Our previous research report, Hiring the Next Generation of Independent Insurance Agents, explored hiring practices in independent agencies and how agencies can recruit young talent.
That report touched on the importance of healthy workplace cultures in attracting job seekers. Of course, getting employees in the door is only the first step in building a great team. Great workplace cultures are also key to employee retention and effectiveness.
Workplace culture has always been important, but as companies find a way forward in the new era of work, culture has come into the spotlight, with some calling 2022 “the year of workplace culture.”
The impacts of COVID-19 broke down the perceived separation between work life and home life. As business leaders navigate changing employee expectations, many are focusing on building more inclusive cultures. Inclusive cultures embrace and celebrate the unique experiences, perspectives and ideas of every employee.
It takes intentional effort to create workplace environments where employees feel they are valued and belong as their full selves. But studies show that workplaces with inclusive cultures have more engaged and productive employees.
Workplace culture matters
The 2022 Agency Growth Study
At Agent for the Future, we want all independent insurance agencies to succeed far into the future. Creating inclusive workplace cultures that increase employee retention will help agencies thrive.
The research team at Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance surveyed more than 730 independent insurance agents to learn about their strategies for growth. The 2022 Agency Growth Study covered how agencies are using digital tools, which emerging trends they think will have the biggest impact on their agencies, the tactics they are using to grow and much more.
As part of the survey, we asked agents about their workplace cultures and what makes their agency a great place to work. We also asked larger agencies (those with seven or more staff members) how they engage with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their workplaces. In this report, we’ll explore how agencies can build cultures of inclusion and belonging that will help them retain top talent.
Agencies are focusing on building inclusive cultures
Great company cultures and inclusion go hand in hand.
At Liberty Mutual and Safeco, we are deeply committed to helping independent agents thrive today and tomorrow. As the world and the workforce changes, understanding – and embracing – the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion will be a necessity for any forward-thinking business.
Collectively, we can do more: To remove barriers to entry into our industry, build a workforce that better reflects the communities we serve and ensure the independent agency system remains strong well into the future.
We hope this report opens the door for more conversations about what diversity, equity and inclusion can look like in the channel.
Healthy cultures are good for business
Every workplace has a unique culture made up of a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that shape how employees experience the work environment and how the company does business.
Company cultures have a huge impact on employee retention. According to an MIT study of industry attrition rates during the “Great Resignation,” a toxic corporate culture was the strongest predictor of turnover. While compensation is often a large factor for why people quit their jobs, the study found that culture was 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.
According to the study, the main elements of toxic cultures include a lack of respect and consideration, unethical behavior and failure to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
On the opposite side of this, companies that foster cultures of care, inclusivity and integrity are better positioned to attract and retain top candidates.
Good workplace cultures encourage collaboration and innovation, because when employees feel they belong and are supported, they are more likely to be engaged at work and more willing to share their ideas. A study from BetterUp found that workplace belonging leads to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk.
A disconnect between leaders and employees
Building and maintaining positive company cultures takes work and intentionality. Our research found that most agencies are taking steps to improve their agency’s culture and make their agency more inclusive.
However, agency leaders and frontline staff don’t always have the same experiences of company culture. While 69% of agency leaders in agencies with seven or more staff members say their team can be their authentic selves, only 46% of frontline staff agree. Similarly, 67% of leaders say their agency is focused on fairness in performance and compensation, but only 44% of frontline staff agree.
Percentage of leaders vs. frontline staff that say these areas are a focus in their agency today
People are the most valuable asset of any business.
Creating a culture where every team member feels welcomed, valued and heard is one of the most important things agency leaders can do to position their business for a bright future. Giving every single person a voice at the table and including people’s unique ideas can only make your agency stronger.
Bridging the gap
This suggests that agency leaders may need to reassess their agency cultures, model inclusive leadership and create more transparency around compensation structures.
When taking stock of agency culture, it can be helpful to start by looking at the business’s core values. Clearly defined values help define the deeper purpose behind the agency and serve as a compass for how the staff interacts with clients and with each other.
Building more human-centered company cultures – built on values such as transparency, empathy and collaboration – can help employees feel safe to be their authentic selves at work.
It’s important for agency leaders to model this by leading with vulnerability, showing genuine interest and empathy and challenging the status quo. Research from Harvard Business Review found that teams with inclusive leaders were 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions and 17% more likely to report that they are high-performing.
Leaders should also do an audit of pay structures, employee benefits and methods for performance reviews. Forward-thinking leaders recognize that traditional ways of doing things may no longer serve their agency going forward.
Agency leaders can also open up conversations with employees about company culture, whether directly or through anonymous surveys. Leaders can ask employees what they like about working at the agency, what they wish they could change and what would make them feel more included and engaged.
Agencies that aim for aggressive growth are growing faster
Average annual revenue growth
Average annual revenue growth
What agents say makes their agency a great place to work
Growth-focused agencies are also more likely than other agencies to be focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, which have become increasingly important aspects of workplace culture.