Like many independent insurance agents, I started out in the captive world.
For a long time, that was just how it worked. Captive companies offered training and resources, so aspiring agents would start there, then go independent after they learned how to sell insurance. Instead of hiring and training new agents, independent agencies would try to poach experienced agents from other agencies.
With the industry facing a talent shortage and many experienced agents heading for retirement, that approach is no longer working.
To attract and retain talent, the independent agent channel needs to show that we can provide talent development and great career opportunities. We need to be willing to hire from outside the industry and show younger generations how much a career in insurance has to offer.
Changing how we think about hiring
At Compass Insurance, we try to provide a lot of different options for career paths. If someone has some money to invest and an entrepreneurial bent, they can open their own branch of our agency – we have an avenue for them to do that. If someone wants to check out the industry, they can come on as a telemarketer and see if they like working in insurance. If they like it, they can become an agent and build up a book of business, then take that book and turn it into their own franchise office. We’ve even had people who started as a telemarketer, then decided they wanted to be in service or management.
Instead of trying to steal producers from other agencies, we created an entry level telemarketer position. This gives people a foot in the door and has been extremely effective in helping us find people who have the soft skills to be producers. It also creates a steady stream of leads for our current producers. We actually have a waiting list of people who are interested in sales positions.
When hiring, we look less at someone’s insurance experience and more at their character and professionalism. After all, you can teach a new employee what bodily injury liability means, but you can’t teach them to be honest and ethical and work hard.
Providing the training and resources for employees to succeed
Of course, once people join our agency, we do have to teach them the ins and outs of insurance. We have a resource portal that we use for onboarding and ongoing training.
Much of the training is learner-led. For example, we assign a new employee a series of videos that they need to watch within a certain number of days. They can choose which video to watch when, as long as they get through the assigned material in the allotted time.
We also do an hour-long live training at a preset time each day. That training gets recorded and stored in the portal, so people can go back and watch it if they weren’t available to watch live.
The resource portal also gives our agents the resources they need to be able to sell effectively across many states. Compass sells insurance in 21 states and works with 20 different companies. There’s no way anyone could remember all the guidelines and requirements for every company in every state. Our portal is searchable so agents can do a quick search and pull up the information they need.
Building the portal was a years-long process. It started with a weekly training class that we started documenting in a three-ring binder. Then we moved those training resources online and just kept adding to them. Every week, I meet with our head of training, head of IT, head of service and head of sales to talk through what struggles we’re seeing and what resources our staff needs. Then we start building out those resources and pushing them out to employees in that learner-led format. We also use gamification within our training to make it more fun for employees. Everybody takes a quiz on the training content for a chance to win prizes based on how fast they’re answering and how well they’re answering different questions.
What’s best for employees is best for your company
Having our resource portal in place made it easier for our staff to transition to remote work during COVID-19, and it also allowed us to hire and onboard new employees remotely.
Whether we’re hiring a new employee or helping a current employee navigate career choices, there are several questions our leadership team always considers: Are the right people in the right seats? How can we help employees be the best version of themselves? How can we set them up to be successful? How can we make sure they get out of bed in the morning and feel excited to go to work?
We’re looking at what’s best for our employees, instead of just what’s best for our company. This makes for a great company culture because everyone knows we’re looking for ways to help them flourish. Leaders have to build that culture on purpose – they have to put the wellbeing of employees first.
But really, by putting employees first and helping them achieve their goals, your company will end up succeeding as well. It’s a win-win.
Every agency appointed with Liberty Mutual and/or Safeco Insurance is responsible for ensuring that they are in compliance with all state and federal laws/regulations that govern their business, including, but not limited to, telemarketing, texting and commercial emails. If you have questions, please seek advice from your legal counsel.