Next Generation: 6 secrets for recruiting and retaining young agents in 2015

Jim Schubert of Southern States Insurance has six hot ideas to counteract the looming insurance industry talent gap.



Jim Schubert of Southern States Insurance, one of Georgia’s largest independent insurance agencies, offers these strategies to attract young talent to your agency.

Have you noticed the old dogs in your agency don’t bark like they used to? Are you facing a perpetuation crisis? Or do you see the direction sales and marketing in our industry is headed and have no clue how to reach younger consumers?

Agency owners across the country are facing these challenges, and many are waking up to the solution: They need to hire young insurance agents! Easier said than done, right? Not if you start out with a good recruiting and retention plan. Let’s look at six strategies to put you ahead of your competition.

1. Fish in their pond
•    Post your job openings on social media. Especially LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
•    Contact local universities that have Risk Management programs and ask them to let you give a guest seminar on what it’s like working in an independent insurance agency. Along the same line, let those universities know you have internships available in your agency. (You do have them, right?)
•    Craigslist. (No, I’m not kidding!) We have found and hired several young agents over the past couple of years by advertising on The first two advertisements I placed brought in no less than 400 resumes over the course of a month. Yes, I did have to spend some time whittling that down to about 100 truly qualified candidates. Of that, I interviewed about 10 people and hired two. They are still with us, and have proven to be quality, revenue-generating agents.

2. Use your existing young agents to attract them
Your agency’s own younglings make better bait than your more “seasoned” producers. Let the magic of social similarity work for you. Don’t be shy about including your existing young agents in the interview process. If a candidate sees someone sitting next to them in an interview who looks as young as they do, it will boost their confidence that “there are others like me here.”

3. Clearly define young agents’ advantages and opportunities
Here’s what went through my head on day one of my pre-licensing course right out of college: “Holy cow, 80% of the people in this room really look like they could use a walking stick. Wow, I’m the youngest one here. Sweet!”

There are advantages to being young and in the insurance industry. Young people appreciate the flexibility of the job, the high earning potential and the satisfaction of helping people protect their property and their businesses. Not to mention there are tons of prospects and little competition. Point those things out!

4. Give them the right tools to succeed
How many of your carriers offer sales training? Probably most, to some degree. Use it! Or if you can’t wait until the next sales seminar, buy them some books like Randy Schwantz’s perennial “The Wedge.” We make all of our new agents, young and (lightly) seasoned read this one during their first week with us.

Make sure they have access to or are allowed to use social media as a digital marketing tool at work. I know employers are on both sides of the fence on this one, but I’m telling you, allowing young agents to communicate in their “native language” puts them ahead of your competitors who do not allow it at work.

5. Provide a mentor who is committed to their success
I can’t overstate this concept. The small handful of young agents who ended up leaving us in the past were not mentored, and it was obvious they were craving it. Make sure you team your young bucks up with someone who still has a bit of the fire left in them. Don’t just dump them on someone who’s about to retire. Team them up with someone who is working to put food on their family’s table. And don’t be surprised when the passion and drive of the newbie reinvigorates his mentor. That’s what we call a win-win!

6. Incentivize them to win!
There seems to be an alarming trend of agent and broker owners stiffing their agents (young and old) when it comes to commission. My own producers love going up against other agents who are getting paid less commission on renewals than on new business. Why? Because, after the first year, those agents’ clients rarely see or hear from them again. They’re being incented NOT to develop a lasting relationship with their clients. Instead, their focus is being pushed towards new business…renewals be damned!

If you want to buck that trend (I see heads nodding), here’s what I suggest:

•    Pay an equal percentage of commission for new AND renewal business. Young producers are impressionable. They’ll quickly understand what you want them spending time on by how you choose to reward them.
•    Create some friendly competition. Whether you go all out with an incentive trip program or you keep it low key and throw out the occasional office wager, extra incentives beyond commission bring out a healthy competitive spirit.
•    Above all, find out what really motivates your young agents. Sometimes, it’s just good ole fashioned recognition (“They really like me!”).

Concerned about the looming talent gap in the insurance industry? Check out Insurance Business America's upcoming cover story on the Next Generation in our July/August issue!

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