At industry events, when speaking with other agency owners and when viewing the most recent Agency Checklists’ e-blast, the common threat to agencies is painfully obvious. It is a lack of available talent in the industry.[pullquote]If marketing reps were given a dime for every time they were asked “who is looking?” They would be rich and retired at this point making the talent gap or amount of people needed to fill roles in the industry even greater.[/pullquote]
If marketing reps were given a dime for every time they were asked “who is looking?” They would be rich and retired at this point making the talent gap or amount of people needed to fill roles in the industry even greater.
In November the unemployment statistics mirror this sentiment. The unemployment rate in the insurance industry was 1.2%!
Reports from Deloitte Consulting (in 2016) have said that by 2020 400,000 jobs will have to be replaced. Massachusetts stands for about 2% of the population of the United States. To extrapolate, this means that 8,400 jobs will be open in the Commonwealth! This will obviously not happen all at once, but it’s a big number.
For all of us currently in the industry, we know how long it takes to get a firm grasp of the insurance business. It takes years. This has created a bias towards hiring those with prior experience. It is a natural feeling to want to hire someone with years of experience. However, what about hiring people with no knowledge of the industry, then training them?
The “low cost experienced account manager” and the “young producer with a book” are unicorns: highly desirable, impossible to find.
We need to take a hard look in the mirror to find the solution to the talent shortage
We were forced to at Deland, Gibson when four years ago we lost half of our PL team in a six-month stretch! I wouldn’t recommend it, but it certainly allowed us to grow back, stronger.
As an industry let’s not keep asking for help that isn’t there or isn’t coming any time soon. We can sell our agencies and make it someone else’s problem or build our staff ourselves. Some agents are doing it already, hiring multiple people a year with no insurance experience. Some of the larger agents have internal recruiters realizing that talent management and acquisition is a full-time role.
At Deland, Gibson this has been a goal of ours for a number of years. Through careful monitoring, we have been able to hire fresh, open-minded people with little to no insurance experience. We then train them insurance without the traditional bias and mindset of the traditional, reactive insurance agency. Over 1/3 of our staff are 35 and under, (dare I use the term, millennials?) and we have plans to continue to hire multiple people a year into the coming years.
While we have 43 people, readers may dismiss thinking that our size allows for more flexibility than most. The reality of it is that you only need one person to hire, train and onboard new talent. It is easier with more people to spread the work, but it is doable for any size agency as the onboarding is delegated to only a couple of people. The hardest part of this was the hours of time put into developing our onboarding accelerator program.
What our experience has taught us….
Our experience in hiring over the years has led us to believe that there are three keys to success: Growth, Culture, and Brand.
Growth and Culture is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg. You need a great culture for sustained growth, and you need growth for a great culture. You need growth to create more opportunities for your people, from compensation to a challenging job description. Culture will then keep people engaged, working more efficiently and proudly towards the company’s mission. Working together as one and enjoying the ride is the goal.
The last piece to the puzzle is brand. I recently asked our latest new hire about social media. I asked if a company didn’t have social or an active social media presence how would she feel about applying there. Her answer, “I did not consider, and I looked elsewhere…” This is the new reality. No brand or a less desirable brand will damage your chances of future prospects joining the agency. We have enough trouble overcoming “insurance” let’s not give any other reason for people to not consider a move to our agency or industry.
The typical jobs within insurance agencies are evolving. The typewriter and pro-rata wheel are out, brand and talent management is in. It’s not easy to look in the mirror and start such an initiative. I challenge you to find the time to create the infrastructure and bring great people into this great industry. Trust me, don’t wait to lose half of your staff.
More about this week’s InsurOp-Ed Author
Chip Gibson is CEO at Deland, Gibson Insurance, a MAIA Five Star Agency, headquartered in Wellesley, MA. He is a 2004 graduate of Syracuse University where he was a four-year letter winner on the Men’s Rowing Team. Chip leads the Deland, Gibson Fund, the agency’s charitable giving entity. He and his Brother, Ted, are 4th Generation leaders of the Agency and hope to continue to grow the firm through the addition of talent and agency acquisitions. To learn more about the Deland, Gibson Agency, please take a look at our 2015 Interview them entitled, “Deland, Gibson Insurance: A Model Agency With A Novel Approach To Its Producers.
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