the candidate can handle the responsibilities.
One last thought on hiring. I believe part-time employment is a Band-Aid solution. It seems easier and less time-consuming and might not involve as much training. But does it make sense in the long run? Are you planning to grow? It takes a lot of effort to teach someone your business. Why not hire a full-time employee who can play a bigger part in your future? Someone who meets your needs now and down the road. Why not make the investment in yourself?
Once the new person is on board, you must draft a contract specifying your expectations, training schedule, and employee accountability.
The second problem scenario is outgrowing your employee. Why does that happen? One reason is because many agents don’t look beyond today.
Before you hire someone, think about your long-term needs and goals. This is what I call The Visionary Future! Think about where you want to go in your business and what it will take to achieve your vision. Ponder the future. What kind of staff will you need in a year? In three years? What will they be doing? How will their roles change? Don’t be afraid to dream about the possibilities.
Each day you should focus on four key areas in your business: creating and implementing the vision; meeting with or talking to clients; prospecting and building strategic alliances or centers of influence; and most important, delegating job duties. During the hiring process, think about how your present and future staff can help you concentrate on these key areas. You want employees who will grow as your business grows.
During the interviewing process, make sure the job candidate fits your long-term goals. But think about your present team, too. Many of my clients complain about their staff’s inability to grow with the business. In most cases, it’s not so much inability as a lack of understanding. Your employees usually (but not always) know what your current goals are and how they can help you achieve them. But very seldom do they know where you want to be in the future and how they fit in.