How to Align Workers for Maximum Productivity
Think of every person on your team as a line (or a vector). The direction and length of that vector indicate how much effort they put towards which goal. If those lengths and directions aren’t aligned with each other or your goals, then you have what we’ll refer to as misalignment.
In the blog today, we’ll discuss what misalignment is, how it hurts your agency, and how you can fix it.
Identifying Misalignment Between Teams
In his blog, What misalignment looks like—and what it costs, Shay Howe shares: “According to The B2B Lead, sales reps spend about 50% of their time prospecting unproductive deals—while missing 80% of the most qualified leads. Not an optimal use of time.”
He then goes on to share how you can identify when your marketing and sales teams/initiatives are not aligned:
- Your sales team repeatedly voices their frustration at “low quality” leads.
- Your sales reps disqualify a large percentage of MQLs right off the bat.
- Despite an increase in ad spend and marketing budget, customers aren’t engaging with your ads, content, and emails.
- Marketing collateral and educational resources go unused by your sales team.
- Your marketing and sales teams operate independently much of the time.
You can see this further as a client makes their way through your customer journey.
If your customer service team repeatedly voices their frustration over new customers, then you have to ask yourself: why did you sell them? Or if your churn starts to tick upwards, what’s the cause of that? Wrong client? Wrong relationship?
When discomfort is felt, frustration is voiced, and issues start to rise, it indicates misalignment. Similarly, if you notice downtrends (or uptrends in negative categories like churn), it could also indicate misalignment.
These are chances for you to look deeper to identify the problem. Then, use your knowledge and work together to reinstate alignment.
The 3 Types of Alignment
When looking at alignment, there are 3 main types:
- The Null Vector Sum
- The Sub-Optimal Vector Sum
- The Aligned Vector Sum
Note: for simplicity, these graphs assume that everyone is working at the same productivity level.
The Null Vector Sum
The Null Vector Sum occurs when your team members are working in opposite directions.
Since half the team is working in one direction and the other half is working in the opposite direction, your team’s efforts as a whole would be null and void. Essentially, their efforts cancel each other out, and you’re no further ahead than you were at the start of the day.
This vector sum is often caused by miscommunication of goals, tactics, roles, priorities, or tasks.
The Sub-Optimal Vector Sum
The Sub-Optimal Vector Sum is much more common than the Null, but the results can be just as disastrous.
Like the Null Vector Sum, this scenario is caused by miscommunication of goals, tactics, roles, priorities, and tasks. Although it doesn’t lower productivity quite as much as the Null scenario, it does impede it still as efforts are pushed in various directions.
The Aligned Vector Sum
The Aligned Vector Sum should always be your team’s goal for productivity. It provides the maximum output and can lead to maximum success.
It means everyone is working in ideal alignment towards the same goals and outcome.
How to Align Your Vectors
There are 3 steps to achieving alignment:
- Align the organization’s goals with the needs of the customer
- Align people with the organization’s goals
- Align individual teams (product, marketing, sales, service, etc.) with the organization’s goals
The first step is to align your goals with the customers’ needs. For simplicity’s sake, we’re using goals as a catch-all for your company’s goals, core values, principles, and mission and vision statement(s). To help you achieve this, ask yourself these questions:
- Why are we on this team together?
- For whom are we building this?
- What are we creating?
- Do we have shared respect, trust, and empathy for one another?
Think of it as running a marathon. The goal is to cross the finish line. However, if the finish line’s location or route isn’t clearly communicated to all participants, some may veer off the path and take the wrong route, while others may not even finish. The same happens if some aren’t even aware they’re running a marathon or that their intended goal is to finish.
The next step is to ensure you have employee buy-in.
Buy-in means “acceptance of and willingness to actively support and participate in something.” Not only does your team understand what the goals are, but they’re also excited by them, want to participate in achieving them, and are always looking at how they can work towards them.
Going back to the marathon example, if your team doesn’t have buy-in for the marathon, what is propelling them to participate and make it to the finish line? Likely, a donut and some tasty beverage won’t be enticing enough to take on the grueling 26 miles. They need a much more fulfilling reason.
Ways to achieve buy-in:
- Show how their work will directly influence goals
- Show how their work will directly affect clients
- Show how your goals will directly influence the clients
- Give them a chance to provide feedback and input on your goals
After you have buy-in, you need to align your various teams. We discussed this earlier in ways to determine misalignment. If your teams aren’t aligned in working together towards the goals, it could create inconsistencies and even chaos.
Although they all have buy-in towards the goals, if they aren’t working together to see those goals met, then alignment is still not being achieved, frustrations will still be felt, and work will go undone or done multiple times.
A couple of examples of aligned teams:
- A sales and marketing team that meets regularly to comment on how educational resources are being used in the sales process, identify gaps in resources, and share top questions prospects are asking
- A sales and customer service team that have full access to notes and histories of new clients to give insight into the goals, needs, and wants of that new client
- A customer service and marketing team that meets regularly to discuss common questions from clients, identify gaps in resource materials, and decide how to grow the resource library/help section
Misalignment in Your Tools
We’ve covered how to identify misalignment in your agency, steps to take to fix it, and questions to ask yourself. There is something else that’s equally as important to understand, though: misalignment with your tools.
Everything can be in perfect alignment within your agency; but, if you don’t have the right tools in place, a misalignment can still be felt.
Misalignment with tools in your agency may be happening if:
- Clients and prospects report it’s difficult for them to schedule time with their agent.
- Your team shares that transferring notes and assigning tasks to one another is cumbersome.
- Productivity levels start to go down as your team spends more time in the documentation stage or doing workarounds.
- Frustration is expressed when working in the field or from home is impossible due to a lack of access to your agency management system.
- Your tech/product team is continually having to build out customizations to fit your business’ needs.
- Your team reports spending more time on administrative tasks or manual, repetitive tasks than actually focusing on their key role.
Your job is to do your job to the fullest extent of your capacity. If your tools are holding you back or impeding your staff’s ability to progress, then you need to re-evaluate the tool you have, the value it gives you, and, most importantly, is it the right fit?
If this is an area you want to explore more, check out these resources:
Insurance is a Business; Run Your Agency Like One
Your agency is a business. It’s essential to analyze the effectiveness of your staff’s efforts. Look at your current process and your team. Is what you’re doing achieving The Aligned Vector Sum?
If not, where are some of the places you’re straying? Are there misalignments between your teams? Is the tech you're using actively helping you improve and reach your goals? Are your goals aligned with the needs and wants of your customers?
Sit down and do an analysis sooner rather than later. This analysis can help you improve productivity and set you up for success during busier times, like Open Enrollment and Annual Election Period.
Take the time to understand your team’s productivity so that you have time to make changes, implement new technology and strategies, and get yourself ready for when enrollment season is here again. Doing the work now will only help propel you into the future and help make setting and achieving your goals that much easier.
What is AgencyBloc?
AgencyBloc is an agency management system (AMS) that helps life and health insurance agencies grow their business with an industry-specific CRM, commissions processing, and integrated business and marketing automation.
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This blog was originally published on March 20, 2018. It has been updated and republished on February 9, 2021.