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How Personality Data Can Boost Agency Success

It’s always interesting when people respond to similar situations in vastly different ways. Our current political, economic and global health concerns certainly highlight how our views, experiences and beliefs can shape the way we see the world and other people. Thankfully, we don’t need to go that deep to make a difference in our agencies. A little personality data can help you determine if you have the right talent in the right roles as well as guide you through a solid development- and performance-management plan.

As you assess the actions, reactions and interactions throughout your agency, you will quickly notice that some of your employees don’t hesitate to push back when pushed (a strong sales indicator), while others willingly retreat. Analytics question everything. Extroverts always have something to say. You’ve likely got introverts, rebels, leaders, followers, opportunists and even procrastinators in your agency. So, it’s important to ask yourself:

  • How do you manage different personalities?
  • How do you know who’s who?
  • How do you spot imposters?

Hiring new employees and managing existing agency staff can feel like a painstaking yet unpredictable process when you can only guess at a person’s specific needs, traits and motivators. How can you confidently bring a new employee on board when all you have to go by is a keyword-centric resume, a friendly interview and flattering testimonials from your candidate’s excellent (but possibly biased) references? Hiring an outwardly confident but inwardly passive person to aggressively produce new business will almost always prove disastrous. And taking on a careless CSR is sure to be an expensive mistake.

Candidates may look and sound the part and seem so accomplished you become convinced they’re perfect for the job. However, the frustrating reality is that many applicants know how to impress in an interview and will not hesitate to stretch the truth, guess, charm, or even flat-out lie when they must. Too often it’s what you think you see that you don’t get; a common complaint of hiring managers is that their new employee seemed so promising at first, then started exhibiting inappropriate behavior and decreased productivity.

Employees are risky investments. They’ll either boost your bottom line or chip away at it. A smart hiring decision is a huge win for your agency; a bad hiring decision is a loss — of both time and money.

The risks of taking on the unknown go beyond hiring. It’s difficult to manage existing staff when you have no idea what motivates them. Some employers make the costly mistake of treating everyone the same way, thinking this not only makes life easier but also ensures equity and efficiency in the workplace. However, as most of our closets can probably attest, “one size fits all” never fits anyone well!

This style of management seldom works long term and often leads to mutual frustration, dissatisfaction and performance liabilities; managers see disappointing workers as slackers, while unhappy employees conclude their boss is a really bad manager. This kind of ongoing discontent in an agency typically leads to conflict, terminations or resignations.


Managing Different Personalities

Motivating your employees is easier than you might think if you: Keep lines of communication open, ask for input, stay connected and meet regularly. Also, be ready to adjust your tactics when overseeing a group of people. You may normally be a “just do it” manager, the type who lays out some general objectives then expects staff to devise their own plans to get it done. While your take-charge, independent employees will embrace this approach, those who want input and guidance from you will not; make an effort to stay available to them. An assessment can provide you with data on your own style, as well as highlight the differences in the individual personalities of your staff.


Knowing Who’s Who

While it may take time to uncover a person’s work pace, assertiveness and need for structure, other personality traits can usually be assessed more quickly. Outgoing individuals are easy to spot. They’re talkative and seem to promote themselves well. They’re exuberant, usually not afraid to seem a little silly and take themselves less seriously than an introspective introvert.

However, these people are not necessarily aggressive or competitive, so hiring one of them to sell or assume a position of authority might be the wrong move. You need to be sure they can capitalize on their infectious charm and sparkling personality by pressing hard enough to put business first, meet goals, and achieve objectives. Be on guard against would-be employees who seem too good to be true.


Spotting Imposters

Some people will do or say almost anything to get hired. They’re able to present themselves very well in the interview while hiding their true self, the one they don’t want you to see. For example, self-confidence can be found in all personality types; it’s not indicative of competitive drive. Dig into a personality and you may find that your seemingly strong, take-charge applicant is really a conscientious, eager-to-please support personality who’s prepared well for the interview and learned what to say and how to respond in order to impress you.

Many agencies fall into the trap of hiring professional networkers. These sales candidates are socially confident, poised and articulate which means they interview very well. However, they have a strong need to be liked that creates close reluctance. They struggle to overcome objections and work around buyer reluctance. In an interview, it’s very easy to mistake their social confidence for assertiveness.

Therefore, if you are hiring a producer or a manager, you want to do your best to uncover the innate assertiveness and drive you are looking for by using all the selection tools at your disposal, such as a robust interview process, assessment results, reference checks and background checks.


Behavioral Assessments

Agencies looking to reduce turnover are aware of how vital it is to hire right and understand the behavior of their employees — and they’re using behavioral assessment data to help them do this.

Omnia Insurance Industry Targets are designed to help agencies hire and keep the best. The benchmarks are derived from practical research of the industry and the specific jobs within the industry using profiles of proven top performers, position competencies, years of consulting data, and job descriptions within our database. We have benchmarks for producers, leaders, CSRs, office support and much more.

By complementing an agency’s existing selection strategies, the Omnia assessment provides an early glimpse into behavioral issues that may not be apparent until long after you hire someone. It’s data you can rely on to make more informed hiring decisions, decrease turnover and increase retention.

A personality assessment is NOT a test. No one can study for it, and there are no right or wrong answers; it’s based on an individual’s own opinions. Ratings may be assigned to candidates, but this is to help managers measure an individual’s overall job suitability; hiring decisions should never be based exclusively on these ratings. They provide additional data points, the basis from which to delve more deeply and ask more questions. The more information you have, the easier it is to feel confident in your selection decisions.

Assessments are a valuable piece of the intricate, always challenging puzzle that is the human mind. They serve as readily available, reliable tools that make hiring, promotion, management and succession-planning decisions much easier.


Author bio: 

Wendy Sheaffer – Chief Product Officer at The Omnia Group, an employee assessment firm providing the power of behavioral insight to help organizations make successful hires and develop exceptional employees. Wendy is a subject matter expert in using Omnia’s 8 columns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. She works directly with clients and Omnia staff to provide a deeper understanding of how to use personality data to meet business goals. For more information, visit us at , email  or call 800.525.7117.

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