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Implementing Change for Survival

(Reprinted from The Standard)

External changes in the industry are forcing internal changes in Agencies in order to survive and thrive. Implementing any type of change in an Agency is not easy task.

Agency owners regularly make decisions that affect employees. However, managing the change requires two highly developed capabilities: Decision Making and Implementation.

Because of the very nature of the personality type of an agency owner, usually the decision to make a change in the Agency is the easy part. Smooth and effective implementation of the change, however, can be more challenging.

A key element is to understand how the change will affect staff and communicate before, during and after the process. You must gain support and commitment from those who are affected by the change.

Let?s get concrete and talk about an actual decision an agency owner (Bob) will make. Bob has done his due diligence by reading industry material and studying Best Practices and knows that he needs to increase his revenue per employee.

He has various options open to him to accomplish this, Bob researches each possibility and decides that he can increase productivity, decrease expenses and reduce his E & O exposure by becoming more efficient by switching Agency Management Systems. The end result will be an increase in revenue per employee. This is the decision making phase.
Bob holds a staff meeting and informs the staff that they are going to purchase a new agency management system. The new system has the capability for Real Time, Upload, Download, integrates with Rating and lots of other features that will help everyone become more efficient.
You can almost here the shudder of fear in the room. How can Bob implement this decision and help the staff through this transition?

These four steps are a great start:
  • Provide the big picture
  • Sell the Solution
  • Involve people in the planning
  • Celebrate Success

Provide the big picture.
Many agencies share their financial picture with employees monthly. It?s a very valuable tool. You don?t need to give all the gory details, but giving a snapshot of the financial health of the agency creates an environment for understanding and teambuilding. In our example above, Bob would explain to the staff that he pays $1000 per month for the current agency management system and the switch to the new system will save over $6000 per year. People understand saving money.

Sell the Solution
Take the time to highlight how this will benefit the staff. Present a positive vision for their everyday work flow. Getting the new system will allow the staff to be more organized, not having to jump up and down to get files, accessing company info in a click of a button, binders and certificates are much easier and faster to create. This helps create buy-in.

Involve people in the planning
Whether you have 5 or 50 people get them involved in the planning phase of the project. Schedule a brainstorming session. What needs to be done to prepare for the new system coming in? Who will do it? When? What?s the deadline? Having a broad agenda and allowing folks to give their ideas and comments creates a feeling of ownership of the project. You?ll be surprised how many of the grumblers will end up happily volunteering for a part of the prep work to help implement the change.

Celebrate Success
Don?t wait until the change has been completed. Bring in coffee and donuts, take people out to lunch, tell them how much you appreciate what they?ve done and celebrate all the little milestones along the way.

The roll out or implementation process has caused many unhappy employees in insurance agencies. Understanding the process and how important it is to get people on board by complete communication, selling the solution, involving staff in the planning and celebrating successes will ensure a smooth transition that will allow for the desired results.

June Sousouris, AAI, is Director of Sales for Special Agent, Inc. in Holbrook, MA. Ms. Sousouris has over twenty years experience in the insurance industry with her most recent prior position as Vice President of Sales & Marketing of a large insurance agency.

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