Five “Out-of-the-Box” Tips on Hiring Top Talent for Your Agency

Hiring Top Talent

Agent owners often talk to me about how challenging it is to find, attract and hire top talent for their agency.  Many have high turnover and find themselves in the office all by themselves trying to do everything until they find new employees.

Churn rates on staff retention in the insurance business are higher than in most industries. Research by Insurance Journal in April 2020 reveals a 92% failure rate for new insurance reps. That is less than a 10% employee retention rate. Losing new hires costs you money, time, blood, sweat and tears based on the investment of time and energy you and existing team members expend in training and ongoing support.

Below are five “out-of-the box” tips on hiring the right candidate that I have learned over a 25-year career building teams from scratch. These guiding principles became even more meaningful when I got into the insurance business.

Find candidates who are self-motivated.

Understand one thing that will solve a lot of problems when hiring employees: You are not their motivator. When identifying candidates, understand and ask if they have a purpose and end game in mind. That means they have taken the time to identify their goals both personal and professional. They should have a short-term and long-term view of their career and their future. Once they have that foundation, you can build upon those goals by linking them to how your job opportunity and agency goals can be achieved while they meet their own goals.

As the saying goes: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.  You want someone who knows their purpose, value and vision before they even walk in your door.  Then you can focus on leadership, growth and success rather than finding ways to motivate employees to do what their supposed to do.

Hire for desire, not skill set.

As in many sales environments, starting a new position in an insurance agency can be overwhelming and tough for a new hire if they have limited experience. There’s a significant ramp-up to productivity and competency. A team member must master a number of skills all at the same time such as navigating new and legacy technology platforms, development of genuine and authentic emotional intelligence so client conversations are effective and meaningful, understanding the intricacies of insurance products and juggling a multitude of tasks.

If a new hire has goals and aspirations and your opportunity supports those goals as well as your own, the team member will have the tenacity and desire to push through obstacles when the going gets tough, because they have their eye on a prize beyond everyday tasks. Create and implement an interview process that uncovers situations and times when the candidate had to overcome obstacles, find creative solutions and had the tenacity to get to the next level of success.

Skill sets can be taught, but desire must come from within. A team member can have great skill set, but if they don’t have an innate desire to master the nuances of the job to be successful for their own sake, they won’t last. You want someone who is looking for a career, not just a job.

Offer outstanding, committed leadership.

The right candidates are looking for leaders who are willing to invest in them. They are looking to sign up for a vision, a mission and a purpose. This is especially true of Gen Z. The best salespeople, and employees for that matter, are people who totally believe in what they are doing, what they are selling and the value they are bringing to their clients. And that comes through with every client conversation and interaction.

Are you a leader that you would want to follow? Does your team know that you are committed to their success? Are they free to set goals, make mistakes, regroup, invent, be creative and look to you for advice and guidance? Are you committed to their goals just as much as you are asking them to be committed to yours?

If the answers to these questions are not what you want them to be, then sit down and put some thought into how you want to present, change or emphasize your leadership style so that you can attract the committed candidates who want to commit to strong and visionary leadership.  You’re looking for the ones that are looking for you.

No more “Butts in Seats”

As a business owner, the temptation is to just get someone who can get the daily tasks done and alleviate the pressure.  Don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

I should have started with this point because if you don’t resist the temptation to put butts in seats, then that is what you will end up with – a butt in a seat. You know the saying: Get the right people, in the right seat, on the right bus. That’s fine and I understand that, but the key phrase is “right people.” Have you identified what that “right person” is, and are you interviewing toward those skills and qualities? What questions are you asking that will uncover those skills and qualities that they must have to be successful?

You want people who believe what you believe. You want people who are invested in your business, in themselves and in you as a leader. I will guarantee you that if you hire in this way, you will have a much higher retention rate with your staff who are in it for the long haul.

How to hire top talent for the long haul.

Below are some specific actions you can implement that will improve your win rates toward finding, attracting and hiring the best possible candidate who then becomes the most valuable player:

  • Have a specifically designed interviewing strategy that uncovers the right skills and qualities weighted for importance and objective in evaluation.
  • Understand how your competition is attracting the talent you want, and have a strategy to sell your opportunity.
  • Create job postings that tell the story of the person you are looking to hire. If you use boilerplate job postings, then you will get boilerplate candidates.
  • Match the candidates’ personal and professional goals with your opportunity. If you don’t, they won’t last.
  • Clearly articulate your onboarding program, put it in writing and commit to timelines.
  • Have a plan for employee growth, skill set expansion and areas of opportunity for promotion.
  • Clearly outline how their performance will be evaluated and how you will commit to help them meet their personal goals through the performance goals you set for them.

As an Agency owner, you have a lot on your plate to say the least.  Building a team means taking care of them as much as you would take care of your clients.  Strong teams are not built overnight, but how they start is crucial to long term success.  If your recruiting, interviewing and onboarding processes are not solid, then the weak starting point for each new hire will reflect in their performance.  That said, the top reason for new hire failure is inadequate onboarding strategies.  Consider finding resources that help you with these processes.

Evaluate your interviewing, hiring and onboarding processes so you set up your next team member for success and watch your business expand exponentially.

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