ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

What's A Producer Worth?

Any agency owner who feels that their employees' most important priority is their compensation is fooling himself. Surveys done continuously across all forms of business have proven that while compensation fulfills the basic needs for which one works, it does not correlate with the level of satisfaction or happiness that your employees have about the job. The easiest way to prove that is to simply look at the facts. If your compensation levels are not substantially different from those of your competitors within your own area, why aren't your employees constantly looking for new jobs for higher wages? The answer is that there are other factors around their position in your agency that are more important to them than the potential of making more money at a different position.

Many cynics remark that the only thing keeping their employees from looking for other jobs is inertia. However, inertia with respect to the movement of employees may simply mean that they are not unhappy enough to consider a move - yet. It's not typically money that causes an employee to look elsewhere. The most prevalent reason for employee departures in the agency industry is the employees feeling of not being appreciated for their contribution.

This highlights one of the most important weaknesses in agency management today, employee relations. It is not unusual to find agency owners ignoring employee performances unless they are substandard. When we've asked why they don't show appreciation for good or outstanding efforts by employees, many agents revert to their own upbringing and tell us that the employee's paychecks reflect the appreciation for good performance and that they don't feel that further rewards are warranted. We've even had owners of a large agency tell us, "If they perform well, they get to keep their jobs." This remark may have been made in jest but I assure you that the employees don't appreciate that type of humor.

Of course, we must pay our employees fairly. But human beings thrive on praise more than on money. We have seen many instances employees remaining fiercely loyal to their employer even though difficult times have made it impossible to grant raises. This loyalty is only earned when the employees feel that their boss likes and appreciates their efforts.

Most agents express feelings of appreciation about their employees to other. Unfortunately they rarely tell their employees themselves. If you have employees that are willing to go the extra mile on behalf of you and your clients, show your appreciation outside of their paycheck. The reward must be something unusual. For instance, if you always take your employees out to lunch, a special lunch with you is not an exceptional reward. However, many agents rarely visit with their employees one-on-one. Occasionally, when you "catch someone doing something right" invite that employee out to lunch and spend some time with him or her alone. You'd be surprised how paying attention in that way can bolster an employees morale. When a department job has done an extraordinary effort on a backlog or has put a major account to bed, announce a pizza party and have pizza brought into the office for lunch for the entire department. If they pull together to accomplish a common goal, a common reward is also a morale booster. If your employees work late to accomplish their jobs, a pair of movie tickets or a gift certificate for dinner for two is a nice reward to compensate for their personal time.

It's not the value of the reward that counts. What impresses your employees most is that you appreciate them and you think about them. And the greatest reward that you can give them is some of your dedicated time during which you listen to them rather than monopolize the conversation. If you follow some of these prescriptions for success you'll find that the loyalty and dedication factor of your employees will rise substantially without necessarily affecting their compensation levels.