Retaining Top Talent…

As you probably already know, my firm recruits only for insurance brokerage firms in the WDC region.  We represent 14 of the top 20 firms and many other smaller firms as well.  I am asked all the time by my clients and candidates: what really separates the successful insurance firms from the unsuccessful ones?  The answer is very simple.  It is those who are able to RETAIN THEIR TOP TALENT.

So, based on my inside interactions with the top WDC insurance firms, how do the “best of the best” retain their top talent?

  1. Create an environment that encourages constant communication: the CEO and President of one of best clients (I really love this firm) has a small desk set up in the bullpen area in view of where all the support and service staff sits in their cubicles.  He is right in the middle of the action and readily mixes with the staff offering advice and rolling up his sleeves to help solve problems. Sure, he’s not there ALL the time, but enough to encourage open and free communications.   No doubt, the staff would run through Hell with a gasoline can for him.  Outstanding!  Note: this firm has tripled in size over the past six years.
  2. Make expectations and goals clear.  Particularly with sales organizations, having specific activity metrics and goals for the sales people are critical. Tracking outgoing prospecting calls, ex-dates collected, meetings, proposals, and closing ratios, all ensure that sales people know what is expected of them.  They know what level activity is required for them to be successful too.  One client has a spreadsheet tracking all activity in the sales department on an individual basis and posts it in the coffee room at the end of each week for all to see.  Wow, are these sales people motivated!  Nobody wants to be the laggard.
  3. Telecommuting/Flex Schedules:  Traffic is getting worse by the day and significantly more expensive. I just learned yesterday that during peak travel time, it now costs $37.50 to travel one-way from Woodbridge to Tysons on the toll road!!  Are you kidding me??  Of course, the alternative is to spend two hours in your car crawling through traffic.  This is crazy stuff!  And I-66 is next.  So if you have a super star employee who lives in Woodbridge working for your firm in Tysons who gets an offer to work in Woodbridge for same pay, how do you think they will react?  That’s right: C ya later, boss.  I have a client who refused to offer any flex time or telecommuting.  It took me five months to find them an account manager.  Good guy.  But he left the firm within 60 days. Ouch!  The following week I fired the client.  Bye bye.
  4. Provide opportunities to learn: Like it or not, technology advances are now dictating that we will work well into our 70s and probably 80s. Yes, cancer and heart disease will be completely eradicated in 15 years and people will be living well past 100 years old on a routine basis.  To survive, we must continually be re-training and re-charging for the long haul.  Many of my clients now encourage their employees to take short educational breaks to retool whether it be to take a few weeks to complete/study for a professional certification or go back to school at night or part-time.  You want a cadre of highly motivated, smart people.  Investing in your employee’s future is a classic win-win.
  5. Recognize and reward good work.  Although not as obvious as the points made above, the #1 reason for staff departing for another opportunity is they feel like they are not recognized for their work. These are not robots, but human beings.  And an informal pat on the back is not good enough.  Recognition should be tied to a specific task or achievement.  And it should be rewarded with something tangible such as a one-off bonus of gift card.  Believe me, nobody really cares about your mission statement hanging in the reception area.  Tangible recognition is HUGE for an employee.  Try it.  .

An effective hiring process is the cornerstone for all that is mentioned above:  Hire the right candidate in the first place!  What I mean is have the hiring tools (personality profiling, etc) and process (interviewing) that ensures that your new hires are in alignment with your office culture, strategy, and personality.  If this is in alignment, you already halfway there.  Remember: most people are hired for what they’ve done, but fired for who they are.

Rob Houghton

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