As published in Professional Insurance Agent (PIA) magazine.
Insurance brokers are already looking ahead at industry trends and topics that are set to take center stage in the coming year. In today’s ever-evolving environment, staying at the forefront of such advancements is imperative for running a successful agency that will benefit both the employees and clients.
It’s no secret that every organization faces its fair share of workplace challenges; this is especially true for insurance brokerages. With this in mind, an effective and well-organized human resource team can make it possible for insurance agencies to adequately navigate and respond to such issues, thrive in a fast-paced work environment and ultimately, have an edge over competitors.
Considering new HR strategies is critical to providing clients with the service they deserve and have grown to expect. So, how exactly can insurance agencies ensure that they’re incorporating effective HR strategies to further business goals come 2020?
Read on for the biggest HR trends to look out for in the coming year - for agencies and for their business clients:
Innovative Recruitment Strategies
In today’s environment, insurance agencies’ HR strategies need to directly respond to the constant internal and external pressures that the industry provides. These challenges – from managing clients’ expectations to changing market conditions and navigating cost management – make it difficult for agencies to focus on their employees and capitalize on growth.
Let’s face it: The race for quality talent will always be a top priority for all insurance agencies and brokerages, alike. With recruitment methods constantly changing, it is imperative that agencies stay up to date with new industry strategies, such as pipelining, so that they can continue to recruit employees that will help their company thrive and, in turn, help meet clients’ needs. Delivering this high-quality service will ultimately maintain client satisfaction.
For insurance agencies, implementing an effective talent pipeline should remain the top priority for all hiring endeavors. Pipelining continues to remain a leading recruitment tool, incorporating various marketing concepts to ensure that companies embrace a diverse group of strong recruits that are ready to be hired into the insurance sector. Above all, the concept reduces hiring time and ultimately leads to more qualified and reliable candidates for agencies.
By the same token, it is important to realize that often, the best candidates are already working within your agency. By looking within your company first – and fostering strong internal mobility within the agency – the agency will ultimately support the growth of current employees and boost morale. The strategy is critical for agencies who may be looking to retain valued agents while nurturing a thriving workplace environment. Embracing these shifts ultimately enables employees to feel valued, engaged and challenged with their work, not to mention loyal to their agency and less likely to look for other opportunities.
The Growing Importance of Flexibility
Simply put, implementing flexibility in the workplace for insurance agents is crucial in today’s modern digital world. As technology continues to advance within the sector, the typical workday has shifted from a once 9-to-5 block to a seemingly 24/7 cycle. In turn, this provides various brokerages with the opportunity to offer agents the ability to embrace altered schedules and flexible hours so that they can get their work done effectively, and when it makes most sense to them. Enhanced flexibility will inevitably lead to more work/life fluidity and higher productivity within the agency.
Though telecommuting and remote positions for employees are not necessarily new benefits offerings for insurance broker firms, flexible scheduling is now being introduced in a refreshed manner in effort to better suit employees and increase retention rates within the industry. For insurance brokerages, considering potential agents for remote positions also provides the company with a wider applicant pool to better benefit their business and, of course, their clients.
For agencies, remote scheduling and flexible opportunities doesn’t solely refer to allowing employees to work out-of-office once or twice a week. Not only should employees be provided with these opportunities, but they should be urged to take advantage of them. Believe it or not, come 2020, globalization will lead to an increasingly diverse workforce, where employees may soon be working with teammates across time zones, permanently.
Providing Next-Level Employee Training
According to the most recent Employee Retention Report, one of the most common reasons why employees decide to leave their place of work is due to a lack of growth opportunities readily available within the company. Just the same, if employees believe that their workplace is truly invested in providing the highest quality of training, they are far more likely to stay and work hard for the agency and their clients. Providing adequate insurance training for new and current employees, in addition to offering programs such as professional development, networking opportunities, and in some cases – higher education – will continue to be beneficial. In the coming years, an even greater emphasis on employee training for both small and mid-sized businesses will continue to take shape.
On the heels of the #MeToo movement, an added emphasis on sexual harassment prevention and discrimination is another trend to look out for in the insurance brokerage workplace. It is imperative that insurance agencies, both big and small, ensure that standard procedures are in place and all agents and employees are participating in training so that they are knowledgeable on these guidelines. It is critical that agents feel informed and comfortable in the workplace so that they can focus on what matters: the business. In fact, a growing number of states are mandating that private employers must provide harassment training, including New York, Connecticut and Maine.
Offering Health and Wellness Incentives
Another key area of importance for insurance agencies to consider in the coming year is organized health and wellness benefits, which include access to both nutrition and educational wellness programs offered to all agents and employees. Multi-faceted wellness plans designed specifically for insurance brokerage firms often include training and activities during office hours, in addition to various complementary activities offered after-hours.
Health and wellness training for the workplace can include anything from physical fitness to development of employees’ knowledge base to emotional education. These programs can range from in-office fitness classes to language courses, meditation, specialized client training and 401k seminars for new agents. A greater emphasis is also now being placed on workplace communication coaching, such as negotiation or public speaking, both of which are critical to success in the insurance industry. These offerings also make it possible for agents to bond and create a stronger team of experts, which will, in turn, make the agency environment more motivating and positive across the board.
Partner with an Expert
Of course, implementing HR strategies ahead of 2020 is far easier said than done. Across the board, all agencies want to be able to protect their assets and ensure that both their employees and their clients are confident in the organization’s offerings. This is precisely why partnerships between insurance brokerages and experienced PEOs – Professional Employer Organizations – are growing in popularity. PEOs can bring best strategies, practices and implementation as well as help navigate these ongoing changes so that agencies can focus on furthering their business.
The fact of the matter is, what used to be a direct competition between insurance agencies and PEOs is now able to be more of a collaboration. After the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, partnerships between the insurance broker and HR specialists began to become more and more common. For the insurance broker, PEOs bring the solutions that help both employees and the agencies’ client roster. Strategic partnerships with the right PEO also helps combat competitor PEOs or insurance brokers that target the insurance broker’s clients. Similarly, the client receives the full list of benefits that the PEO provides. Clients that engage with the PEO are provided with efficient and effective solutions to the various aforementioned challenges that the industry faces. Not to mention, clients have access to a wide variety of resources that they normally might not be given, from risk management to legal solutions and many more.
Ultimately, these partnerships are extremely beneficial to all parties involved: the insurance broker, the PEO and/or the HR expert and above all, the client. By implementing these strategies in the business models from the start, insurance brokerages will be able to more closely monitor their companies and their employees in a more effective manner – for 2020 and beyond.