How independent agencies can get a leg up in the war on talent

Agencies need to be passively doing one thing to attract the right candidates

How independent agencies can get a leg up in the war on talent

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

The global talent shortage has put many insurance companies in a quandary. While attracting and hiring qualified professionals has been a long-standing issue in the insurance industry, the pandemic and the Great Resignation have only made matters worse.

And for independent agencies that may not have brand recognition, clinching the right candidates can seem like a monolithic task. A survey by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA) quoted 39% of agencies saying that screening candidates with strong potential was extremely challenging.

To combat a hiring drought, independent agencies should always be “passively” recruiting to position themselves for when vacancies do need to be filled, according to one expert.

“We’ve talked a lot about this Great Resignation, and the impact that’s had on retention and hiring strategies, but we cannot ignore the fact that COVID has really impacted it as well,” Mike Becker, CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), said.

With the unprecedented challenges of hiring as the pandemic wanes, Becker said, independent agencies should be thinking creatively about their recruitment practices and fostering a strong agency culture that will attract the right candidates.

“Agencies should understand their mission statement and their unique value proposition. They need to have a strong culture built around their core values in serving clients and professional development. Even if they’re not actively recruiting staff, it should be an ongoing initiative within the agency,” he explained.

Bringing in the younger generation is crucial to ensuring any industry’s future. But for insurance, that fact also carries some urgency. Half of the current insurance workforce will retire in the next 15 years, leaving 400,000 vacancies, according to the US Bureau of Labor. What’s more, less than a quarter of the workforce is under the age of 35.

Becker said that because of the “stigma” the insurance industry carries, agencies need to mount a strategic PR and marketing campaign to entice young professionals to joins its ranks.

“We need to do a better job of explaining what agencies do. We need to tell the stories well enough to show that the industry is inherently about helping others, about doing good. It’s about rebuilding people’s lives after loss and putting them back on their feet,” he told Insurance Business. “A critical component is making sure that you have a story to tell, you have an elevator pitch where you’re able to explain what your agency does and what the industry is about.”

That communication needs to happen as strongly online. The 2022 Agency Growth Study by Liberty Mutual and Safeco said that 75% of independent agencies are recruiting, but less than half (42%) are advertising roles online and even fewer (39%) are using social media to find talent.

Without the brand power of much larger companies, independent agencies need to strengthen online recruitment efforts and employ a swath of digital tools, such as apps and online job boards, to appeal to tech-savvy Millennial and Gen Z workers.

“Make sure that you have a strong presence digitally within your potential hiring community,” Becker advised. “You need to think a little outside of the box with your job descriptions, include links in them, or videos, or photos. Make sure your agency profile is set up, that you feature employees on your agency website and put them on social media to tell the story of who you are as an agency and what you believe in.”

Becker also advocated a grassroots approach that prioritizes relationship-building within local communities and college campuses. “Agents should be engaging in their communities in broader and more creative ways. So that could mean that talking to new business owners and finding ways to help them take on their daily challenges through insurance solutions,” he illustrated.

“If you incorporate that into your day-to-day business operations, when it does come time for you to recruit, finding new team members is going to be a little bit easier because you’re already going to be connected to different communities.”

This strategy also helps agencies tap into underserved or underrepresented parts of their local ecosystem. While many agencies are vocal about their desire to have a diverse workforce, Becker said diversity practices should be ingrained into hiring strategies to produce results: “Agencies should not think about diversity as just a nice thing to do. It needs to be incorporated as a strategic business imperative.”

Agencies can also look further afield and into other industries for mid-career individuals that might be looking for the stable, rewarding benefits a career in insurance has to offer. “As we do talk about the Great Resignation, I think we’re quick to turn to the Gen Zs and the younger candidates for this industry, but there’s this incredible untapped resource for really qualified individuals that are in different parts of their career, such as coming out of the military or just being a career changer,” Becker pointed out.

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