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Insurance Industry News from ProgramBusiness.comGetting the Best?
In the winter of 2000, after a disappointing 71-91 season, the Texas Rangers purchased shortstop Alex Rodriguez for $252 million. It was the most lucrative contract in the history of professional sports. For three years, A Rod did his part. He won two Golden Gloves, averaged 52 home runs per season, and in 2003 was named the American League MVP.
The rest of the story is that, despite the addition of A Rod, the Rangers remained stuck in fourth place in their division. From 2001 through 2003, they won 73, 72 and then 71 games, respectively. During the same period, A Rod’s batting average also crept downward, from .318 in 2001, to .300 in 2002, and finally to .298 before he left the Rangers and went to the New York Yankees.
It’s not that tough these days for an agency to recruit an all star producer. Sales call reluctance tests and reliable interview techniques have greatly advanced the art of identifying talent and screening out shaky candidates. Moreover, because insurance sales are commission-based, even smaller agencies can make it worthwhile to a top performer to sign.
The harder part is developing your best producers, once you’ve hired them, in a way that rewards both them and your agency for their success. Do you offer an environment in which your top sales people can thrive? Will they and the rest of your agency team work together to increase the value of your agency to everyone’s benefit? Or will all of you, like A Rod and the Rangers, find yourselves facing organizational issues that nudge your numbers in the wrong direction?
There’s a saying in sports that winning cures all ills. Despite the fact that a team has serious issues related to its overall performance, it is easy to ignore them as long as the team is winning. Most agencies have been on a winning streak with the hard market. For the past few years, organizational issues that can inhibit performance have been easy to ignore or dismiss because revenue cures all ills.
With the return of the soft market, however, agencies will no longer have the luxury of sweeping underlying performance issues under the rug. What are these issues? A century of workplace behavioral research has shown that, when you bring a group of people together to work toward a common goal, “soft” issues of personality clashes, turf battles, back stabbing, lack of confidence and other human foibles will emerge. Most of the time these soft performance inhibitors show up as symptoms in hard numbers like sales, turnover, profitability and revenue.
You can address these soft issues in one of two ways. You can react to them as they arise, and hope for the best, as most agencies do; or you can search out and discover beforehand what they are, and intervene proactively to position your agency for unhampered growth in the soft market.
New Survey Results
In light of changing market conditions, my consulting firm looked at these issues in a survey that we are publicly previewing for the first time in this space. From September of 2003 through February of 2004, we asked 1,549 people at 26 agencies across the United States, ranging in size from 16 to 182 employees, to take a Performance Diagnostic Survey (PDS) designed to identify their attitudes and perceptions that might be inhibiting performance. Essentially, PDS is a series of 40 questions related to how people view their jobs, their employer and their common mission.
When we tabulated the results, three things jumped out at us: (1) a general lack of understanding among respondents of the 5 to 7 factors critical to their own success; (2) poor communications within the agency; and (3) inadequate praise, rewards and recognition for work well done.
Critical Success Factors
When asked if they knew the 5 to 7 factors that were critical to their own job success, respondents were generally unable to say with confidence<Click for the whole story...