Understanding Employee Personalities Part I

Independent studies by Omnia Profile, Inc., a behavioral profiling firm, have determined that almost one-third of insurance company and agency employees possess inappropriate personalities for the positions they hold. An employee may be inappropriate for a given position because of insufficient stamina to put in a full day’s work, lack of maturity, or possession of unproductive behavioral extremes. Or, the employee may possess a personality that is incompatible with the demands of his or her job. For the most part these inappropriately placed individuals are functioning, but at less than optimal levels. Productivity loss can be as high as 10% to 15%.

Failure to apply proper motivational techniques to inspire the performance of appropriately placed staff also can reduce productivity. When a manager provides the wrong degree of supervision or the wrong type of incentive, performance is adversely affected.

As understanding of five basic insurance agency personality types can help an agency principal or manager hire the right person and properly motivate existing personnel thus achieving optimum performance. The five basic personality types are the CSR, the inside salesperson, the commercial salesperson, the health/life salesperson and the underwriter.

The CSR personality type

Why is it that most CSRs seem unmotivated by bonuses or other financial incentives? Do your new marketing programs produce an initial flurry of CSR activity in the first month or two and then fail in subsequent months?

Too often, company marketing personnel or agency principals devise marketing programs based on motivational factors that appeal only to themselves. They fail to understand that persons who lack sales-oriented personalities usually are unmotivated by individual competition, incentives or bonus programs. The CSR isn’t a sales personality, yet properly motivated and provided with proper incentives,he or she can do an excellent job of obtaining x-dates and seizing opportunities to write new business.

CSRs typically are security oriented and risk avioders, and therefore uneasy, about sales work, which may represent the risk of rejection, criticism or failure. CSRs also prefer a consistent compensation and benefit package to the uncertainty of commission or bonus compensation. Individual competition is avoided by CSRs who are skeptical and cautious in relationships. They may ask questions, but generally converse only to obtain information necessary to complete a task. They live in a factual world, are patient methodical and persistent. Family, team and a need for routine are important. The CSR doesn’t handle change well and generally prefers to work on one task at a time at a comfortable pace. CSRs are perfectionists, detail oriented and eager to please. The true CSR wants to be managed, to be told what to do and how to do it. He or she needs structure and constant feedback to assure that he or she is doing well.

To motivate a personal-lines CSR to complete a desired task like obtaining x-dates or rounding out a book of business, principals should focus on the need for structure and precise instructions. For example, to obtain x-dates, the CSR should be given detailed instructions in writing (or programmed onto the computer system) as to what questions he or she should ask customers.

When the CSR knows what to do and how to do it, providing encouragement and support become important. Give him or her factual feedback on a daily basis as to his or her progress and success. Try not to criticize failure, but suggest techniques (with scripts) to follow or ways to improve performance. Always post combined, rather than individual results , and provide team goals and rewards.

The expense of using team incentives and rewards will be less than for individual incentives or bonuses, and CSRs will respond better. Set the expense lower than the incremental profit contributed by the CSRs’ work.

Another major problem for an agency principal is finding a good, experienced CSR in the marketplace. A good CSR rarely will change jobs because of the risk and change involved. He or she generally leaves a position due to family considerations or because the agency had closed or merged. Don’t be surprised if a CSR who leaves at the bidding of a headhunter asks to return within three months-the change is likely to be too great.

When looking for a good CSR, be aware that the candidate who has worked for three different agencies within your general area in the last five years probably is nor a good risk. Seek an experiences CSR re-entering the job market or one who recently moved into the area nd has worked of r only one agency during the past three to four years, Advertising should state “Experience preferred, but will hire the right person.”

The inside salesperson

Many agencies give x-dating and inside sales responsibilities to someone other than the CSR-often the inside salesperson or personal risk manager. This position has become more common because of marketing failures with CSRs and the introduction of sales-center concepts.

The inside salesperson or personal risk manager generally is a competitive risk taker. Unlike CSRs these individuals are motivated by bonus and incentive compensation. like most insurance personalities, they are fact-oriented skeptics. They are no-nonsense managers who tell rather than persuade as they pursue goals. They are somewhat patient and have a preference for routine, but are not immersed in it. They can handle change and can adjust to a desk-bound job. They are not particularly detail oriented but see the “big picture” and prefer to delegate paperwork and number crunching. They are independent and resist being over-managed. They have a preference foe making their own decisions and seeing them through.

The inside salesperson wants individual, fact-oriented recognition. He or she responds negatively to “stroking”. Avoid over-managing this personality by providing nothing more than guidelines allowing some decision-making responsibilities and the freedom to self-manage within agency guidelines. Don’t expect inside sales personalities to be paperwork oriented; team them with CSRs who will process paperwork.

The inside salesperson is a better producer than the properly motivated CSR because of his or her drive. Inside salespeople are motivated by an internal drive and self-determined goals. Winning and achievement are important. The CSR, on the other hand, is driven to please the boss and attain the agency’s goals. If the goals are achieved early, he or she is likely to slow down or defer assignments to the next reporting period rather than attempt to set new records.