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Guest Post: Building an effective employee performance review process

01/24/2012

Experts believe that at least 50% of employee performance problems occur because of a lack of feedback. Annual reviews can serve as a beneficial development tool to identify, measure, encourage, evaluate, reward and improve employee performance. Documenting employee performance is an important human resources management practice that can help avoid misunderstandings that could lead to legal action.

A performance review should NEVER be a surprise. Feedback between the employee and manager should be ongoing, which is then formally summarized at set intervals. It’s important that the process be viewed as fair by employees. It should be balanced for an overall positive experience with constructive feedback included. Many organizations ask employees to complete a self-evaluation as the first step, which provides valuable insights as to how the employee views their own performance.

There are many elements of a successful performance review process, but here are a few tips:

  • Establish well-written job descriptions outlining essential functions, standards, goals and expectations
  • Prepare in advance and plan for the process
  • Link company strategy to specific objectives and results
  • Evaluate yourself before your employee; how is your management helping or hindering performance?
  • Be objective and honest using specific and accurate examples
  • Remember to evaluate performance not personality
  • Identify development opportunities
  • Ask if the employee has questions or concerns
  • Put mutually decided objectives in writing
  • Show that you’re invested and that you care

Whatever your performance review process, it must be completed on time to reflect a sense of importance and urgency. 

Top-level support is a critical key to a successful program.  While this seems obvious, lack of support is the main reason that performance evaluation systems fail to succeed.  Supervisors and staff can quickly sense if top management is fully supporting the process or simply giving it lip service.  Upper management must demonstrate in words and actions that it is determined to see the process succeed.

Wayne Texeira, CFMP, is the Marketing Director at D.F. Murphy Insurance Agency which provides a full range of insurance products including auto, home, business and life insurance. He has 21 years of experience as a marketing professional in the insurance and financial services industries. http://www.dfmurphy.com

Highlight Your FAQs with Video

09/29/2011

I sat in on a little bit of a Social Media presentation yesterday at Benefest 2011. Presenter, Palmer Reuther, was making some great suggestions about using social media to facilitate broker branding.  And yes, yesterday he was talking specifically to Health & Benefits Brokers, but he could have been talking to pizza shop owners or plumbers, electricians…or independent P&C agents.

Part of his talk focused on how to integrate more than one social media tool into your repertoire. One of his suggestions was to list your company’s most Frequently Asked Questions and make a small video library of the answers on You Tube.

He suggested that these answer videos should be kept to under 2 minutes in length and then made easily accessible on your website. Links to which can then be shared in other channels such as your Facebook Fan Page or even a monthly e-newsletter.

The benefit of doing this is triple-fold:

  1. Personality – Add a face to your website. Clients and potential clients will get to “meet” the staff member who answers the question, adding credibility and a human element to the web.
  2. Clarification – Clients often complain that insurance information is difficult to find or doesn’t make sense. Here’s your chance to bring it to the laymen’s level and underscore the importance of your role.
  3. Time Saving – Every time someone watches one of these videos, you will likely spend less time explaining the exact same thing on the phone… “Should I purchase the rental car insurance when on vacation?”, “What should I do if I’m in a minor car accident?”, “Why should I increase my auto limits to $500/$500?”, “Are my son/daughter’s belongings covered when they are living in the dorms at college?”

Palmer Reuther, will be sharing more of his interesting tips and social media knowledge at the upcoming Big Event. He will be leading Thursday’s “Social Media Training Camp” on November 3rd from 9-5. He’ll be focusing on using social channels to broaden business communication. Agency’s looking for a lift in their online communication should consider sending someone to this pre-conference intensive.

The Massachusetts Insurance Agent: Could the glass really be half full?

08/31/2011

This week’s guest blogger is Ben Cavallo, owner of C&S Insurance Agency, and Co-Chair of the MAIA’s Young Agent Committee. We asked him to contemplate the state of the independent agent now and in the future. We like that he’s seeing the glass half full…

For years, I’ve heard people complaining about the difficulties of the competitive auto marketplace, bemoaning the state of our economy, and fretting about the future of the independent agent.  It almost seems as if complaining is a rite of passage for an insurance agent.  Despite all the hurdles, we’ve never had more opportunities for growth because of the following.…

Acquisition: The number of independent agents in our state is shrinking. We all know the reasons…reduced commissions, lower premiums, increased competition, etc., etc. However, the state has seen nearly 240 mergers over the last four years, a dramatic increase from the stagnant marketplace that existed for so many years. Never has it been easier for the independent agent to acquire another agent or merge with a viable partner. The safe confines of the pre-competitive auto market are gone, for some this may be an opportunity to grow via merger or acquisition.

