Money Moves

Training based on forming habits

By Ada Ng

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Jeanne Sau, senior vice president, marketing support, MassMutual Asia Ltd
Photo: Edve Leung

Insurance companies are increasingly moving beyond skill-set training to concentrate on techniques in emotional management, which are now believed to be a major factor in achieving sales success.

Leading the way is one insurer which has introduced tailor-made training modules in attitudinal and habitual behaviour to suit agents at different stages of their careers. "Being an insurance agent is like running your own business," notes Jeanne Sau, senior vice president of marketing support for MassMutual Asia Ltd. "Many new joiners find it hard to assimilate into a work culture that demands this," she says. "Very often, when they are asked to do cold calls and other self-initiated client visits, they are inclined to procrastinate."

Therefore, the company offers new joiners a 90-day training programme in "habit formation" to equip them with the psychological traits that are required to cope with the ups and downs they will encounter in business life. A checklist is provided of the behaviour and habits to be learned during the process and, more importantly, the programme allows transformation and positive affirmation to take place. "The main thing is for trainees to put the theory into action," Ms Sau adds.

Apart from building habits, the course teaches the power of positive thinking and ways of coping with the emotions of good and bad days. "This enables staff to understand their failures and take corrective action," notes Ms Sau, adding that many people have found the training not only beneficial for their careers but also useful in other aspects of their lives.

Forming the right habits is seen as a lifelong process requiring regular reinforcement. "Building a habit is not an easy task, but keeping and reinforcing it against the human instinct of sluggishness and the inclination to procrastinate is the most difficult thing," Ms Sau notes.

Consequently, staff who transfer to different positions within the company receive training in other "behavioural skills" which will be needed in their new roles.

For the experienced agency team, Ms Sau says the company will keep holding regular product training sessions to update agents on new market developments. As importantly, habit reinforcement modules will continue, emphasising the required skills and habits, namely the self-discipline and self-motivation for running an enterprise. Other soft skills such as how to communicate with clients with different types of personality and from different backgrounds will also be stressed.

"We believe that KASH (knowledge, attitude, skill, habit) is what helps us make money," says Ms Sau. "A client network and product knowledge must be backed up by good work habits."

She further says the habit training model adopted by MassMutaul has trained a team with customer-oriented and positive thinking skills that, in many ways, helped to retain customers. "Our policy renewal rate has been maintained at over 90 percent and that is a good indication of a pool of happy customers," she adds.

Taken from Career Times 14 January 2005, p. 2
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