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20. Should I Train New People Deep or Broad?

Create a team member development plan that minimizes turnover costs & maximizes learning.

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Quick Summary

  • It is more effective to train new team members gradually and step-by-step, starting with basic tasks before moving on to more complex responsibilities.

  • Begin by training new hires on the core tasks that are essential to your business, such as auto insurance service before expanding to other areas.

  • Regularly assess the progress and knowledge of new team members throughout the training process to achieve and check their understanding and ability to apply what they have learned.

  • Avoid overwhelming training by focusing on one area at a time to ensure that the team members have mastered each level before moving on to the next.

  • Align the training schedule with the demands of your industry to ensure that new team members become proficient in the tasks that matter most for your organization's success.

Full (Edited) Transcript


Should I Train New People Deep or Broad?

One of the most costly mistakes an insurance agency owner can make is to develop their team members too quickly. When a new team member comes into an agency, many agency owners want the team member to be proficient at everything right away. And that can be a huge training cost. It can be a huge time slate to decide if you want to keep them. And it can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars more than necessary each time you hire somebody who does not stay with you.


Give you an example, let's say you owned a restaurant like a McDonald's or a Wendy's, and you have something that's brand new to that business. You want to see a few things. When you hire that person. You want to see what is their character like? Do they work well?


Are they willing to cooperate with others? Will they do what they say they're going to do? So you might start with something very basic and let them know that their first job for the first month is for them simply to clean the bathrooms, clean up the counter areas, moffat floors, those sort of things. And then you can see in those 1st 30 days, how does this person handle responsibility? The task is simple.


It's pretty doable, it's pretty trackable. And you can have systems where they check off to say, yes, I did this. And you can of course, verify the quality of what they did. What this allows you to do is see very quickly how skilled this person is at following through and executing. So if the training for this is only, let's say maybe 15 minutes, maybe a half hour, an hour with a few reminders, you know, the task is simple enough that what you're really measuring in those 1st 30 days is this person's ability and willingness to execute and execute consistently.


If they don't do this, then it doesn't make sense to invest time to teach them how to make the food, how to use a cash register. Certainly you don't want to invest the time on how they should manage the store. So what you want to be able to do is create a situation where each level, they're demonstrating higher levels of skill, they're demonstrating consistency, which is very important in our business, and they're demonstrating a willingness to do what needs to be done. So if You Look at that In The model Of An insurance agency and you consider the three most common expert roles in most multilateral insurance agency, the first thing we need done is we need retention Work Taken Care of, PNC, Renewals, auto, home, condos Renters, those sort of things. Those renewals are usually going to make it anywhere from 50% to 80% or more of the income of a mature business, even a growing business.


And so we want to make sure that when somebody comes in, the first thing they can do is do the most basic tasks. And to make it even simpler, what we find is very helpful is to decide that in the first three months this person needs to master auto insurance service and what this can look like. And you can do it at different speeds depending on how you do things. But in the first month we want to make sure they master the policy, the details, the information. So whatever content we have, whether it's a brochure or the policy declarations page, for them to understand exactly how the policy works, that is their task in the first month.


So they're already licensed, they're brand new to the industry and we're making sure they know this. Of course, if they're already in the industry from another company, we could just verify they know this by simply asking them to explain the auto policy to us. But if they're brand new to the industry in the first month, we want them to master understanding the policy. And we test that. And each week, possibly even every day, we check in how does this work, how does that work?


The second month we want them to be able to explain the auto policy back to us as if we were clients. So to be able to explain it in a way that's simple, so they have a mastery of the understanding of the policy. In the first month they've been doing, let's say, some basic transactions, doing policy changes, those sort of things. And the second month they're also able to now start doing some of these policy changes for clients, doing other basic things, taking payments, so they're starting to become more worthwhile to the agency. They're able to now pull tasks and completely do them for other team members.


And by the third month we want them to be able to write an add on auto or a client that walks in and says, yes, I'd like auto insurance. We want them to be able to do that. So that, again, in the first three months, they might not be great yet at soliciting or persuading people to buy an auto insurance policy, but they're able to write it properly, they're able to explain it properly. And so if a client comes in and you bring that client to your team member that they can take care of that whole transaction without you having to be involved. Now, again, if that's their task or what they need to be doing in the first 90 days, here's what we've ruled out.


I don't need them to get their life insurance and health insurance license yet. I don't even need them to know homeowners or condos or renters yet. Because those are more detailed policies. I don't need them to know commercial policies or anything. Fancier again, if they can't do the basics of first learning the policy, then servicing it and then writing it for somebody who already wants it, they're not going to be able to do the more advanced level tasks.


So this keeps my training time light. It keeps the burden on my existing team members light. Because the training that they're doing presumably if I'm not as involved in the training, which is what I want the case to be, that my existing team members know that with some internal videos, plus any company videos we have that we can very quickly train this team member, plus any materials they have as far as policy details, that sort of stuff. And when we're training them, we can use something that one of my supervisors taught me from the get go when I was a Claimed representative is Wade. I don't want you to come to me with a question.


I want you to come to me with your answer and I want you to point out to me in the policy where you found that. So of course, claims is slightly different than being a salesperson. But in Claims, we would have to look at is this policy situation covered, is this accident covered by the policy? And so rather than saying, well, hey Pam, I'm not sure if this is covered or not, we'd have to come in and say, hey Pam, I believe this is covered. Here's where it says so in the policy, here's the wording that I believe says why it's covered.


