Employees are the backbone of any business. It would be pretty difficult for any company to be successful without their staff. Insurance companies are just one type of business that lean heavily on agents and office staff. After all, insurance is quite different from other industries because it has both a product and a service aspect. Aside from merely making sure their products work, insurance agencies have to make certain their clients are happy; it's an industry that has to delight their customers when you consider the lifetime value of each client. And, when your office staff is happy, then you can be rest assured that your clients will be too.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. With such a high turnover rate, many agencies are often scrambling to fill positions with good, hardworking people. Working in an insurance agency simply isn't for everyone, but if it seems like your office has a revolving door when it comes to office staff recruitment, then maybe you should look internally. How to hire good employees is something people always want to know, but retaining a quality team is another matter.
If you want to learn how to retain office staff for your insurance agency, then there are a few key ideas you should know. By implementing some or all of these strategies, then you'll have a better chance of hanging on to your top talent.
1. Effective Communication
Now, when you read "effective communication", you're probably thinking, "Of course we communicate at the office! We have voice mail, email, SMS, iMessage, etc." However, when we say communication, we don't mean just the different technologies. Effective communication doesn't mean having the means to do so or even just being able to blurt out what you want to say. Rather, it's about having an environment where people know how to convey their thoughts, ideas, and opinions without fear of riducule or judgement.
Insurance agency office staff should be able to feel like they can give their own thoughts and ideas, and even their objections. That means everyone - bosses and employees - should also learn how to listen without judgement. While not all new ideas can be implemented, it is worthwhile to listen to them. Actually, the funny thing with the concept of effective communication is that it is often not a key to having a good work environment, but a result of implementing the other items on this blog post (so keep reading...).
Transparency in an insurance agency may seem easier said than done, but it's not about revealing insider secrets. Rather, you should be able to share the overall strategy, key metrics, and responsibilities with everyone in your organization. Office staff for insurance agencies is a tight group. They're going to talk about the politics of what's going on in the office. The more a leader is transparent it tends to help tamp down the office gossip, because pretty much everyone will know what the other knows. Of course, things like compensation and other HR matters aren't shared with anyone other than those who have a right to know.
Your office staff should know what your overall goal is for your agency, what metrics you are using to measure success and if you're reaching those goals. After all, when they show up for work each day, people want to know why they are there and what they are striving to achieve both individally and as a team. Next, everyone should know their responsibilities, as well as that of their fellow employees. That way, they all know what they need to do, and that the workload is shared by everyone.
Cooperation is another concept that may seem like a no-brainer, but take a look at your office staff - is it really being practiced? If you have a special project or perhaps a problem client, does everyone take their fair share of work or is it just one person who volunteers for the job or even worse is given the job?
Most, if not all companies today, rely on the teamwork of their employees. At some level, everyone has to work together to consistently hit team goals, whether that means making sure everyone meets deadlines or complements each other's skills and knowledge. One way you can better foster communication is to highlight the importance of each of your office staff. Tell your team members that you value each one of them and their contributions to your organization. This should be done at both the one to one level as well as the office level.
Everyone is connected in a company, true, but that doesn't mean they actually feel a human connection to each other. When people feel connected to fellow employees, they lend their support and trust each other more. They share resources, genuinely congratulate each other, offer and accept suggestions, plus they also pick up the slack in case of emergencies. How can you foster this connection? Well, this is actually one of the simplest things you can do.
You should allow your office staff to socialize, whether that's through team meals, doing activities together outside the office, and even schedule time during work hours (like before or after meetings) to allow staff to mingle. One outstanding insurance agency leader even has an "appreciation luncheon" each month to congratulate his top performers. It's amazing how many team members get a free lunch each month at a nice venue. Small amount of time, and money, compared to the R.O.I. Also think about what that does for the vibe, and momentum, back at the office. That same leader also has a few BBQs at his home each year to say, "Thank You" to his entire team. That further cements the bond between him and his team.
5. Conflict Resolution
Conflicts happen in any organization. People are different from each other, act differently, and think differently, so it's inevitable that people will butt heads at some point. You can't just tell people not to fight, but rather, you need to manage conflicts. While you shouldn't encourage conflict, you should not let them bury (justified) anger or conflicts, lest it grows into something much bigger that may have more far-reaching negative consequences.
As a leader, you should strive to resolve conflicts as best you can and as quickly as possible. There are many conflict resolution techniques you can utilize. Discussion and written communication is often the most-used method to resolve problems, because many conflicts actually arise because of miscommunication. Compromise is another popular way to resolve conflicts in an office, but also requires some type of mediation. By managing conflicts effectively, team members can feel more secure in the company, and be less likely to leave for better pastures.
Lack of trust is another key factor why good office staff leave. Often, employees who have broken the company's trust get fired - so why shouldn't it work the other way around?
Why is trust so important in keeping good employees? You're paying them enough, so why can't they just put themselves in your hands and trust you? The truth is, you can't pay someone enough to trust you - it has to be earned. An employee who trusts his or her boss and company will feel secure and safe. And really, it's just human nature to want to be safe and secure. It's a natural, primal need to want safety and when our security is threatened, we fight or flight.
Unfortunately, there's no magic device that can turn trust on or off - you have to earn it, and keep it. However, you should strive to build a culture of trust in your office and lead by example - be trustworthy yourself and put your trust in your office staff.
7. Rewarding Good Work
They say that good work is a reward in itself, but it's still part of our human nature to want some type of prize for the good things we do. Rewarding good work (and doing it immediately) can certainly help employees feel good, and thus, foster more loyalty. People naturally want their hard work to be recognized in some form or another.
Rewards aren't just taking into account bonuses or other material things. According to Entreprenuer Magazine, every company should have some sort of reward system that acknowledges both behavior and performance, plus addresses these four main areas:
So, you don't have to give away prizes to reward good employees. Sometimes, a simple email or note that says "Good job!" or maybe expressing your thanks publicly to the rest of the staff is all your employees need to help keep them motivated and performing at their peak.
Great employees are hard to come by. That's why, if you have a fantastic staff, you should do your best to keep them. A happy and harmonious working environment is always good for the business and allows you to grow as an agency. Clients may not be able to see what's happening in the back room, but they'll be able to tell if you have a good office environment. When employees are happy and satisfied, this also shows in the way they interact with customers. Continuous studies haven proven that there's a direct correlation between happy employees and high productivity.