The competition to attract and retain talent is hardly a new battleground for insurance businesses. But since the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated a move to remote working that fundamentally altered the makeup of professional lives across so many businesses, the landscape of insurance recruitment has had to evolve in order to move with the times.
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Discussing the changes that he has seen across the market since he first stepped into an insurance career, Simeon Chapman (pictured), director of the Worcestershire-based insurance brokerage Hazelton Mountford, noted he had seven several distinct shifts. There’s now a shortage of experienced insurance professionals at every level, he said. In addition, there’s an increased number of insurance consultants, with a churning of CVs that’s making it difficult to trust what’s being sent through.
“Also, many people are used to or schooled for interviews,” he said, “which makes determining the best candidate difficult.”
Rather than just advertising roles on Indeed or any other job search medium, there is now a myriad of methods which employers can utilise to try and entice new recruits on to their teams. And it is with the changes the market has seen in mind that Hazelton Mountford has switched up its process to embrace new ways of finding and recruiting top-tier talent that has a natural alignment with the values and operations of the broking firm. Some of Chapman’s top tips included:
- The broker has pursued people it knows personally in the industry
- It has designed a clear career pathway for its staff. In turn, this allows its team to be clear about prospects and the road and requirements to progression
- Hazelton Mountford has created a training programme where staff can complete their CII qualifications with bespoke training and support from professionals
- It has formed its own apprenticeship pathway for school leavers, pursuing a “grow your own” approach to talent.
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Touching on the new methods that he has found work best to date, Chapman highlighted the business’s ‘Apprenticeship Day’ which was held at its HQ.
“This gave school leavers the opportunity to learn about insurance and broking as well as experience a day in the life of an insurance broker,” he said. “They had opportunities to sit with team members in different roles, ask questions and experience the culture of an office working environment, with a view to becoming an apprentice at HM.”
These changes to the firm’s approach are always having a positive impact, and to further mitigate some of the challenges seen across the insurance recruitment space, Hazelton Mountford’s senior management team has also adapted to new processes such as speaking to previous employers, and trial days and short tests to gauge the level of interest and suitability of new recruits.
“Trial days give us an opportunity to view a person over a longer period of time, to see how they might fit into the team,” Chapman said. “We can assess teachability, attitude, personality and interpersonal skills. It also gives other members of our existing team the opportunity to feedback and be part of the recruitment process. [Meanwhile], short tests give us the ability to assess their speed of thinking, intelligence and how they work under pressure.”
Critical to the discussions around insurance talent is the need to focus on retaining the right staff once they’ve been recruited. And so, Hazelton Mountford has matched its external efforts to find talent with an expanded benefits offering.
These include generous pension contributions and life assurance for employees’ families as well as extended long-term sick pay benefits. The growing team also has access to its ‘Perks at Work’ scheme and group private medical scheme, he said, while Hazelton Mountford also offers employee charity fundraising matching, and social events throughout the year, and gives staff their birthday day off. Chapman noted that most of the enhanced benefits kick in after employees have been with the firm for two years.
Looking at the benefits that the broker’s team have responded most strongly to so far, Chapman said: “They have valued our approach to sick pay and our long-term sick protection as well as the increased pension contributions. Both these benefits show our staff are concerned with long term stability.”
Having served the insurance broking market of the UK for over two decades now, Chapman has a good handle on what it takes to be a great broking professional, a useful insight to have when it comes to recruiting new talent. Sharing some of the insights he has gathered over the years, he advised other broking firms to focus on growing their own talent where possible. Also, use all the information to hand, he said, because, even with all that, recruitment is still a risk and often a very costly one at that.
“[Being a good broker is about having] good negotiation skills,” he said. “While in lockdown, my wife’s observational comment after not knowing what I ‘really’ got up to at work - other than insurance stuff - was that ‘you spend your whole day on the phone negotiating’. This is so true.
“For us, this means a good broker needs to build rapport with many different types of people and be able to communicate clearly. We must always have a keen eye for detail. And confidence in your own ability and the product and provider that you are selling. These qualities always have been there, for a great broking professional, and remain so [today].”