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The PIPELINE

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

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When you mention employee evaluations in most insurance agencies, the owners begin to fidget, admitting that they do them sporadically, if at all. And, simultaneously, they make some comments about compensation to employees happening once each year when they know how much money the agency is making. Too often, they admit that they give everyone the same percentage raise, hoping that no one complains. If a complaint occurs, the owner most often buckles and gives the complainer a little more (after all the employee is valuable and the owner does not want to lose him/her). And, in the worst case scenarios, raises are given when the employees get fed up and put pressure on the owner to do so.

WHAT A WAY TO RUN A BUSINESS!!

If we could make employee evaluations and compensation adjustments more objective and easier to conduct, would more agents perform them? The answer is not certain. Most agents feel that they are very generous, whether they are or not. And when they are not, they always point to the agency’s financial woes as valid reasons for failure to either evaluate or provide compensation changes to employees.

Some Facts of Life

1. Employees work for two things, money and the feeling that they are accomplishing something for which they are appreciated.

Evaluations are the formal communication from manager to employee about the employee’s performance. Managers who communicate and appreciate their employees often and informally sometimes feel that formal evaluations are redundant. They are not as will be illustrated below. Employees will always tell you that the money is the most important thing. But we have seen good employees leaving, even for less money, because of bad bosses too often to accept that as fact. The employees must claim money as their first priority because they are afraid that if they didn’t it would affect their potential income stream. Yet history shows employee loyalty as very high to considerate and appreciative managers, even if they can make more money elsewhere.

2. If employees feel that they are performing well they expect that their remuneration will increase as a gauge of their performance.

Money is necessary for employees to provide for their families. Money is also the measurement tool that tells employees if their manager’s performance evaluation converts to a more tangible measure of their success.

3. Owners’ compensation often depends on the performance of their businesses, but so does their asset value. Employees enjoy no asset growth from the growth and performance of the agency. They just earn a salary so they don’t feel that the performance of the agency should bear on their pay raises.

Even ICP’s (Incentive Compensation Programs – see PIPELINE, April, 2000, April, 2001, December,2001 or visit www.agencyconsulting.com and find these articles in our Archives) pay employees based on their performance, not on the performance of the company. Many company expenses are controllable by the owners, making company performance issues unfair as measures of pay raises for employees.

Now – what should be evaluated??

We don’t evaluate “positions”. But we do evaluate the performance of an individual in the position. Employees with the same job title may have different responsibilities. However, the position of “CSR”, for example, comes with several primary tasks (and standards). It is the tasks and standards of each position against which you should evaluate employees in those positions.

Is it important that an employee performs additional tasks at different offices? Certainly. And those assigned tasks should also be evaluated, but not before the primary job tasks are evaluated.

Example:

If an employee is a “PL -CSR”, (s)he is expected to respond to customers needs and prospects needs and requests quickly and efficiently, accurately develop quotes and SELL insurance at a rate that permits the office to accomplish its goals (i.e. hit rate – Quote to Sale rate). If one PL CSR sells 90% of the quotes that are given and another in the same office sells 75% of quotes given, then it is apparent that, for that, for that task, the first employee should be rated higher than the second employee. If the second employee was terrific at additional jobs like mail tasks and filing, it should be included in the evaluation, but those tasks are additional to the primary tasks of the job. They are not part of the primary tasks.

In this example, a “CSR” who was good at everything except dealing with customers would earn a low evaluation of performance. If a “CSR” was given other tasks (mail, filing, etc) and didn’t perform them well, (s)he would not be rated as ‘excellent’ even if she was great at the primary agent’s job.

The tasks of a job should be given to employees through a Job Description. Each task should be accompanied by a definition of acceptable or excellent performance of that task.

Evaluation is certainly a difficult and complex task. But, realistically, the evaluation of employees separate managers from workflow coordinators, a supervisory but not management position. Employees deserve to be evaluated. The may think they are doing well, but aren’t sure that their manager agrees. Most employees who are mediocre performers don’t think of themselves as such. And the manager’s evaluation of that performance must be handled in a professional, positive, delicate and sensitive way to allow an employee to improve performance without damaging his/her ego to the point that they subvert the organization and manager.

Most importantly, employees must feel that they are being treated equitably by their managers. This means that measurements must be as objective (as opposed to subjective) as possible and that any criticisms must be creative and accompanied with documentation, not just vague references to things the manager senses about the employee. Certainly, if you have an employee with an absence or tardiness problem, you would support your criticism with records of the dates of offenses, right? Similarly, if you have other issues regarding an employee’s performance in another area, support them with time-stamped examples to avoid the “you did too/ I did not” syndrome.

The form you use to evaluate employees is not important as long as it provides ample space to both evaluate the employee’s performance for each major task of the job AND space to create a development plan to further improve the employee during the next evaluation cycle.

Verify the primary tasks of the jobs that are shared by various employees. You have the right to add other tasks for any specific employee, as necessary. Also verify the measures of success for each task and evaluate your employee against those measures of success. IF YOU CANNOT DEFINE A MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS OF A TASK, HOW CAN YOU EXPECT YOUR EMPLOYEE TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN THAT TASK – BY TELEPATHICALLY FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU EXPECT??

The timing of evaluations should be at six-month intervals or one year intervals at maximum. Evaluations should specifically NOT be done simultaneous with pay raises (or employees stop listening when they hear the level of their raise). If an evaluation is done and a raise occurs several months later, the employee has time to improve performance prior to the raise date. Otherwise, they know that nothing will help the raise you give them and they can’t solve the problem to your satisfaction for another six to 12 months.