How many times have you heard, or even said yourself, “It’s all about our people.” It is true, no doubt. It’s so true you would think wed do a better job of planning to add new people to our team. However, as a small business, most of us just don’t do it enough to do it well. 

However, you can’t use this as an excuse. In fact, as a small business with a small team, every new hire is even more critical for you to get it right. There’s too much on the line not to; for you, your clients, the rest of your team, and, most of all, the new team members. 

Here are some ideas our member agencies shared on a recent video discussion on this subject. 

Plan to expand 

Just like you always maintain a pipeline of client prospects, you should also do the same with potential candidates, even when you aren’t planning an immediate hire. Keep a working list of who the high performers are in your market. Maybe even let them know you have a longer-term interest in them joining your team. After all, you never know when you will have a sudden need. 

Define the role with a fresh perspective 

Don’t automatically assume that your next hire will be for an existing job description. This is especially true as you grow. However, whether this is a new position or the replacement of a current role, look broader than just this single position.  

Step back and evaluate how you could improve the overall team’s effectiveness and efficiencies by making adjustments to the role to be filled. Look at the activities existing team members are performing that they really shouldn’t (think about a producer doing service work or an account executive performing clerical responsibilities). If you can move those activities off their desk and into the new role’s duties, you allow the existing team member to spend more time doing things that allow them to deliver the most value to your organization.  

Expand your search  

Now more than ever, after forced work-from-home protocols, candidates are going to expect flexibility regarding remote work opportunitiesInstead of cursing this reality, use it to your advantage. Now that you know work-from-home works, your next team member may be a time zone or two away. Not only can this improve the quality of the hire, but depending on your home marketit may also be a much less expensive option. 

Insurance agency, market thyself  

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a high unemployment rate will give you your choice of highly qualified candidates. To attract the ideal clients, you know you have to market yourself with them in mind. The same thing goes with your ideal team member. You must market your agency and the position with a focused marketing strategy and plan. 

Fit the existing team 

The worst thing you could do in hiring a new team member is to bring them into a culture where they don’t fit. Your organizational culture is everything and needs to be protected. Bringing in a misaligned new hire will set your productivity back rather than move it forward. Use your culture, values, and organizational beliefs as the most critical recruiting filter of all. 

Even when a candidate is a cultural fit, ensure that the team understands how to work together and protect the culture most effectively. Have everyone on your team, and new candidates, take a Kolbe test (or something similar) to better understand how each of them makes decisions and how to communicate with one another most effectively. 

Finally, if possible, have the candidate go to lunch with their potential team to get an even greater sense of team chemistry. 

Personality tests 

In addition to the Kolbe test, find a personality test, and use it consistently. Some of the more popular tests include Omnia and Caliper. The most important thing isn’t which test to use, it’to simply find one you like and stick with it. This allows the most consistent collection and interpretation of information. 

If you haven’t used these tests in the past, have your current team members take the test to create a baseline for comparisons. Keep the test in perspective. Don’t automatically hire someone simply because they test the way you want 

Have the candidate take the assessment early in the interviewing process. If they do well, that is simply a sign to proceed. However, if the results tell you they are a weak candidate, don’t try to rationalize your way around the recommendation. Don’t move forward with the candidate in those situations. 

Finally, if you are hiring a producer, another test you should use is SPQ Gold. This test measures call reluctance. It isn’t whether or not a candidate has call reluctance; everyone has some level. It’s a matter of what type of call reluctance they have and how to manage it most effectively.  

Successful onboarding 

Even when you have successfully recruited and hired the perfect candidate, success still isn’t a sure thing. You must have a well-defined training and onboarding process in place. It is necessary for the new hire, and it is  essential for your existing team. 

Your onboarding and training processes are also useful tools during the interviewing process. The highest performers in any role want to see a  clear path to success. It is a clear signal of your commitment to them, something they want to know before they commit to you. 

Protect yourself from yourself 

This advice is especially true when hiring a sales position. Chances are, whoever is doing the hiring for this position in your agency is a salesperson themselves. Having salespeople hire other salespeople is a recipe for disaster. The hiring person WAY too often lets their competitive nature sneak in, and they end up trying to sell the agency to the wrong candidates. 

Develop a series of exercises to ensure an objective measure of the candidates abilities. The activities can include having the candidate: 

  • Analyze, in detail, a targeted prospect of the agency 
  • Create mini-marketing plans for a couple of opportunities 
  • Present a plan for how they will build and maintain a healthy pipeline 
  • Have them role-play scenarios such as getting past a gatekeeper or handling objections from a decision-maker 

Remember, even an average salesperson will interview well; they are likely engaging and likable. When you add in the challenge of salespeople hiring salespeople, it’s no wonder so few producer hires are successful. Use these suggested exercises to increase your successful hire ratio. 

Talk them out of what?! 

Some of the best hiring advice I ever received was to try and talk the candidate out of taking the position. Be very upfront of the challenges and difficulties the role will entail; force the candidate to reflect on the reasons they maybe shouldn’t take the job. If the candidate still feels they can overcome those challenges and be successful, you just significantly improved the chances they will. 

Bottom line 

Successfully recruiting, interviewing, and hiring the right new team members is a whole bunch of hard work. It is also some of the most important work you do. Don’t take this responsibility lightly.  

The cool thing is that when you build the reputation of doing this well, the whole process will get easier as you will have the best candidates approaching you. 


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