By: Carey Wallace
The most valuable asset in every agency is their people. There is no question that our industry is based on relationships and the best way to have strong relationships is to have quality people representing your brand, serving your customers, and shaping the culture of your agency. In every survey for the past 15 years, finding and retaining great talent is listed as one of the biggest challenges that agency owners face. That challenge has only intensified for many in the current employment environment. Those agencies that are able to create a work environment that attracts, retains, and provides a long-term career path for their people are the ones that are best positioned for the future from a growth, scale, and value standpoint. If you want to invest in your agency – invest in your people.
In the current “Great Resignation” workforce environment, we all need to contemplate the changes we can make to meet the needs of the current workforce as it moves and shifts. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report, it was reported that 71% of the workers in the U.S. believe that now is a good time to find a new job. In addition, only 21% of employees say they are engaged at work, which Gallup describes as “highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace”. Each agency should ask themselves “Is my organization attracting talent? Are people running towards my agency or away from my agency?”. In order to answer this question, you need to understand the needs and wants of the current workforce, what is needed to create an environment where your employees are engaged, happy, and productive. The following are a few key areas to consider.
Build a Strong Culture
First and foremost, everyone has a desire to feel valued in every part of our lives. This is a core component of every relationship, and the work relationship is no exception. Creating a culture that demonstrates that you care about your staff is critically important. Many employees cite their relationship with their manager as the biggest influence on their success and satisfaction in their role. Building a strong connection as people is incredibly powerful. This can be best achieved by listening, understanding, and acting. By taking action to solve challenges they face in their day-to-day work environment you demonstrate that you care about them as people as well as employees, and you strengthen your connection.
Flexible Work Environment
Over the past three years we have clearly demonstrated that work can be achieved remotely. Organizations that embrace a flexible work environment and are positioned to accommodate in-person work, remote work, and hybrid roles are the ones that can attract talent and begin to reshape their staff. This has allowed many organizations to adopt custom compensation packages and really meet their employees where they want to be. It also reinforces that you value what’s most important to them and you’re balancing that with the needs of the agency. In order to make this transition, agencies must invest in technology, formalize processes, and be intentional with their engagement to keep their culture strong. It also requires a great deal of trust and respect for this structure to work well. The organizations that are able to implement this flexibility in their work structure have a higher employee satisfaction rate – leading to a higher potential growth, efficiency, and profitability rate that will positively impact the value of the agency.
Onboarding & Training
In many cases people want to be part of something that works well. Agencies that have a created a well-oiled machine are positioned to provide this stability to their employees. This can be achieved with a strong onboarding process, a well-documented training program as part of that process, assigning a mentor, and investing in documenting the processes that will create success within your organization. Providing this information in a format that is easily consumable and searchable so an employee can find and access the information easily is as important as creating and documenting the information. This will allow new and existing employees to find and access the information they need to be successful and efficient in their jobs. Training on your systems and processes should never stop and should be viewed as an ongoing and evolving task. As things change and evolve so should the process and training. Every employee should have a voice in this to ensure that new efficiencies are documented and shared with the entire staff to remain consistent throughout your organization.
Data & Technology
In many cases the technology that exists inside agencies is being underutilized. Agencies that invest in ongoing training on their systems as well as in new technology are better positioned to provide an environment where their employees are better positioned to succeed. This is an area that many agencies avoid as technology options are vast, the process to choose the right tools can seem incredibly overwhelming and understanding how technology solutions integrate with each other is confusing. Quite frankly technology is always evolving and changing so trying to implement too much at one time can be exhausting for your staff – especially if there are several stops and starts with technology. It is important to be thoughtful in your approach to adopting technology by following a process which clearly defines the goals and objectives of the tool, setting clear expectations on the time it will take to implement and realize the expected results while involving the entire team in the process. People want to be set up for success so providing them with the right tools as well as a voice in the process is key.
Expertise & Growth
Agencies that invest in their employee’s growth and future are more likely to retain their talent than those that do not. There are several ways that agencies can achieve this. It may look different for each of your employees, so plan to be flexible in your approach. One way to invest in your employees may include supporting them getting a professional designation. There are many options available in our industry and this is a great way to demonstrate how valued they are and also provide them with a way to continuously grow their knowledge, confidence and skill set. The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research provides several designation options including CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor). There are an estimated 31,500 CICs in the country. Those that complete this designation become part of an elite group of insurance professionals viewed as experts by their clients and peers. The National Alliance reports that agents with the CIC designation make 30% more than their counterparts, have a lower error rate, and are positioned to write larger accounts. This is translated to higher revenue opportunity and efficiency levels for the agency which will improve their growth rate and profitability.
Making the investment in any one of these areas is not enough. Simply by investing in technology, education, or data will not grow your agency – it must be implemented well in order to realize those results. It goes without saying that all of these suggestions require consistency and strong processes in order for the investment to translate into results for your agency and your employees. Just like purchasing exercise equipment will not make you fit, the same principle applies here. For those agencies that make these types of investments and implement them well can expect to see lower turn-over rates, higher growth rates and higher profitability. All of these results lead to a higher value for their agency. These are the biggest factors that impact the strength and value of your agency. There is no better investment to be made inside an agency than in your people.
About the Author:
Over the past 14 years, Carey Wallace has worked with hundreds of agencies helping them understand their agency’s value and turn that knowledge into an actionable plan for their agency’s future. Carey is a Certified Exit Planning Advisor, CEPA and provides a variety of consulting services through the company she founded, Agency Focus, LLC.