And then she would say, yes, that's the case, or here's the insurance on that. Or hey, actually it looks like that, but it's actually this, but it made us think so again, for the first 90 days, if they can master auto knowledge, auto retention, and then selling an auto, or not even really selling, but order taking an auto, then that's a first great step. And from there, in most markets, auto is a higher volume, higher transaction situation than homeowners or renters, certainly more than life insurance or health insurance. So in those 1st 90 days, if things don't go well, if 30 days in that person can't explain the auto policy to me, I know it's time for us to move on. And I will have these criteria clearly communicated to a new person so they understand this.


And so after those first three months, the next three months can be something as simple as, okay, now we're going to start going into the homeowner side or the fire side, depending on what you called on your company. So in the first month I might say this is now month four. I want you to learn the renters policy and I want you to learn inside out. And in that month, since there's a little bit less than renters and auto, and auto has a lot of policy pieces to it in the renters. In that 30 days, we're going to do what we did in the previous 90 days.


You need to learn the renters inside out, explain it to me, be able to make changes, be able to order take it from a client. So month four you're doing renters. Month five you're doing condos, adds a little bit more information. Month six you're doing homeowners. And again month seven you're doing liability umbrellas and personal articles policies or whatever exact pace you want.


It doesn't have to be that pace. The concept is, is the person's learning the job step by step, if they get bored by it, they're in the wrong industry. This is not the most exciting industry in the world. We're an industry of repeat and rinse and redo it again. And a lot of it can be very fulfilling by helping people.


But a lot of the somebody really just needs brand new information or new tasks and they get bored, this might not be the field for them. And so what we want to be able to do is create a situation then that in the first six months to twelve months, that person masters being a retention expert, they do everything that has to do with retaining all of our auto policies, all of our homeowners. Maybe if you do commercial, then adding the commercial policies though, so you can have a whole curriculum of your first twelve months, which is just auto policy for months one through three, and then each month at a time adding a policy type, and it's a reasonable training schedule. And again, you can go faster or slower depending on what you see. But now you're not risking a whole lot of time.


Your team members can tell you if the person is growing in that way or not. And if they demonstrate the knowledge which as a retention expert, they give you that freedom and that flexibility of the agency owner to be where you want, when you want, come in the agency, but not have to be there all the time. And if somebody's on vacation or somebody just leaves or whatnot, that person can fill that role. And then from there, once we know that they know how to make the changes properly, order take properly, now they're ready to do that second role of doing PNC sales, where they're soliciting PNCC sales, they're making more things happen. Now technically I don't have to wait the whole time.


I could be in month four simultaneously, having them develop the ability to learn the renters on the home side or the fireside, and then I could say, okay, in month four now you start working some of the XDS or requests or whatever you call them. We follow up with clients on auto SaaS, but overall I'm creating a situation where we're moving up in complexity step by step. And even in the first year I still don't need the person to write the life insurance or the health insurance or the annuities. And a lot of agency owners have a hard time, but wait, I want them to do it right away. How come they can't do it so quickly?


Well, think about it. If you've been in the business five years, ten years, 15 years, 20 years, is it reasonable to then ask a brand new person to do what might have taken you ten to 20 years to master? Nope. So using the dentist model, if you're the dentist and you know how to do the root canals and the cavities and the fillings, you should be the one that's doing the most difficult work, and you can make sure you're not touching any other stuff. And now if you look at the model, should you really be doing auto or home after a certain period of time, a few years of starting a business?


No, you shouldn't. So you want to have people that can make sure they're doing the basic stuff, and they'll eventually work their way up, or maybe they won't, to the higher skilled things. But we don't want to train them right away. If we give them too many things to do, we can't measure them. If you have a team member and you're asking them to learn auto insurance and homeowners insurance and life insurance and health insurance and annuities in a five to six month period, you're going to find very quickly that you really can't tell what they've learned.


There's too much information that needs to be mastered to really talk to a live client. And six months in, you don't know if you want to keep this person or not. Every month that you're keeping somebody who should not be in your agency, it's costing you anywhere from one and a half to two times their salary. So we want to keep things simple, have a simple growth path that people can go up. Of course, if specifically you have a certain need, if you say, Wait, you don't.


Right now, I have enough retention team members, so I need specifically a P and C growth expert. I'd still suggest you that at least in the first 30 days, that that person still learns to service, how to write the policy properly, how to order take properly. Because if they don't do it well, if they write it in a garbage like way, they're just going to be creating a bunch of garbage for you. They're going to be creating situations where your clients are likely to cancel after the first six months. That's going to increase your lapse cancelation rate or your defection rate.


It's going to reduce your retention rate. So there's a certain pace. Our business model moves at a certain pace. And if you can honor that and work in a way where people will master things, you will at the very least, reduce your poor hiring mistakes quickly. It's not always easy to determine who's going to be great, but when you have a steady path, if somebody fails quickly, then you can let go of them quickly.


Whereas if you give them too many things, it's too hard to tell. I hope you find this helpful. As always, I look forward to helping you create the team that supports you as you impact more people and make more money in less time. Do what you do best so you can fully enjoy your family, your friends and your life as you make an impact on the people you serve. Thanks for listening.


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