What makes an insurance agency great to work for? This is a question many team members and agency owners consider as the industry is stuck in a transitional phase. Walk-in business and service calls are dwindling but still there, and the competition is open 24/7. You can easily call this the awkward teenage years for most agencies contemplating how to best serve the current prospects while honoring the team and the existing book of business.
When we think of a great place to work, all too often trendy terms come up — things like unlimited vacation, work from home, cold brew in the kitchen and bring your dog to work. All of these are lovely (and benefits my companies offer!), but they’re actually not the heart of the matter. Let me display what I mean with a quick story. One of my past employees decided to change careers and left us for a larger organization that had a bigger peer group. The company brought in lunch every day for the team. Free lunch and working with people in your age group — win win! All of this was great for a while. Over time the idea of free lunches got old, and he opted to bring his lunch to better control his diet. The company lunch was great, but having a break to run an errand or be alone was more appealing. Now, this isn’t true for everyone, but the swift ploys to attract a team member to the agency are add-ons; they simply aren’t the thing.
After interviewing over 1,200 agency team members, I can tell you what the exact thing is that makes an agency great to work for. It’s also the thing that can greatly detract from an agency’s value and keep it from reaching its potential.
Trust is hard to give and even harder to regain. But time and time again, in study after study, trust is the biggest driver of employee loyalty and company success. The real challenge is figuring out how we build and maintain trust. In Brené Brown’s Daring to Lead, she outlines trust as the Braving Acronym:
Boundaries: Do the team and manager respect and set boundaries, and is it ok to ask questions and say “no” when a boundary is crossed?
Reliability: Do you do what you say you will do? This means not overpromising or under-delivering. Everyone knows their boundaries and works within them.
Accountability: Do you own your mistakes and make amends?
Vault: (This one is a killer.) Do not share experiences that are not yours to share. Keep confidentiality, even when it’s not asked for.
Integrity: You choose the more difficult option when it’s the right thing to do.
Nonjudgement: You can ask for what you need without judgement. The team can talk about how they feel without judgement.
Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others.
Truth be told, this is the stuff that really matters. Jeans every day is a bonus, but if there is no trust, jeans actually don’t matter. In my experience the agencies that practice this win. The ones that don’t operate much like a dysfunctional family. The hardest part about trust is that one act of trust, kindness or support adds an ounce to someone’s cup. One act of distrust takes out a gallon.
Before you start adding the all important fun side to the office, think about trust and how trust is managed in your agency. It’s the only place to start.