Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.” This is an interesting paradigm that many across the business landscape consider to be counterintuitive. But why is that?
There seems to be a prevailing thought that experience and claims savvy go hand in hand. While this can be the case, it often is not. From a technical perspective, it seems intuitive that the longer one performs their tasks, the better they will get. After all, would you rather have an airplane mechanic with thirty years of experience or thirty days?
Talent and experience are two different measurements which can be co-dependent but often are not. In the aforementioned example, the assumption may be that the thirty year airplane mechanic is technically sound. But what if he has thirty years of bad habits? Would it not be preferable to have the lesser experienced, albeit talented mechanic, work on the plane and when in doubt, seek the input of a proven, talented co-worker?
The same holds true in claims organizations where many leaders focus on tenure when evaluating new talent. This seems to be especially true given the dreary economic conditions where long term claims personnel can acquired at discounted salaries.
As discussed in Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, the employment landscape is comprised of A, B and C players. A players typically comprise about 20% of the workforce. They are those who don’t need to be asked twice and take a proactive approach to solving problems, resolving tasks and providing solutions. C players are the opposite side of the spectrum, and often account for another 20% of the workforce. They are the chronic whiners and complainers that account for about 80% of organizational problems. In the middle are the B players, accounting for the remaining 60%. By nature, they are followers and their migration is dependent upon the strength of management.
In a well run organization, this very important contingent of employees will migrate towards the A players. In poorly run organizations, they will migrate towards the C players creating an atmosphere where success becomes impossible.
Herein lies the challenge; how do you differentiate between A, B and C players in the interview process? If I had the magical elixir, I’d be extremely wealthy and with fewer administrative headaches. While I don’t have the ultimate solution, I will share what has worked in the past.
First, there is not a linear relationship between talent and ability. To the contrary, tenure can potentially lead to complacency and bad habits that simply can’t be fixed.
Second, technical skills can be taught, attitude cannot.
Third, ask the right questions including both behavior based questions (give me an example of when you…) and situational based questions (what would you do if…).
Fourth, evaluate the ability of candidates to effectively communicate, including their ability to coherently write a hypothetical letter to a claimant or an attorney.
Lastly, utilize a proven method for pre-employment testing. While not perfect, it does enable businesses to proactively identify characteristics and traits of those most likely to succeed in your culture.
While there is no perfect method for hiring, these steps will improve the odds of success. Let’s face it, even in the most perfect of circumstances even the best will have Ryan Leaf moments.
At the end of the day, attitude will provide the difference in organizations seeking to move from ordinary to extraordinary.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference- Winston Churchill
Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of the 20 Essential Rules series, including Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted. He is a twenty plus year insurance industry veteran who has served in a variety of quality, management and leadership roles for multiple Top 10 P&C insurers. To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail email@example.com.
Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at firstname.lastname@example.org