The insurance talent pipeline: selling the broker role

'We have to demystify the role,' says professor

The insurance talent pipeline: selling the broker role

Insurance News

By Bethan Moorcraft

The talent pipeline is a constant source of stress in the insurance industry. It’s on the agenda of every company AGM, every sector meeting, and every industry convention. The question is: How do we get talented individuals to willingly join an industry that has suffered a bad (or perhaps more appropriate, misunderstood) reputation among the general public since its inception?  

One way to get people into any industry is via the education system. Two-years-ago, Humber College in Ontario set up an Insurance Management Postgraduate Certificate Program, which fast-tracks people into the industry. Within eight months, students walk away with seven CIPs, a RIBO level one license, a postgraduate certificate in insurance, and 160 hours of work experience.

The program coordinator, professor John McNeil, explained the program at the IBAO Convention in Toronto last week, where he also revealed one particularly interesting statistic. When quizzing his students about what insurance role they’d like to pursue, 50% said they want to get into underwriting, 45% said they want to get into claims management, and only 5% said they want to become brokers.

Why do only 5% of insurance students want to become brokers? “It starts with the stigma,” McNeil said. “We have to demystify the broker role [as] many students have misperceptions about it. They associate it with a call-centre. They associate it with commission-based work. They believe they’re going to be stuck in this role. They think they’re going to be cold-calling people at 5pm. They think they’re going to have to meet sales targets and that someone else is going to be benefiting from their hard work and determination.

“So, where do we need to go? Some of the things we’re trying to tell at Humber is that this is a role where you will never stop learning. You will drink from the fire hose in terms of material, in terms of the technical experience, in terms of the companies that you’ll learn about. This is also one of the only roles where you can build a legacy, and with that, unlike underwriting and claims roles, it also has a real entrepreneurial aspect to it. Most importantly, this is a role where you can build unlimited equity. These are the types of things that we need to plug into.”

Every broker reading this article will be able to relate to McNeil’s words. But that’s not the point. Relating / understanding and communicating are different skills. Essentially, the insurance industry has to get better at storytelling. That means driving two hours after work to chat to students at a career fair. It means embracing college programs and offering mentorship. It means communicating with consumers to explain the importance of insurance.

“Another thing I would recommend is social media,” McNeil told the IBAO audience. “This is a great opportunity for you to tell your story 24 hours a day. And what type of stories do we want to tell? I would highly suggest you celebrate your work environments, you celebrate your employees, you celebrate your vision and mission, and you celebrate what it is to be in the day and the life of a broker. These are the types of stories that our students need to hear.”

One company that knows all about the power of social media is Zensurance, a Toronto-based digital insurance brokerage that specializes in business insurance. Not long ago, Zensurance hired its 50th employee. To celebrate the significant milestone, the firm posted a fun picture of all its staff on LinkedIn. The strategic aim of the post was to drive awareness of Zensurance and what it’s like to work in insurance. The post completely took off, achieving 23,000 impressions (meaning the photo was presented to 23,000 people) and 2,500 clicks on to a link back to Zensurance’s career page.

“They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Let’s be honest, in today’s day and age, with the advent of the internet and social media, pictures are worth a lot more than just words. Frankly, they’re worth opportunities to engage and they’re points to start a conversation,” said Trevor McIntosh, head of talent and culture at Zensurance. “After we posted this photo, the outpouring of support from our friends and family in the industry was amazing. But what was really insightful to me as somebody who’s working in talent acquisition, is that we very strategically included a link to our career page in this post, with a call to action for people to join us and to come and learn more about what we have to offer at Zensurance. 2,500 people clicked on that link, just from a simple post.”

Social media, like LinkedIn, is also a good facilitator of company culture – something that people of all generations respond to. Zensurance’s 50th employee post, along with its hashtag #ZenLife, did more than just celebrate a company milestone. It portrayed Zensurance as a young, engaged and connected workforce, which is part of the culture the brokerage has worked hard to build.

“Culture is a really interesting concept,” said McIntosh. “We talk a lot about it, we hear a lot about it, but how do we really define culture? Being a millennial, I jumped online and did a quick Google search … and finally found a definition that stood out to me. It says company culture is the personality of a company. What we do at Zensurance and how we do what we do, isn’t going to be for everyone, and we realize that. We want to be very specific in targeting what we have to offer to folks - and that works well for us. 

“We always knew we had great culture, so we really wanted to understand how we can use our culture as a tool to acquire the best talent. Stage one was really defining the company’s values as they’re critical to establishing your workplace culture. Next, we wanted to use those values to promote our culture online, and eventually attract talent that will align with our values.”

Social media is just one avenue through which insurance companies can attract the next generation of talent to the industry. One thing that stood out at the IBAO talent pipeline panel was the genuine enthusiasm of the speakers. Half-hearted talent acquisition in insurance will only go so far. The industry has to do better at promoting itself with passion.  

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