Independent agencies are facing multiple challenges today; one of those struggles is the recruitment of new producers and agency staff. Agencies are having to compete finding new hires vs. finding new clients. New hires are no longer just looking at yearly salaries; they are looking at what the agency offers, such as benefits, retirement, training, growth opportunities, and even the option to work from home. So how does one agency differentiate itself from another agency?
We recently spoke with Becky Lathrop with Optimum Performance Solutions to gather her insight on the recruitment process. Becky is a Certified Insurance Counselor and has worked in the insurance industry for over 25 years. She helps agencies grow profitably by counseling them in workflow management, staff organization and stratification, sales/marketing business plans, client retention, strategic planning, and producer compensation.
1. What do you see to be the current trends in recruiting? How would you suggest organizations handle current trends when looking for staff?
Every type of business is looking for new people to join their workforce. The low unemployment rate proves this. Insurance agencies & companies are seeking good talent, just like other industries. You can find strong candidates, but it takes time if done correctly. A good rule in your hiring process is to “Hire Slow, Fire Fast.” Take your time to seek the right candidate, but once you find them, you need to move quickly, or you will lose him/her to other potential employers. Utilize different tools to “test” for these skillsets & don’t just hire the first person you speak to! Seek out those types of folks with a good work ethic & customer skills. Producer-type candidates need to have those skills & more. Look for that person who will go above and beyond in their jobs. Remember, you must have something to offer over the competition: become the “Employer of Choice!” It’s not always just money that employees are looking for. In some cases, be willing to consider remotely located employees and potentially outsource specific work.
2. Recruiting is a hot topic right now. Everyone is looking for staff; where should agencies look for new team members?
Agency leadership & staff should be looking everywhere = networking! Insurance is a great career opportunity, & we must share that with all generations of agency employees. You can find candidates in every industry. Don’t limit yourselves to looking just at existing insurance agency candidates because they have an insurance license. Look for candidates in other businesses that impressed you and/or you know they are great with people! You can then teach them about insurance. Some of the best candidate referrals come from your existing employees, customers, carriers, networks/associations, etc. You can find the right person to join your team in many places! You may be able to find candidates that fit your job openings that don’t necessarily have college degrees. And pay your own employees a recruiting bonus if they refer a successful candidate to you. That’s a win-win for everyone involved!
3. How can an agency differentiate itself from another agency?
As I mentioned earlier, every agency should strive to be an “Employer/Agency of Choice.” That means your agency must be a great place to work, have teamwork among staff, be employee friendly, have stability & career opportunities, brand presence, etc. If your reputation is strong in the community, then others will want to work for you & your agency. You want your employees to be agency advocates rather than just referrals.
4. One trend we have seen emerging is competitors scouting staff members from other agencies. Recommendations and tips on how to keep current staff. Change benefit packages?
If you truly try to be the “Agency Employer of Choice,” you need to create a good environment for people to work together, have strong leadership, offer fair pay & benefits, training & mentoring opportunities, establish a strong workflow for efficiencies, have clear job roles & responsibilities, provide bonuses when appropriate, etc. People will then want to work for you & they will be seeking you out vs. you have to search a competitor’s website, even though that is a place professional recruiters search. You need to ensure your pay structure is competitive (while also making sure the agency can financially afford to pay it). This all begins with a strong agency culture & maintaining that culture through changes over time (i.e., mergers, acquisitions, leadership changes, pandemics, etc.).
Is your agency the “Employer of Choice” in your community? Pay attention to your interactions with individuals outside the insurance industry and consider everyone the next new hire at your agency. As Becky stated, “You can teach anyone insurance!”, teaching someone to have a good work ethic and be great with people, no matter their expertise in the subject, is a WHOLE different ballgame.
|Fun Fact: One of PIIB’s employees was found by our former President, Larry Manning, while working at Starbucks. Larry got a Starbucks every morning and recognized not only her work ethic but her ability to be great with people! She’s been with PIIB for more than 10 years now.|