According to a study on growth and performance standards from the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, the average insurance agency spends 44% of its revenue on employee salaries, commissions and benefits. Though most successful agency owners will tell you, employees are not an expense; they are an investment.
Yet when it comes to what an agency owner expects from his employees versus what employees believe is expected of them, oftentimes there is a disconnect. In many instances, agency owners presume employees know how to behave at work... show up to work on time, put a full day's work in, and do so without incident. That is what employees get paid for, right?
The unfortunate reality is that when you leave your agency's standards of conduct open to each employee's interpretation, there is the likelihood that one or more employees unintentionally or, perhaps, intentionally will cross a line and violate unspoken standards.
Not clarifying what is expected from employees can put an agency owner and an employee at odds with each other, which could lead to a decrease in morale, productivity or, potentially, post-termination legal issues. To maximize your return on employee investment, it is essential you set clear performance-related standards and communicate those standards so there is no guesswork, and everyone knows what is expected of employees.
Employee manuals are a tool you can use to get everyone on the same page. An employee manual, or sometimes referred to as an employee handbook, is a collection of your agency's written standards of conduct.
A well-written employee handbook will outline your expectations and provide direction for possible what-if scenarios ahead of time, such as the procedure an employee should follow if she is going to be out for the day. Spelling these policies out ahead of time helps the agency stay proactive instead of reactive.
Also, an employee manual applies the same standards to all employees consistently, decreasing the appearance of favoritism or, worse, discrimination. When you document your expectations in an employee manual, you retain more control, which promotes increased productivity while decreasing the exposure to employment-related liabilities.
This post is the first in a multi-part series on employee manuals. In upcoming posts, I'll talk about how to get started creating an employee manual to help with managing your agency and examples of policies you can include.