What is THE most valuable asset in your agency?

Strong businesswoman looking at camera

When we ask this question, there is never any hesitation and the answer is always the same, “our people.” 

But your biggest asset could be the source of your biggest challenges.

It’s not shocking that the challenge cited most often by agents is their inability to find the right people to join their team.

I’d venture to say this is true for every business, but it is even more critical for small businesses that are built on relationships. We know this because it’s critically important for us too!

Think about it, your people are responsible for everything.

Your people set the tone with your clients during every interaction they have. They can single-handedly make — or break — your clients’ customer experience.

The airline industry demonstrates this all too well. Southwest performs the same function as Delta, American or United – they fly you from place to place.

The difference? Their people.

Southwest hires people who have the attitude and desire to create positive experiences for their clients. It’s this strategy that consistently puts them in the lead in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Your people are the living, breathing example of your culture. What they do and how they do it is the biggest factor impacting your clients’ decision to keep doing business with your agency.  

You can have access to the best insurance programs in the world, but if you have the wrong people setting the wrong tone, then nothing else will matter.

People are truly that important.

And since you are in a business built on relationships, finding the right people to make up your agency team is critical to your success.

In our visits with agencies across Ohio, agents have shared some creative ways they find new talent.

The ideas span from building strong relationships with the guidance counselors and working with local colleges, to incentivizing their staff for referrals and being active in local organizations – and everything in between.

However, there is always a common theme to the conversation: finding the right talent is hard. On top of that, once they find a new person, only 1 out of 5 may work out.

That’s incredibly expensive and pretty discouraging.

We know that there are many things to consider when hiring someone: technical skills, people skills, attitude, culture, personality, fit, work ethic, the list goes on and on.

How we broke it down

It’s hard and not an exact science, so we participated in the development of a hiring tool with our peers at Big I New York. It’s designed around finding the most successful people for the roles that you hire for most often in your agency.

The process looked like this:

  1. Find the rock stars
    We asked agents to tell give us the names of their most successful CSRs and producers.

    With the help of several agencies in both Ohio and New York (special thanks to Ohio agencies, Hill & Hamilton and Payne & Brown Insurance!), we assembled a strong group of people in each of the identified roles within an agency.

  2. Pick their brains
    Each group participated in several sessions where we asked them to describe their average day, the most common tasks they perform through the course of their work, etc.

    The conversations were collaborative in nature and included 8-10 identified rock stars in each of the key roles.

  3. Define the role
    Based on these conversations, we were able to build a comprehensive list describing their roles in detail.

    Once the role was defined, we asked them to tell us how much time they spent on each of the areas that were identified.

  4. Skills & attributes
    The skills and attributes needed for each of the parts of their job were identified and able to be ranked by order of importance based on outline of the role that they helped us build.

  5. Set the standard
    The same rock-star agents that helped us define the role also became the standard we will use to measure all other candidates.

    We know that these agents have the right skills, attributes and behaviors to be very successful in their respective role.

  6. Test, test, test
    The final phase of developing this new tool included extensive testing to make sure what we developed would be accurate and valuable when used in an agency.

    We used focus groups of agency supervisors and managers to make sure what we developed made sense to them.

    We even had one agency owner try to “break” the system – he gave us five account managers from his office and asked us to identify his rock stars and low performers using the profiles we developed. We did, and nailed it, so we’re confident to report that these tools are tried and tested.

If you think about it – there is no one who knows the role better that the person doing it.

But as hiring managers, we write the job descriptions, do the interviews, evaluate the applicants, and make the decision. We may have never done the role, or at the very least, haven’t done it in a long time.

Hiring managers tend to focus on the skills and attributes that we value the most, but what we value may not be the attributes that the person in that position needs to have to be successful.

By going through this process, we were able to identify and rank the skills and characteristics that a person would need to be successful in each of these roles.

Your start-to-finish guide to hiring great talent

DIY Hiring Toolkit thumbnails

The DIY Hiring Toolkit is your comprehensive guide to hiring your next great employee and covers it all: preparing & launching your search, screening, and ultimately hiring & onboarding your next great team member.

We've got the questions you need to ask, editable forms to streamline the process, and step-by-step instructions to explain everything for 5 key agency positions:

  • Commercial Lines CSR

  • Personal Lines CSR

  • Personal & Commercial Lines CSR

  • Commercial Lines Producer

  • Personal Lines Producer

Ready to get started? Click here or the button below to fill out an inquiry form!

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