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Providing Leadership During Tough Times

Posted on 15 Apr 09

The financial crisis has affected most companies. Many firms are looking at postponing projects, making cutbacks and implementing new strategies to tackle an economic climate that is in flux. In our “Face Time” interview with consultant Virginia Bates, we provide concrete steps and recommendations you can take as an insurance agency to help with revenue growth. Following are general ideas that management, both on the retail and wholesale side, can implement to get employees through this challenging time.

Following are ten ways to keep your workforce engaged and motivated during the downturn:

1. Be sure you clearly state your strategy and vision for dealing with the economic crisis so that a sense of uncertainty doesn’t pervade your operation. Developing a strategy and vision will help you communicate goals and priorities to employees, who look to management in times of crisis and will help keep morale up. It will also improve managers' and employees' abilities to make decisions day-in, day-out.

2. Reinforce your strategy and vision in every employee meeting so that each person’s priorities in your firm are in sync with the organization's strategy and vision.

3. If you don’t already have one, set up a website or an intra site (internal site if the information is not for public viewing) where employees can learn about what your company is doing — and what your competitors are doing — to manage the crisis. So much information is out there every day about the insurance industry…the financial state of carriers, the need for regulation and reform, etc. It’s best to keep your staff informed with easy access to the knowledge they need to deal with the current situation. (It’s also a good way to keep your clients updated and reassured of the stability of your firm and those that you represent.)

4. If you are a larger agency, wholesaler, or carrier where communication is not readily accessible, think about sending a weekly e-mail update. Employees respect when leadership is candid, and by communicating with your people, you'll help them gain confidence in the organization's future.

5. Meet with groups of employees to listen to their concerns and encourage participation and suggestions from them in order to address challenges that your firm may be facing. Let your employees know you value their ideas.

6. Ask teams to develop their own plans for improving quality, reducing costs while not sacrificing customer service. Harness your employees' energy and act on appropriate suggestions.

7. Realign performance goals based on new market realities. If you've changed your business strategy, let your employees know their goals may need to change as well. Articulate the new strategy and why flexibility is important.

8. If you are planning a change in compensation due to the current economic climate, be sure to advise employees as soon as possible. Your workforce would rather know what to expect, even if the news is not something they want to hear.

9. Look into cross-training talented people in your company. Employees can add value — for themselves and the organization — by acquiring new skills. Those who adapt may fare better during a restructuring, and will appreciate the opportunity to expand their skills.

10. Share key performance indicators with every employee. This is especially important if your key measures have changed to address economic crisis. Communicating this information will also help people understand how their role contributes to the company's goals.