While minimizing the risk of losing clients and revenue.
- Understand the Opportunity
- Going Beyond the Job Description
- Build Relationships
- Make an Offer and Close the Deal
You had a great week. Your team renewed four key accounts and a handful of others. One of the benefits producers sold a 1500 life group and morale is up. It feels good to have a team of service professionals that help you achieve your goals, right? But cultivating a team of the best service talent doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term process of finding, nurturing, and recruiting top talent. Paying attention to your past, current and future personnel can be beneficial as an ongoing effort.
Now, who will you assign this new 1500 life new case to? The Account Manager on this book isn’t quite ready, and the CM’s shoes will be hard to fill because of her longstanding rapport with several important clients. It doesn’t take long for another advisor to catch that client at the right time - like in the midst of turnover - and potentially take their business.
It’s easy to get caught flat-footed when an important member of your team decides to leave. How long would it take you today to replace a key Account Executive or Client Manager? Does your internal recruiter have time to start a search tomorrow? Because these questions are so important for a successful plan for dealing with turnover, it’s important to ask yourself early and often. Job ads provide one route toward building a healthy pipeline of talent, but it goes much deeper if you truly want to nurture a successful long-term team.
There’s no sugar coating it, turnover is a problem for benefit advisors and other benefits organizations. But you can combat its detrimental effects to company culture, morale and client experience by getting proactive about recruiting. Instead of scrambling, keep these 7 steps in mind.
While minimizing the risk of losing clients and revenue.
Take a close look at the problem you are trying to solve, so you can find the best available person in the market to solve it. Think about what is good and bad about your company and opportunity so you can represent your story accurately and positively in the market, and have the best chance at finding someone who will fit your culture as well as have the right skill set to accomplish the goals.
Having transparency about who you are as a company during the hiring process will ultimately lead to attracting the ideal candidate for the position. This step needs to be done first. If you don’t understand exactly who you need to hire, you are setting yourself up for high turnover.
Understanding the answers to these questions yourself is important, because it helps you to understand the nuances of the opportunity, and therefore better connect with the right candidates.
A job description is not something that you have to post. We already know postings don’t attract strong enough candidates. This is something to share via email with serious candidates.
Candidates are attracted to details, not generalities. If you did have a posting, and the candidate read it, that was just a start. Many compliance-approved job descriptions don’t really give enough of the specifics candidates want to know, so it’s left up to you to cover the details for more serious candidates.
Rather than take thirty minutes to share the details over the phone, video call, or in an interview with each interested and qualified candidate, why not lay out all the facts beforehand so you can get right down to what you both want to know.
As of today, you may not have a large database, but use your CRM to start one. Here are some effective ways to build your database of potential client managers.
Now that you have the vacancy, activate that research you’ve been doing.
Continue the process by understanding the Six Prime Motivators.
1. Better quality of life for the candidate and their family.
This motivator includes both the quality of the candidate’s work and their personal life. The best recruiters deeply understand the benefits a change could bring, and share that vision expertly with their potential hires.
2. More responsibility in relation to their current position.
This could include not just additional responsibilities, but also new challenges or the size/scope of assignments. Specific to a client management role, that could mean whether they get to work on self-funded business and whether their current firm is even able to win the big groups or the kind of business they want to be working on that challenges them Do they have the compliance support, ben admin software, worksite, and voluntary expertise, underwriters, or technical analysts and other tools and resources they need to be successful where they are? Or are those things they lack where they are and what you can offer?
3. More opportunities for advancement in the future.
Is this position going to offer them a step forward in their career? Offering a growth opportunity doesn’t mean their title has to change, but simply that they will be adding skills that will make them more marketable in the future.
4. Physically closer, or more time for family.
Perhaps moving to a new position means moving to a new area, city, or state. For the candidate, it might be a chance to get closer to home, which might be a shorter commute or even moving back to their hometown. The new position might be an opportunity to work remotely and spend time with family and friends, especially considering how the 40-hour workweek is becoming a thing of the past. Highlight the benefits of a move.
5. A boss and team they like.
Developing these skills will optimize your interviews with candidates.
Once they say, “That’s right,” They are open to hearing about what you have to offer!
In the course of this conversation, you will also be able to ascertain whether they have a track record of accomplishments, skills, and personality to fit your culture and opportunity. At this point, you can ask them to follow up with you by sending a resume. I also ask for a candidate profile. This is a simple list of questions that answers some of the basics you'd want to know, like “How well-versed are you with self-funding? How big is the book you're handling currently in terms of the number of clients, revenue, average group size?”
The first is that you get answers to your questions and now notes have been pre-made for you, so you have something to refer back to. This is helpful if you’re fortunate enough to talk to a number of people and need to keep track of who said what. They are also useful to prepare other members of the team who will interview.
Second, you get a writing sample from your candidate. You’d be surprised sometimes.
