Fifth in an ongoing series about how employers can succeed in an increasingly complex adjusting industry.
My last article—Right People, Right Seats—began looking at the huge challenges faced by human resource departments in the changing claims climate.
In the new dispensation, adjusting firms don’t just need to put the right people on the bus…they need to put the right people in the right seats on the bus.
But entrenched industry habits make this incredibly difficult. Too many firms fall prey to the ‘Peter Principle’ and choose leaders based on current achievement rather than projected success in their new position. Additionally, companies aren’t considering those small differences in temperament that can make massive differences in performance when one’s environment is changed: An ace field adjuster may languish in a call center working inside claims, and vice versa.
To sum up our case (and it’s a case often made by smarter people than us): Taking the time up-front to determine what kind of person will be most successful in a position—and then figuring out how to recognize that kind of person—is essential to winning in today’s claims environment.
Taking the time upfront to determine what kind of person will be most successful in a position—and then figuring out how to recognize that kind of person—is essential to winning in today’s claims environment.
We continue in our current article by getting the lay of the land when it comes to identifying and screening talent. What are the characteristics of good adjusters and good managers? Is it different for inside vs outside adjusters? How do we screen for them? What processes or systems need to be incorporated into the hiring process to ensure we’re getting the right people for the right seats?
The Big Picture
In the next couple of blog posts we’ll be sketching out the ideal characteristics of various kinds of adjusters.
First, I’d like to be clear that the following information is based on AdjusterPro’s own empirical research in this area over the last several years. That is to say, it’s not simply our best guess. We’ve spent considerable amounts of time screening adjuster applicants and have continually re-calibrated our methods as we’ve monitored the profiles of successful adjusters and the changing industry business model. We’ve been able to see the big picture as we’ve followed adjusters through the entire process from screening and training, to how that correlates with their best fit and productivity in their new role.
I liken our position to that of the catcher in baseball. We have an unobstructed view of the entire game—the opposing batter, the wild pitcher, the shortstop out of position, and the speedy centerfielder.
We get to see the errors, the saves, and the overall strategy that ultimately determines a win or a loss for each team. And we know that putting the right players into the right positions means more wins for your team.
That being said, what follows is a guide that can be adapted to particular circumstances rather than a one-size-fits-all, universal system.
Permission to Play
At its heart, claims adjusting is a customer service job that requires excellent interpersonal communication. An entire post could be dedicated to this topic, but it is our belief that customer-service aptitude is a greater priority than technical skills and experience when it comes to a new hire. We view it as the essential foundation every adjuster must have: a “permission to play” item that needs to be checked off immediately before we will go any further with a candidate.
Excellent interpersonal communication really boils down to two things. The candidate needs to have:some natural capacity for empathy; and the verbal, reading, and writing skills to communicate that empathy. If they don’t have both, game over.
This is ‘permission to play’ stuff here. If you aren’t well suited to customer service or you can’t read, write, and do basic arithmetic well, you aren’t a good fit for adjusting.
The best adjusters empathize with their customers, but can you teach empathy to a person who doesn’t have it naturally? Do you want to? Or, consider the cost of the time it takes a manager to double-check the work of someone constantly making basic math errors.
While some of these recommendations may seem harsh, or too cut and dry, sending an ill-equipped adjuster into the field during a CAT with little more than a “good luck” to support them is harsher. And can have much more disastrous results.
So, how do you test for these things quickly and without the time-consuming work of interviewing every potential candidate? We’ve used, with a lot of predictive success, assessment tools from an outfit called Criteria Corp. They rely on a Scientific Advisory Board to help develop their tests. The board is comprised of leading psychologists and test development experts from Harvard, Penn State, Stanford, and the Wharton School of Business … basically a bunch of super-smart people whose life’s work is getting these things right.
For the initial hiring stage, we use their Customer Service Aptitude Assessment and their basic Math & Verbal Assessment. It’s pretty simple. We set a minimum passing score and for those who don’t pass, that’s it. As I said, this is permission to play stuff here. If you aren’t well suited to customer service or you can’t read, write, and do basic arithmetic well, you aren’t a good fit.
Narrowing the Field
Next up is Criteria Corp’s MiniCog Rapid Assessment Battery or MRAB. This is the most intense of our online assessments but it also happens to be the best predictor of success.
This is the most intense of our online assessments but it also happens to be the best predictor of success.
It contains a series of games, mostly memory related, that are meant to stress the mind. I speak from experience when I say it is stressful! Downright unpleasant actually.
The MRAB tests attention, working memory, and reasoning ability and, as I said before, it has proven highly predictive of success. I don’t think it is a coincidence that our very best adjusters have been those that have scored highest on the MRAB. And just like the Round 1 assessments, if you score below the required minimum, that’s that. Thanks for playing.
Once our candidate has cleared these first several hurdles, it is time to get a writing sample. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but digital communication is still communication (e.g., claims reports, status updates, damage narrative) and adjusters must be able to do it professionally and effectively. In addition to checking off a necessary skill, you will also begin to see someone’s personality shine through in their writing.
It sounds old-fashioned, but digital communication is still communication and adjusters must be able to do it professionally and effectively.
We aren’t looking for Charles Dickens here, just so long as the candidate can express an idea without serious errors in grammar, spelling, and syntax. I recommend giving them a direction, such as asking them to write about why they’re interested in becoming an adjuster. It is surprising to see what you can learn about a candidate’s personality and skills from a few simple paragraphs.
Who’s on First
At this point, we have a pretty good idea that our candidate has the basic aptitude and skill set to do the job. If the initial pool was 100 people, the tests above should result in the strongest 30 candidates being left.
Now comes the real work … where we’ll look at personality style to determine which seat on the bus they’ll best occupy. This phase is truly the Secret Sauce that made our screening recipe such a success.
To Be Continued…