When things go smoothly for a long time, it’s easy to lose sight of how you got to that point of stability.
Stuart J. Birkel, CSA, LACP, had spent more than a decade with the same assistant, who came to feel like part of the family for the 13-year MDRT member from Norfolk, Virginia. Yet when a years-long conflict between his longtime assistant and his business partner’s assistant led to both of the administrative staff members leaving the practice, Birkel suddenly found himself needing to fill a position he hadn’t dealt with in ages.
Two years and double-digits worth of attempts later, Birkel almost can’t believe how many false starts he has endured in trying to replace the employees who left.
So how has Birkel, whose practice primarily deals with life insurance, investments, and annuities for retirees and business owners, now emerged from this period with two strong assistants off to a great start in their first four months? These changes have set him and his staff up for more success moving forward:
New understanding of personality tests
Birkel has long used optimizehire.com as a way of vetting candidates, setting a minimum total score required to move forward in the application process.
Yet an experience he had with an assistant who wouldn’t even pass along a “Hi” taught him to pay more attention to the candidate’s results in individual categories. For example, if you have a total score of 70 but score only 56 on emotional stability (as this person did), that is a red flag.
Previously, hires were made within a couple of months, more so because any person was needed to tackle the accumulating service work than because the right person had been found. Birkel extended the recent interview period to four months to guarantee he found the best people.
Increased communication and training
On a basic level, that means touching base with staff several times per week to check how things are going. It also means that Birkel strives to remember how much new staff members — who have less experience than previous employees — might not know.
That includes expressing positivity about good performance and all that there is to learn, and ensuring he more consistently invites staff into his office to learn something (such as when a policy can pay for itself through dividends).
“It’s taking time out of my schedule to do that, but it’s like a slingshot effect,” Birkel said. “When you pull that rubber band back, it might take longer, but when it shoots out, it will go farther than if you just tugged at it a little bit.”
Read more of Birkel’s adjustments in the Round the Table story “10 staff members in 2 years.”
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