Constructing a benefits brokerage business and hiring people may seem like two different discussions, but they’re actually quite similar. Building a quality benefits organization or hiring the best assistant requires an appropriate hiring process to select the right candidate.

On the topic of hiring, it’s too frequently based on likeability or skills rather than values, intelligence, work ethic, compatibility or versatility. At my firm, we utilize the Kolbe Method as a value assessment tool that measures natural abilities and instinctive talents to assist with the new-hire selection process. We understand that people can complete tasks that are outside of their natural abilities, but ideally the position requirements should match the natural abilities and instinctive talents of the candidate, to maximize job satisfaction and performance.

The Kolbe assigns a numeric score to four personality characteristics that are then matched to the ideal position profile. We use the tool as a rejection tool rather than a selection tool. If the position requirements aren’t aligned with one’s natural abilities or instinctive talents, we know the probabilities for that individual’s success in the position are significantly reduced.

Also, our entire organization utilizes the Kolbe to better understand and communicate with team members. Besides hiring, how else do we use it? We begin every major staff meeting with a represencing of each of our respective Kolbe scores. We display them in a grid and review the definitions of the four categories. As an example: Susan is one of our account managers and has a fact finder score of nine out of 10. This is neither good nor bad, it just is her score. A high numbered fact finder is a person who ideally would prefer all the information to be provided on a particular project prior to initiating. High fact finders’ information gathering mode, and comfort zone, is not to be bottom lined; they prefer to know all the facts and circumstances on a particular issue prior to engaging. Knowing this of Susan, we make an extra effort to take the time to provide her with all the requisite information. Once received, she is good to go.  Can she function successfully with more limited or bottom line information? Absolutely, but we also recognize this is not her preferred mode and we would not be optimizing her talents or help her level of personal satisfaction with her job.

The Kolbe and new business efforts

What would happen if we took our best prospects and clients and requested they complete the Kolbe? We suspect this would provide us with a unique differentiator in the market by having the ability to match clients’ natural abilities and instinctive talents with members of our service team. For example, matching Susan with a bottom line client would not create the most harmonious results for either party.

As successful benefit advisers, most of us have the same arrows in our quiver … a broad array of tools and services. What differentiates us is our ability to connect with our clients and prospective clients on both an emotional and business level. Can you envision the potential value of initiating this concept?  How would a client or prospective client respond to our efforts to recognize their natural abilities and instinctive talents and to match them with the appropriate internal service team to enhance their overall client experience?

We don’t know if this would have value or provide us with a market differentiator, but we’ve initiated a pilot program effective June 1, 2014. Stay tuned for our initial results in my next blog.

Torelli is an EBA Advisory Board member and president of e3financial in Newport Beach, Calif. He can be reached at

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