Quality People: The unemployment rate is at historically high levels and the economy fails to find momentum.  For the agent, this might be the best opportunity in generations to hire qualified support staff and develop a competitive sales force at affordable prices. If you haven’t done so already, use the MAIA’s Job Central to post an opening in your agency. You will be astounded at the quality of the applicants, and there is no better way to make your agency grow, than through a talented sales and support staff.

Sales: Premiums are lower and commissions are shrinking. We could all sit around and complain that we are giving policies away, and our existing premiums are shrinking every day.  Or, we could use this as an opportunity to sell.  Let the world know that we can save you money while offering better products. Go to the local business owners, who are no doubt struggling in this economy, and show them how we can save them money. Finally, we can compete and offer potential clients a real savings.

Our agency has increased premiums by 50% over the last 5 years, and we’ve done it by hiring, acquiring, and selling.  The glass is truly half full.

Are you interested in guest blogging for MAIA? We love to hear from our members. Contact Melissa at mmurphy@massagent.com.

4 Reasons Social Media is a Great Differentiation Tool for Your Agency

08/23/2011

Today we hear again from guest blogger and MAIA member, Heidi Warner, eMarketing Executive at Encharter Insurance, LLC…..

“We’ve been serving the community for over 90 years—We shop multiple markets so that you’re sure to get the best possible policy for the best possible price and we do the work for you—We’re your friends and neighbors, so we know what you’re looking for and we can give you personalized service…” Does that sound familiar? It sounds like every other agency’s value proposition (or maybe it sounds like yours?), right? But that’s the problem: EVERY independent agency has the same message, so the battle for the independent agency that wants to SUCCEED is DIFFERENTIATION.

Social media marketing is an ideal way to separate your agency from the pack for 4 reasons:

  • Putting personality in front of your brand: Let’s be honest…the insurance industry isn’t notorious for being fun, upbeat or exciting. But YOU’RE NOT THE INDUSTRY; you merely work within the industry. You’re a real person with likes, dislikes, opinions (and if you’re like me, you have entirely too many!), and a sense of humor and THAT is going to be what gets your prospects and clients interested in you and your agency. Social media is a perfect venue to let your clients and prospects get to know you and make them feel like they’re connecting with you by sharing those likes, dislikes, opinions and sense of humor. The alternative is allowing them to only interact with a flat, mute logo and that’s no good. What would be their incentive to come back? They’ll want to do business with you because they will feel like they know you.
  • Positioning yourself as an expert: In order to become an insurance agent, you must take classes so that you know the ins and outs of the business and that means that you have helpful information that the average consumer does not; that makes you an expert in your field. Social media is a platform through which you can present yourself as the expert you are by providing information that your prospects and clients want and/or need!
  • Reaching the people where they are: Social media is one of the most popular methods of communication in today’s world, and if that’s the case, then making sure you’re using social media is a great way to reach your clients and prospects. This is the one time that “C’mon, everybody’s doing it” is a good reason to do something. As our friends at Astonish Results say, “Fish where the fish are!”
  • Quick and Cheap: Attempting to reach a large amount of people with traditional methods of marketing can be costly and time-consuming. Social media makes spreading your message to a large number of people fast and easy…it’s all with the click of a mouse; and the best part? It’s FREE!

If you’re looking for a way to make your agency stand out from the “same old, same old”, social media marketing is definitely the way to go. Let your clients get to know you, don’t be afraid to show off your know-how, don’t be afraid to go where you know the majority of your prospects are, and save time and money by getting on the social media bandwagon. What are you waiting for?

Heidi Warner is an eMarketing Executives at Encharter Insurance, an independent insurance agency specializing in auto, home, business and life insurance in MA and CT, whose eMarketing Team (Heiphanie) has received several commendations for their innovative and successful use of social media to grow their business.

Guest Post- Gaining Credibility with Clients

08/01/2011

We’re happy to feature another guest blog post today…Chip Gibson of Deland Gibson Insurance and MAIA YAC, tackles the question…How Have I Gained Credibility With Clients?

When I spoke with Melissa about doing this guest blog one of the topics she mentioned was “three things I have done to gain creditability with clients”. At first I skipped over it because initially I couldn’t think of any concrete instances that created the epiphany – “I’m now legit!” After thinking a little more about it, I realized it was through more subtle actions in how we do business at Deland, Gibson Insurance that creates credibility recognized by clients.

