Employees: Your Greatest Asset and Your Greatest Challenge

People are the key to success in any organization. An organization may have the most advanced processes or innovative technology, but success will not happen without the right people to make it all work. In a day and age when cutbacks are the norm, having the right people is even more critical. Success only comes when the right people are in place; the wrong people can become an anchor in any organization.

Consider that eight top tier employees may be able to do the work of ten who are average. Consider that headcount is the single largest expense in most organizations. Consider that it is employees that are the differentiator between the ordinary and extraordinary.

So now the big question becomes how to find those employees. With unemployment remaining high, there is the thought that many employees are sitting on the sidelines waiting to be acquired. While this may be true, it isn’t always the case. Another school of thought suggests that seeking those with experience, especially when it comes to claims knowledge, can be the salvation of the organization. Again, this can be true but often is not.

Some of the best hires I have ever made had no experience whatsoever. Some of the worst had extensive experience with years of bad habits that become increasingly difficult to change with time. There have also been those with experience who were invaluable to organizational success.

The Right Fit

Perhaps this is why finding the right fit for any organization, and especially claims organizations, can be very difficult.

I will share what has worked for me, as well as some thoughts from others on what has worked for them. Of course, our success is not a guarantee, but hopefully it can provide a roadmap that will help others seeking improvement.  

Some organizations lay out a requirement for college degrees, with a specific grade point average. While there are many successful people who do not have college degrees, this can be beneficial to claims organizations where staff must understand torts while interpreting contracts and laws. I have found that requiring a degree with a 3.0 grade point average, while not the sole criteria, can be a good baseline for identifying those likely to be successful in claims.

Aside from education, it is often beneficial if candidates have experience in character building jobs. For example, I worked my way through college waiting tables, tending bar, and doing a variety of outdoor work under the blistering Phoenix sun. While they weren't glamorous, the jobs built character and taught important life lessons. Balancing studying and work is also a good precursor to the often-chaotic life inside claims organizations.

It is also important to differentiate between types of positions being filled. While the college degree can be a benchmark used to identify candidates, consider that it may be trumped by experience if the person is to handle toxic torts or other complex claims. But also consider that the vast majority of claims aren’t that complex, usually involving auto accidents, general liability, or workers’ compensation. Claims categories can be simplified even further to the material damage claims that make up the bulk of what comes through the doors of most claims organizations. 

In addition to setting benchmarks such as education and experience, some managers look to preemployment testing. These tests are used to screen job applicants and can include testing of cognitive abilities, knowledge, work skills, physical and motor abilities, personality, emotional intelligence, language proficiency, and even integrity.

Companies utilizing such tests have found that they increase the probability of success on the job, reduce turnover, save time in the search and recruitment process, and improve morale. Consider that while skills can be trained, attitude cannot, and such tests can fill an organization with positive attitudes, the foundation of success.

Personality Traits

One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological-assessment system based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Two and a half million Americans a year take the Myers-Briggs. Eighty-nine companies out of the U.S. Fortune 100 make use of it for recruitment and selection or to help employees understand themselves or their coworkers.

Often the testing can identify traits that may not come out in the interview, where candidates often put their best foot forward. Some lines of questioning may inquire about potential employees:

  • Need for stability
  • Orientation toward innovation versus efficiency
  • Ability to embrace a diversity of ideas
  • Capability to be flexible versus rigid
  • Goal or process orientation

Of course, there are no right or wrong answers, but the testing provides the ability to best match a personality profile with the goals of your organization. For example, if you are a growing and innovative company, it might not be the best fit if the employee likes the status quo and is adverse to technology.

The use of this type of testing becomes evident as the corporate culture gels. Case in point, Southwest Airlines has used the test for years according to Employee Benefit Adviser. Southwest also has exhibited an organizational transition from ordinary to extraordinary described in Re-Adjusted.  Those who have flown the airline, known for their “warrior spirit, servants heart, and fun-loving attitude,” can likely attest to the Southwest employees being different from the competition.

While this testing is no guarantee of success, it is another arrow in the quiver that can be used to gain a competitive advantage. Certainly some companies have a fear of such testing; a valid concern when not properly administered. To allay those fears, it is critical that when using such tests that they are valid, reliable, and do not violate equal opportunity laws.  

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