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The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Why do Employees Fail?

You would be surprised at the range of reasons given for employee failure and turnover by employers. Most reasons, however, stem from the egos of the managers who are unable to view their role in the success or failure of their employees. Let's look at a few examples of the reasons (or excuses) for employee failure and the management failure that caused the loss of a potentially valuable employee.

"He was never a part of the organization. He didn't seem to fit or understand how the company worked."

1. One of the most prevalent management problems in insurance agencies is the failure to introduce and orient a new employee properly. This should include introductions to the employees peer group and managers with whom the employee will interact, an organization chart (including a physical chart of where everyone sits) including names, positions and extension numbers, and an Employee Handbook outlining the practices and procedures of the company.

"She came in trained but would only perform according to the system and procedures that she knew before joining the firm."

2. Failure to provide basic training in the company's preferred way of doing business is another cause of employee turnover. Regardless of the level of the new employee's experience, it is critical that the new employee be given training in the system and procedures expected by the employer. Avoid "OJT" (On the Job Training). It leads to great frustration on the part of the employee and employer alike because of the long learning curve associated with this haphazard "learn-as-you-go" training. Providing a partner or mentor is a preferred method of breaking in a new employee, but do this only after a one-on-one familiarization and training period by the employee's direct manager. In this way, the employee will be learning what the manager desires rather than the shortcuts or problems of another employee.

"He started out strong, but seemed to lose focus and interest until, one day, he just resigned."

3. A more subtle mistake that we make is to fail to set goals and expectations (in writing) of our new employees. All new employees will start strongly. To maintain their motivation, they need specific goals and objectives for their jobs.

"I don't understand it. He was doing well, never complaining -- until the day he left."

4. Failure to communicate appreciation in a timely and effective manner is another reason for loss of valuable employees. Don't expect exemplary performance just because that's what the employees are hired to do. Expect that exemplary performance and reward it with praise as often as possible. Be careful, however. Undeserved praise poisons the well. No one ever trusts the water again if you reward someone who is not deserving of it.

"Her leaving was the best thing that ever happened to us. She hasn't been good at her job in years. It would have been even better if she had left earlier."

5. Failure to communicate dissatisfaction with performance is another pointed failure of management. Keeping quiet and seething over an employees errors or problems changes your attitude toward the employee. The employee senses the attitude change and becomes less likely to be open and honest with you. This downward spiral continues until either the manager explodes and fires the employee, or the employee gives up in disgust and leaves. Clear, calm, private communication of disappointments permits the employee to learn or explain their problems. The manager has the opportunity to retrain or assist the employee toward successful performance. The end result of open communications is lower turnover and better performing employees.

Most employee failure can be traced to management failure. No employee wants to perform poorly in their job. They all would like to be proud of their performance and their relationship with their manager. Failure and termination of employees results from poor management communication. The loss of employees is both frustrating and expensive. Adhere to these guidelines and you will save time, money and employees and your staff will be happier and more effective in their jobs.