Hiring for Attitude

How To Spot Your Next Claims All Stars

If you want results, then I suggest that you hire for attitude.

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach once said, “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”

This is an interesting paradigm that many in our industry consider to be counterintuitive. But why is that?

There seems to be a prevailing thought that experience and claims savvy go hand in hand. While this can be the case, it often is not. From a technical perspective, it seems intuitive that the longer people perform their tasks, the better they will get. After all, would you rather have an airplane mechanic with 30 years of experience or 30 days of experience?

Talent and experience are two different measurements which can be codependent but often are not. In the aforementioned example, the assumption may be that the 30-year airplane mechanic is technically sound. But what if he has 30 years of bad habits? Would it not be preferable to have the lesser experienced, albeit talented mechanic work on the plane and when in doubt, seek the input of a proven, talented coworker?

The same holds true in claims organizations where many leaders focus on tenure when evaluating new talent. This seems to be especially true given the dreary economic conditions where long-term claims personnel can acquired at discounted salaries.

As discussed in Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, the employment landscape is comprised of A, B, and C players. “A” players typically comprise about 20 percent of the workforce. They are those who do not need to be asked twice and take a proactive approach to solve problems, resolve tasks, and provide solutions. “C” players fall on the opposite side of the spectrum, and often account for another 20 percent of the workforce. These are the chronic whiners and complainers that account for about 80 percent of organizational problems. In the middle are the “B” players, accounting for the remaining 60 percent. By nature, they are followers and their migration is dependent upon the strength of management.

In a well-run organization, this very important contingent of employees will migrate towards the A players. In poorly run organizations, they will migrate towards the C players, creating an atmosphere where success becomes impossible. 

Herein lies the challenge; how do you differentiate between A, B, and C players in the interview process? If I had the magical elixir, then I would be extremely wealthy, and with fewer administrative headaches. While I do not have the ultimate solution, I will share what has worked in the past. 

First, there is not a linear relationship between talent and ability. To the contrary, tenure can potentially lead to complacency and bad habits that simply can’t be fixed. Second, technical skills can be taught, whereas attitude cannot. 

Third, ask the right questions, including both behavior-based ones, such as “Would you give me an example of when you…” as well as situational-based questions, such as “What would you do if…” Fourth, evaluate the ability of candidates to effectively communicate, including their ability to coherently write a hypothetical letter to a claimant or an attorney. 

Lastly, use a proven method for pre-employment testing. While not perfect, it does enable businesses to proactively identify characteristics and traits of those most likely to succeed in your culture.

While there is no perfect method for hiring, these steps will improve the odds of success. Let’s face it: Even in the most perfect of circumstances, the best will have those “Ryan Leaf” moments. At the end of the day, attitude will provide the difference in organizations seeking to move from ordinary to extraordinary.  

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference- Winston Churchill

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of the 20 Essential Rules series, including Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted. He may be reached at chris@christidball.com.

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