Ask 3 Questions to Avoid Expensive Talent Mistakes
Thirty-three years ago I accidentally launched my insurance career during an on-campus interview at the UCLA career center.
While much has changed over the years, we have some industry-wide bad habits to break to continue to thrive.
Despite our shortcomings, I introduce myself as an “industry enthusiast” since I’m passionate about the opportunities in this incredible business.
But I have a question. If it’s such a great industry, why are so many of us stretched thin and burnt out?
And, firms of all sizes, regardless of geography or ownership structure, tell me the same thing. Attracting, optimizing and leveraging sales and client service talent, critical to profitable business growth, has never been more challenging.
Why are we struggling to find and onboard employees?
Hiring needs are too big to rely solely upon personal referrals, poaching competitors or using recruiters kept behind emergency glass. Be as diligent about a healthy talent pipeline as you are with prospects.
Are you considering non-traditional candidates who have the skills you need? Stop screening for degrees and instead interview for requisite skills like communication, curiosity and project management.
Look for people who demonstrate a juggler’s proficiency in handling competing stakeholder demands in high-stress environments. I believe teachers, restaurant/retail managers, and wedding coordinators are our future account managers if we build a scaleable transition process.
Once you’ve hired a new employee don’t commit the expensive and force-multiplying mistake of lackluster onboarding. Particularly in a remote or hybrid working environment, it’s critical to have a plan.
Introduce new hires to the insurance industry, to your particular clients’ lifecycles and provide context for the countless list of acronyms and concepts they must recognize. It’s difficult to “get committed” if someone doesn’t understand how their role fits in the ecosystem in solving complex client problems.
Do you deliver consistent information, processes and expectations to all new employees? It’s unfair to have a new hire’s success dependent upon the luck of the draw and whether their manager has the time and resources to support them.
We can all agree that our business is getting more complex. To develop the most effective and efficient client advisors we all need to embrace and train on giving specific feedback and career advice. “Be more like Joan” or “Get more technical” is ambiguous and subjective advice to give any employee let alone someone new.
Are we taxing our top talent?
One worrisome habit I’ve observed is the reliance on current employees, particularly high-performers, to play dual roles pre-hire and then have to act as de facto trainers in addition to their full-time role.
Yes, of course, we want our employees to mentor new colleagues; too often, however, I’ve seen employees – usually women – being asked to fill extended staffing gaps at great personal and professional costs.
You probably have several fixers on the team that are routinely called upon to save the day. Pay attention to when they’re doing their core client or management work. Often they’re doing that after they’re done putting out practice fires; they don’t feel important. They’re exhausted and stressed and that gets expensive.
You can’t convince me clients are getting their best work under these conditions either.
If you’re not able to flex client capacity between equally trained employees you’re vulnerable to losing new or recurring revenue or your most valuable asset—top talent.
Do our teams have time to lead our clients?
I doubt your RFPs say, “Hire us. We do your work the night before…” yet this expensive mistake is routinely made. Few teams prioritize focused thinking time and report “doing email” as their top activity.
Clients hire you to be led. We don’t have to do time tracking in six-minute intervals to get a handle on where time is spent.
When there’s a chronic issue with falling behind on deadlines or mistakes getting out the door, audit how many meetings and/or last-minute requests your teams are navigating. Something is driving that pattern.
Are your client service teams aligned on what services and scope your sales team is selling? Protect your top-performing account managers from working nights and weekends doing work you’re not paid to do.
Inventory your processes, people teams and patterns of your office culture to ensure teams can do the work effectively and efficiently. Encourage producers to introduce the client service team before the close and to let them lead the first 90 days to set the foundation of this new client relationship.
Thoughtfully build and scale teams so your clients get the best work. Profitable growth will follow.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask your team these 3 questions:
- What’s the first bad habit we should tackle?
- What (or who) gets in the way of doing your best work?
- What’s something I need to know that you don’t think I want to hear?
Even if one of your superpowers is to be decisive and respond on the spot, don’t.
After listening, ask, “What else?” and after several conversations patterns will reveal themselves.
That’s where you get started.