Agency Growth

What Employees REALLY Want

Things can look very different from the corner office.  At least that’s what Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting and Reach Your Peak Customer Experience expert, states in his latest article: What Employees Want: It Might Not Be What You Think(originally published on

Research indicates while stress still remains the number one factor of workplace risk, the initial causes of stress often occur between upper management and frontline employees.

As an insurance and risk management professional, what can you do to better understand these differences in workplace stress, and how can you bring them to light for the entire organization to see?

The Power of the Employee Interview

As a risk management professional, one key strategy you may wish to adopt is the employee interview process.  Many times, management tends to become overconfident in its assumptions about their workforce.

To help clients make better decisions about how to improve their workplace, it’s your as their risk manager to collect confidential insights of the very people within the organization who are manning the floor, day in and day out. Jon Picoult has identified four ways to discover the wants and needs of the employees within any organization.  Below are three that relate directly to the risk management professional:

1.  Ask the staff.
The simplest way to better understand employees — from what frustrates them to what motivates them — is to ask.  Schedule meeting times with key members of the staff to collect feedback on potential risk issues that might be affecting their particular job or position.

Picoult recommends the following questions:

  • What do you like most about working here?  What do you like least?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • Would you recommend working here to a friend — why or why not?

Take note of common themes you hear from various staff members.  Each risk issue should then be later discussed with management.

2.  Survey the staff.
Managers all like to think their employees are comfortable sharing feedback with them. The reality, however, is that it can be difficult for staff to do so, especially if they fear their feedback might put their manager on the defensive.  This is why it becomes critical as a risk manager to collect the information from employees in a safe and confidential way.

Surveys are a great way to get feedback from large quantities of employees, and online, mobile-friendly survey tools make it easy and economical to conduct surveys and solicit your client’s entire frontline staff.

Christin Myers, Director of Training and Coaching for Beyond Insurance, routinely uses Survey Monkey to collect individual agency data from each of the Beyond Insurance Global Network partners to promote increased communication between network agency leaders and their staff.

Soliciting input from employees once or twice a year in this fashion has proven to be an effective way for Beyond Insurance to highlight issues and ideas that have proven to help each agency enhance corporate culture and continue to follow the unique and differentiated “purple” path.

Picoult recommends you keep the survey short, and be sure to include at least one open-ended question so employees are encouraged to not just numerically rate the workplace, but to also explain why they feel the way they do.

3.  Shadow the staff.
Similar to the hit TV show, Undercover Boss, sometimes the best way to understand the risk issues facing employees is to BE the employee.

There may be aspects of a person’s job that, while they wouldn’t think to mention it in a survey or confidential interview, could still be a significant source of risk to both the employee and the organization.

By spending time alongside staff, you will have a unique opportunity to watch the hurdles employees must clear to do their job efficiently.

In conclusion…

Successful business leaders recognize the importance of understanding what customers want.

The same holds true with employees. As you try to discern what risks your client’s employees face, don’t just rely on what the management gurus say, or even what your own intuition tells you. Instead, go right to the source and let the employees be your guide.