Zain Hasan is a value-based employee benefits consultant fueled by his passion for helping others succeed. He is an entrepreneur, business leader and visionary with a value proposition that is setting new standards for insurance brokers. With the Affordable Care Act and the number of employers who were being mislead or left to have to guide themselves through the fast-changing legislation, he created the NIC Group to raise the bar on other insurance brokerages. NIC is filling the gaps between what clients wanted and brokers offered. Follow him @zainshasan.
What interview question do you always ask potential hires and why?
- How old were they when they got their first job?
- How do they define a “great” team and what do they believe made that team great?
- Do they have any experience in or around startups?
- What value can they bring to a team that makes them unique? What are their biggest weaknesses? Can they give one example of how each weakness may affect their ability to work in a dynamic, constantly changing workplace?
I want to get to know how aware they are of their own strengths and their own weaknesses. I want to know that they are people who understand the true value of tapping into the collective intelligence of a team. If they have been around startups, then the rapid change and idea of wearing multiple hats won’t be new to them. If they started to work very early in life, it implies to me that they have a strong work ethic. And if they are aware of their strengths and their weaknesses, it tells me they will fit within our culture and it allows us to evaluate whether they are going to add value to our extremely diverse team.
If they are seeking constructive criticism in every aspect of their life, it tells me they are dedicated to continuous learning and personal development. If they are aware of their weaknesses, they are more likely to be collaborative by tapping into other people’s strengths. In the startup world, you will wear every hat, so I am focused on people’s behavioral characteristics and a significant work ethic. Everything else is teachable. I made the mistake of hiring people based on corporate experience only to learn they were often unwilling to wear multiple hats. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to give them a job description and say, “this is what you will do every day.”
We look for people committed to their team members and the collective results of the team first. It’s easy to find people who can do work. It’s harder to find people who can see the work that needs to be done and create their own tasks in order to help the team move forward and ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction.
What makes your company culture unique?
We are a team where titles truly do not matter. Everyone knows they have the capacity to influence the way we do business and every comment by a team member is truly heard. We question each other’s methods and encourage our team to be very open about their opinions. We appreciate mistakes because they promote learning. We reward the team based on team results, not individual ones.
We are the most transparent team I have ever been a part of. We show everyone the P&L, we allow employees to shadow anyone they want (including the CEO), and we are extremely focused on KPIs so we can see the results each individual is contributing. If every employee firmly believes that we are the best consulting firm in the country for employers to go for their insurance, HR technology solutions and risk management, then every employee will drive revenue because they won’t have to sell our company. They just have to talk about it. If every employee believes we are the best place to work, they will recruit extremely talented people.
If your employees can honestly tell you what you need to do to be the industry leader, you can not only build a great workplace but you can build a culture of sales. We reward everyone, regardless of title, for referring employees or clients.
How can you make sure team outings or activities appeal as best they can to all employees?
Create a subcommittee and let the subcommittee choose what events to put on. This allows different people to come together and all be heard so we can identify the best methods for social events.
What’s your best tip for keeping a personal touch to onboarding and training as you grow?
Ask for feedback and reward employees who give it to you. The new hire truly appreciates having the ability to be heard. I often let employees take responsibility for implementing the changes they suggest, which also makes them feel like they are part of building a bigger process.
What’s one quick, easy way any company at any stage can invest in their company culture?
Listen with empathy. It doesn’t cost any money and will go further than you can imagine.