The Right Hiring Process

Hiring the right people is important. In our current environment, it could be argued that it’s never been more important. Yet for how important it is, I find it’s one of the top challenges leaders face. If only there was an example of sound hiring processes.  

Well, there is. Curt Rager is the President/CEO of Autumn Insurance & Benefits, and one of my clients.  He recently wrote about their hiring process, and was gracious enough to allow me to re-post his article here. I hope you find it as helpful as it’s been to his firm. 

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring the right people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not strategies.”

That’s from Lawrence Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell. We couldn’t agree more. Like few other fields, the insurance and benefits arena is a “people business.” And because we choose to be referral driven, that’s doubly true here at Autumn.

Last year, we gratefully received a whopping 916 referrals from our clients and business communities. That’s a lot of trust. This confidence was based on our team’s proven ability to excel. Imagine all those endorsements for a company with a staff of 17.

This surprising ratio reinforced two things we already believed about our people: First, they’re the key to earning referrals. Second, they’re the key to all we do. 

But it wasn’t always this way.

We were founded in 1933. With decades of experience, we had achieved solid success in helping clients with their key exposures and in managing their insurance costs. But we had a challenge. Our employee turnover created concern in our clients — and it was costly to our company. We knew we had to change our traditional hiring process. 

Bottom line? If we were to maintain our position and grow our market share, we had to learn how to hire well. To do that, we needed to radically realign our process.

Starting in the early 2000s, we developed a unique system to locate, attract and hire elite team members, committed to Autumn’s own Vision and Purpose. 

Did it work? I’m happy to report that today our biggest turnover is from retirement! Plus, we have multiple staff members that have been with us for over 20 years. 

What we do is innovative. And effective. But it’s not easy. The Autumn Employment Process is rigorous and takes time, but we rarely have a miss-hire.    

Now that you know the “why,” let’s unpack the “how.”

Simply put, to upgrade our hiring, we reached outside of our organization. Many of the changes now in place came from professionals with expertise we did not have.

First, we hired a business coach to help clarify our Vision & Purpose. We chose to use the Entrepreneurial Operating System® and hired an Implementer (coach) to teach us their process. Through this, we became focused on our Core Values as a company and created a clear and powerful Vision of who we are.

The Implementer also helped us update our organizational chart. Called an Accountability Chart, it helped define the 5 Key Accountabilities for every role in our company. From that point on, we were able to strategically hire, fire and promote based on these key factors.

So far, so good. But we still had an Achilles heel.

Unfortunately, we were not particularly good at the actual process of interviewing and hiring. Wise friends referred us to The Metiss Group. Metiss specializes in developing leaders within organizations, and will also drive the hiring process. 

With their guidance, we built the benchmarks of performance and the matrix of skills needed to perform well in the 5 Key Accountabilities defined for each role. Metiss also stepped in to lead the interviewing, as well as administer and interpret assessments that measure the key skills and determine a candidate’s core values. 

Their robust array of behavioral-based interview questions, and their strong analysis of the assessment data has dramatically increased the likelihood of our new hires achieving high performance standards.

Ultimately, using the above we created a 5-step hiring model:

  1. Build a strong Position Description using the 5 Key Accountabilities, a matching Skill Matrix, and the Benchmarks of high performance for each role.
  2. Build all marketing for the job opening off of our Core Values and Benchmarks.
  3. Phone screen all candidates based on these attributes.
  4. If we move forward with a face-to-face interview, we use the assessments and behavioral-based questions to determine fit within the overall Autumn culture and in the specific role. At least two employees and our Metiss rep are involved in these interviews. After that, we have a separate interview with the owners of our company. This unique interaction allows prospective employees to get a strong sense of how the owners view the company Vision.
  5. Our final step is an onsite work experience. We ask all candidates to come into the office and work alongside us for a half day. They can interact with other employees, see the way we work together, and how we treat our clients. Afterwards, the Supervisor and/or Manager takes them to lunch. This allows a more open and honest final discussion about each other’s goals and objectives.

Warning: This all takes time and effort. (In fact, Head Hunters says we take too long getting to know our candidates.) But we believe time spent up front is the secret to fielding a world-class team. We spend far less time managing now — resulting in more time for leadership, and most importantly, more time for our clients.

Because we insist on hiring the right people, our busy, successful clients can spend more time growing their businesses and enjoying their families … knowing their financial future is protected.

Richard Branson said, “Hiring the right person takes time, the right questions, and a healthy dose of curiosity.” If you’re curious, we’re happy to share specifics of our process and answer any questions. Contact us through LinkedIn or our website.