The first step I have taken (which is still a work in progress) is making sure to work as a trusted advisor – not just a vendor. Gone are the days of the sales process being: Lunch, Golf, and a few beers (and maybe not in that order). Today’s buyer is more sophisticated and is looking for added value and knowledge when doing business. Being a trusted advisor is someone who is called to research the insurance and risk management implications before the large purchase is made.  Strong business acumen is key, and goes a long way in establishing yourself as a trusted advisor.

The second area where I have focused on to gain credibility with clients is to work with them on their total cost of risk. Anyone can get a copy of the policy, copy it, quote it, and pray that you have a better price and maybe better coverage than the competition. This is not differentiating yourself from the pack. What we do at Deland Gibson is to look at a client’s business, strategic and hazard risks and then formulate a long range plan to transfer, finance or mitigate these risks.

The last thing is simple: listening. Asking more questions, asking open ended questions, asking anything to get the prospect or client talking more, has helped me vastly. You can get so much more information by being a good listener and allowing the person sitting across from you to open up. Believe it or not many people enjoy talking about themselves and their business – why not use it to your advantage?

Chip Gibson, CISR is a Sales Associate at Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates, Inc. in Wellesley Hills, MA.

The Most Important Thing I Learned My First Year in the Biz…

07/12/2011
MAIA is fortunate to have so many member agents who are willing to share some of their perspectives and things they’ve learned about the industry. In the coming weeks we’ll be hearing from Board Members and Young Agents as guest bloggers on P&C Speaking. Christina Ahearn of Agostinelli & Teller Insurance in Framingham tells us about her first year  in the biz….

 

“You’ve got a lot to learn” my father (also the owner of the agency I work at) told me when I started day one of my insurance career.

I said, “I know. I can do it”. I’ve always been a fast learner so I thought, no problem. Well, to this day…almost 4 years later, I am still learning and the industry continues to change, what seems like month to month. Whether it be underwriting rules, the fees and regulations of the Registry, the latest in social media or simply giving a customer an accurate quote on an auto or home policy. There is a lot to keep up with, and this is one of the reasons I have stayed in the insurance business; the fact that I am learning something new almost daily.

My first year was definitely both exciting and somewhat frustrating. I came from working 5 years in the health care industry at Children’s Hospital to a small office of three people in the insurance industry. Not an easy change in terms of the learning curve I was about to encounter.  Taking classes at MAIA was a huge help to understanding this business. Now that I have my Property and Casualty license I rely on their classes to keep me and my license up to date.  I look back to that first year when I thought, ‘No problem, I’ll learn quickly’. Now I think that my father was right.

About Christina Ahern; Insurance Agent at Agostinelli & Teller Insurance Agency in Framingham, MA. I graduated from Westfield State College in 2002 with a degree in Psychology. I had been working in health care until I made the decision to come work for the family insurance business in 2007, which I never thought I would do, but here I am 4 years later!  I have my P&C License and am a member of the Young Agents Committee -Massachusetts. I live in Natick with my husband and spend the summers on Cape Cod and the winters skiing up in Maine.

 If you have an interest in becoming a guest blogger send an email to mmurphy@massagent.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Top 3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Time with Social Media – Part 3

05/26/2011

This is the final post in our short series by guest blogger and MAIA member, Heidi Warner, eMarketing Executives at Encharter Insurance.  Heidi has shared her Top 3 Social Media Time Management Tips. Read Part 1 and Part 2.  

TIP 3: Guest Bloggers

The great thing about social media is that it’s “social”, which means interacting and connecting with other people. If you’re finding that generating content for your (now rigorous and consistent) social media posting schedule is getting harder and harder, don’t be afraid to ask for guest bloggers. These are bloggers who would write the occasional blog post for you to post on your blog; i.e. that is one LESS blog post you have to write, YOUR blog still gets the SEO credit and THEY get a link and an opportunity to showcase their expertise…it’s a WIN-WIN! Of course, don’t forget that it is still YOUR blog and it’s YOUR venue for showcasing your expertise, so guest bloggers should only have occasional appearances. Your readers want to hear from you because they already trust you.

Social media is definitely the direction in which business is moving and that includes the insurance industry. As an independent insurance agent, if you’ve recognized this technological shift but have had a hard time running your business and running your social media marketing strategy,  just keep these 3 time management tips in mind. You’re on your way to social media success!

Thanks Heidi for being MAIA’s guest blogger this week!

Previously..
Part 1 - Commitment & Consistency
Part 2 -
Social Media Dashboards

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