Finally, they are putting some time and effort into it. They may seem excited on the phone, but if they don’t take the time to complete the profile in a timely fashion, or at all, then that tells you something.
Insisting on a completed profile is something to gauge carefully. Passive candidates might object to yet more work on top of a busy workload, but it’s how you position it. You could decide to pass on the profile and meet for coffee and woo a little more first but proceed with caution.
95% of candidates who end up taking the job will complete the profile.
The ones who don’t are invariably the candidates who pull out at the 11th hour, or take a counteroffer once they give notice.
Have the first meeting “off-campus” and have them meet with the person who’d be their immediate supervisor so they can see if there’s chemistry. You are wooing these candidates who aren’t necessarily actively looking. They are not so much interviewing as gathering information in the first meeting. Meeting for coffee, lunch, or a drink, takes a bit of the pressure off and they don’t have to feel like they’re officially putting their name in the hat (despite completing a profile). This is not a time for an HR interview or applying online. They are not a serious candidate just yet. They have to be “hooked” before you can start giving them ‘official’ steps to take.
In between official interviews, be a sounding board, a coach, and play devil’s advocate. Help them to manage their emotions and answer their questions over the phone.
If the second meeting goes well, it’s appropriate toward the end to start asking what it will be like for them to give notice, even if there are a few more steps in your hiring process.
What could their employer do to keep them, if anything? With the best candidates, there’s nothing. They don’t like their boss, or the types/size clients they work on, or the commute, and so on.
You can continue with the candidate (you miss 100% of the shots you don't take), but you want to keep your search going and work hard to have another strong candidate. You risk any time invested with someone who is a candidate for a counteroffer. However, given the dearth of talent sometimes you have to take your chances and move forward with someone who is a risk. If you’ve done your job, you just won’t be caught off guard when it happens.
After planting early seeds regarding a counteroffer, when you know you’re going to offer the job, you have to have the conversation again. Prepare them for what they might experience when they give notice.
Maybe you have seen these acts from the other side! If you are good at it, you know what you’re up against, and you can foreshadow what’s coming.
Recruiting a great long-term employee doesn’t stop when your offer is officially accepted. In fact, it continues well past the first day of work. Have a plan for the first day, week, month, even 90 days for onboarding and retention.
The first days are the most important, but continue to invest time in your new recruit by introducing them to peers, facilitating training, and building a positive and rewarding experience. Stay in touch with your team’s goals, aspirations, and needs long-term, so you don’t have to recruit again any time soon!
Recruiting top talent for your benefits agency is an ongoing process that can yield incredible results in the form of a productive, happy, long-term team. Implementing the 7 stages you’ve learned here provides an important base for recruiting success.
An ineffective recruiting strategy drains you of time and energy. A lack of great service talent can limit your growth, especially when an Account Executive leaves your team unexpectedly. Set yourself up for ongoing growth and success with attention to your hiring pipeline on an ongoing basis.
If it all seems like a lot, that’s because it is.
We created the 7 steps. Let us help you use them to your advantage.
The Spencer James Group is a boutique insurance recruitment agency in Denver, Colorado. Since 2003, our principals personally execute every phase of every search process to ensure genuine, lasting success for both candidates and clients.
Our nationwide database covers a wide spectrum of insurance broker/consultants, health insurance, ancillary, stop-loss and worksite carriers, ancillary, stop-loss and traditional general agents, enrollment companies, TPA’s, cost containment companies, benefits administration, and benefits software companies.
“With their screening and review process, The Spencer James Group was able to present to me just the right candidate! I did not need to sort through a bunch of resumes, web services, or missed appointments.
- Mitch Michener, Partner at Kennedy, Michener Benefits, LLC
“Steve and the Spencer James Group are exceptional, value-creating business partners in the world of employee benefits consulting and brokerage talent acquisition. Steve helped our Employee Benefits division recruit and land incredible, top-tier client-facing talent that accelerated a critical market for our team. Steve invested in our business, deeply knew our culture, and was our first call for talent needs.”
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“Steve and the Spencer James Group are outstanding! I’ve had the opportunity to use his services a couple of times over the past few years when I needed to hire an Account Manager. My consulting firm is on the smaller size, so the time savings are awesome!”
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“I’ve worked with The Spencer James Group on 50+ searches for both sales and service on a national basis since 2004. Over that time period, I got to know Steve very well both professionally and personally. Steve is a highly industry knowledgeable and sophisticated search professional with a comprehensive National database of employee benefits and financial services candidates. He is a “student of business” who always stays abreast of industry organizational, regulatory, compliance, and M&A developments. I would highly recommend Steve for search assignments in the group insurance and financial services sectors ranging from sales to services positions through the executive level on a national basis.”
- Paul Champi, Former AVP, Human Resources at Reliance Standard
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