CY Benefits is a NY-based insurance startup, providing small and midmarket businesses with innovative insurance solutions that maximize employee benefits packages while simultaneously offering tax savings to the employer. Its flagship product, The Cypress Advantage Plan (CAP) provides innovative and essential no-cost benefits to employees while providing bottom-line dollars to employers.
CY Benefits was founded in 2012 by Greg Carter and Phil Young. The company spent years fine-tuning a truly unique product. When the time came to ramp up its commercial team, the management realized to what extent it is time- consuming to transfer years of unique expertise to new hires. This required frequent tag-teaming during day-long meetings and enrollment sessions at new clients’ sites, rather than spending more time on new business development. The management team also realized how their continued success depended on tacit critical knowledge held by the founders.
In addition, CY Benefits’ sales approach depends on a dynamic sales and post-sales staff; in the current market environment, competition for such talent is stiff and turnover is high. As a result, CY Benefits is constantly required to train new sales personnel. Intuitively, CY Benefits’ management was aware that its tacit critical knowledge was the key, but had not been able to clearly identify exactly what these new salespeople needed to know.
At that point, CY Benefits turned to Aebis to help identify its tacit critical knowledge.
What is tacit critical knowledge?
- Critical knowledge is both essential to the person and hyper-specific for the organization, indispensable to the company’s performance or representing some competitive advantage.
- Tacit knowledge is the accumulated know-how that is only “in a person’s head”, and which will leave when s/he leaves the company or department. It is what allows a person to have an instinctive and pragmatic response, based on their experience, meaning that it is rooted in their own informal empirical knowledge gathered over time.
The Aebis approach
Aebis brings patented methods & tools for rapid, in-depth understanding of complex business concepts. The Aebis team focuses on individual knowledge transferred from person to person, or between very small groups of people with a great deal of tacit knowledge, where the creation of a large-scale training program is not a cost-effective option:
- Situations where investments in job analysis, competency mapping, curriculum development, training content, and format development are too expensive and long relative to the size of the team and relatively low frequency of use.
- Within this small-team or one-on-one transfer, the Aebis team focuses on tacit knowledge based on years of internal hyper-specific expertise which is not available via outside third-party training programs or via existing internal training programs targeting large-scale or non-specialized staff.
Aebis team members met with two key members of CY’s management team: CEO Greg Carter and CMO Quentin English, for two hours each. These meetings were unstructured but guided interviews wherein each expert described his work, with an emphasis on crucial decisions or actions based on his tacit critical knowledge. From this material, along with supplementary sources of information and personal knowledge and experience, Aebis produced, within a few days after the interviews, a visual and tabular representation of CY Benefits’ critical knowledge. This was presented to CY Benefits for validation and comments, leading to the final deliverable.
- A context diagram: This context diagram helps to quickly situate newcomers, by clearly identifying the scope of their interactions, with whom they interact, what they receive, and what they provide (this diagram can’t be displayed for confidentiality reasons.)
- A knowledge map with tasks along the left side and knowledge domains across the top. This knowledge map identifies the breadth of knowledge necessary to successfully serve CY Benefits’ clients. The density of the map was striking, with very few blank squares, meaning that almost any task performed within the company requires mastery of a wide range of diverse knowledge, everything from tax codes and payroll policies to ACA provisions to cultural resistance with respect to insurance products.
Of course, as with any model, certain aspects are highlighted at the expense of others; in this case, the Aebis team chose to focus on the breadth of tacit critical knowledge and did not address the depth of knowledge that may be necessary to perform each task. This prioritization of knowledge is an additional step to be performed with the experts.
CY Benefits’ reaction
The output of this analysis was presented to CY Benefits’ managers for verification and discussion. The managers confirmed that Aebis had indeed captured the situation accurately; the initial deliverables required only slight adjustment.
CY Benefits is now in a position of being able to enhance its existing sales training by extending it in some cases and deepening it in others, in order to adequately cover all the required knowledge.