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How To Hire A Hero

Here’s the secret to building a world-class financial services operation, whether in the home office or at the agency level. It’s not about the latest and greatest technology, having the best facilities or creating a new product wrinkle your competitors don’t have yet. Those may be the outcomes you’re looking to achieve, but the catalyst will always be the people you hire. Are they passionate about the company and your mission? How can you de-risk the hiring process to stack the deck in your favor?

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 71 percent of American workers across all industries say they are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” in their work. That means only 29 percent of workers are involved and enthusiastic on the job and passionate about making a real contribution. The No. 1 cited reason for the high dissatisfaction: the relationship with their immediate supervisor. So it’s as much about how employees are managed and led as about whom you hire.

For financial services, I would argue that our circumstances are even worse. The washout rate for new advisors continues to be abysmally high. Those companies that do the best in this area have the dubious distinction of being just slightly less bad than everyone else. Employee churn for our profession is at epidemic levels.

Let’s start with the hiring challenge. If only we could draw from a pool of candidates who are more likely to be engaged from the outset, the opportunity for increased productivity and profitability is significant. There is a wellspring of potential candidates we’re not maximizing: the veterans of our armed forces who are returning home from tours of service in Afghanistan and other areas. These superbly trained individuals have many qualities that make them ideal candidates for positions within the financial services industry.

In 2012, The Center for a New American Security issued a report that clearly articulates the values veterans can bring to organizations – including to financial services companies. These attributes include:

  • Leadership and teamwork skills. Veterans typically have led colleagues, accepted direction from others and operated as part of a team.
  • Comfort with structure and discipline. Veterans have experience following established procedures in order to achieve success, a key attribute for financial services firms.
  • Flexibility. Veterans are accustomed to performing and making decisions in dynamic and rapidly changing circumstances.
  • Goal-Oriented. Members of the armed forces often have achieved significant victories despite difficult odds. They know how to “get the job done.”
  • Resiliency. Veterans are accustomed to working in difficult environments, and to traveling and relocating.
  • Loyalty. Veterans are committed to the organizations for which they work, which can translate into longer tenure and a better return on dollars invested in training.

Penn Mutual recognized this early. They stepped up to help us educate more service men and women by creating the Penn Mutual Center for Veterans Affairs at The American College. This center provides military scholarships to men and women who served honorably in the armed services and are making the adjustment back to civilian life, as well as their spouses. By awarding need-based scholarships to the military’s best and brightest, we can provide the financial services profession with a new talent pool of determined and mission- minded individuals.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both had an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent in August. That’s significantly higher than the unemployment rate for the American workforce as a whole… and it’s totally unacceptable.

Earlier, we talked about the importance of both hiring well and creating the leaders who can help you retain employees in the future. That’s where education comes into play. The more professional education we can provide, the more likely you are to have an outstanding future leader. When it comes to this critically important veterans’ initiative, we’ll do our part with the education. Will you do the hiring?

I invite you to write me at InsuranceNewsNet and share your perspectives.

Larry Barton, Ph.D., CAP, is Chancellor of The American College. Larry may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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