Identifying employee strengths in a crisis

Identifying employee strengths in a crisis | Insurance Business

Identifying employee strengths in a crisis

Responding to crises is the bread and butter of insurance and broking – year in and year out. Supporting clients to manage traumatic events is a difficult task, but how often do we question who is the best fit for the job?

Jon Winsbury (pictured), head of international at Gallagher Bassett, says employers should look at frameworks when identifying employee strengths.

“No two catastrophes or disasters are the same, and, similarly, every individual has a unique personality, motivations and strengths,” he explained. “There are multiple frameworks that can be used to understand these variables, Myer Briggs being a well-known example, but to distil this information, people can essentially fit into one of two broad categories: outgoing Type A personalities and more introverted and methodical Type Bs.”

Read next: Should the insurance industry offer more support to its staff?

Individuals who possess Type A personalities are often see as your natural born salespeople – leaders who dream big and are natural creators. Conversely, individuals who possess Type B personality traits are commonly described as introverted, diligent and encompassing higher attention to detail. They also often have strengths around executing and completing tasks.

“Under normal circumstances, one of the objectives for a leader is to challenge your staff to develop in areas outside of their natural strengths; challenge your extroverts to be more methodical and your introverts to step outside their comfort zone,” he said.

“But what I’ve found is that in times of crisis, where demands increase and the pressure is on, people inevitably revert to their inherent disposition, demonstrating the behaviours that come most naturally to them.

“This makes it business critical to understand your people, their strengths and weaknesses, and recognise who is most likely to accomplish specific tasks successfully. Assigning duties and project tasks to people with the right skillset is key to thriving during high pressure situations.”

In a crisis, it’s also crucial for managers to be conscious of their team’s wellbeing, Winsbury says. He says burn out and compassion fatigue can take their toll on employees who are working in a high-pressure environment, so ensuring they’re playing to their strengths enables them to perform at their best “consistently and sustainably.”

“Values are the foundation of our business, and in times of crisis being guided by them is so important,” Winsbury continued. “We serve as an extension of our clients’ team, brand and reputation, so understanding their values and what they view as strengths ensures that we deliver a service that reflects their expectations and quality for their customers. We’ve achieved this by creating a rapid recruitment and training program which is deployed during ramp-up to scale a team to respond to catastrophic events that incorporate our clients’ values.”

Read more: Industry steps up for mental health month

Having the ability to recognise what people do and the natural personality they may revert to during a crisis is “vital,” Winsbury says. Thankfully, there are many great tools available that can be used to grasp a good understanding of personality traits and skillsets.

“These tools should not be used by leaders to pigeon-hole employees, but to have a good base to assign tasks to people who are naturally able to tackle the specific tasks at hand,” he cautioned.

“When we recruit people into our business, we conduct testing to identify a candidate’s strengths logically, technically and emotionally. This provides a baseline upon which our talent development team can investigate further during the interview process to ensure that the candidate has strengths that will be complementary to their team to produce a diverse, well-rounded cohort.”

In addition to technical strengths, throughout a crisis it’s also vital to understand the social, emotional and cultural strengths in your team.

“Who intuitively improves group morale? Who goes out of their way to ensure that teammates feel connected? Who notices if a teammate is struggling and offers them guidance? Who is a great ambassador of our values? Empowering these people to play to these strengths is invaluable in a high-pressure environment,” he added.

“In times of crisis, vulnerabilities are exposed and can be improved, frameworks are tested and interrogated, and people have an opportunity to rise to a challenge.”