Even before waves of people quit their jobs in the wake of COVID-19, brokers and agents struggled to find and retain good talent as the workforce continued aging out.
Challenge has led to opportunity, however, with creative and sensible practices emerging to help fill vacancies.
Networking, apprenticeship and mentoring are among the common tools in play to beat a tight and vexing job market. Cultivating an inviting workplace has also helped, according to agencies.
LP Insurance, a regional independent insurance agency, based in Reno, Nevada, has 11 offices in four states and roughly 250 employees. As of early November, it has a full staff after adding several new hires at the beginning of 2022.
Brian Cushard is the company’s president. He acknowledged that an aging workforce has led to a challenging hiring environment, particularly because of the lack of a “qualified, younger generation coming up through the ranks.”
COVID-19 didn’t help, as many people who could work resisted returning.
The solution: LP expanded its hiring efforts a few years ago into what is now known as its Fast Track training initiative — a training program designed to bring in and train up-and-coming talent without prior insurance experience.
“The people that were available [with experience] to be hired wanted 20%, 30% and 50% raises, which was simply unsustainable for us,” Cushard said. “We created a training program and probably 10% to 20% of our work force are [now] just brand new, young, bright people that we’re putting through a two-year training program, with various incentives along the way.”
and Remote Work
Liberty Company Insurance Brokers, a Florida-based outfit with about 800 employees, has addressed employee recruitment challenges by doubling down on developing an inviting culture.
Chief Operating Officer Sonia Ahuja said the strategy has nurtured something crucial that helps it compete among potential hires.
“Our differentiator is we have a lot of emphasis on people’s happiness and wellness as a part of our culture,” Ahuja said. “We are just getting a tremendous amount of referrals from people within the company and people who we are interviewing.”
That’s because Liberty Company enhanced its staff wellness approach post-COVID to focus on improving employees’ abilities to maintain a healthy quality of life.
“Our first job is to make sure they feel happy and that … their happiness [is aligned] with the job functions they have,” Ahuja said. “That allows us to really make sure that not only our existing employees have a very high satisfaction score but that word of mouth is getting out [and] opening up a lot of different channels for us to recruit.”
Newer wellness initiatives that have helped include the company’s Dream Circle program, where employees meet regularly and talk about what makes them happy and what their personal and professional goals are.
“It’s a connectivity and engagement tool or forum that is spread out through the company,” Ahuja noted.
On top of that, Liberty Company’s focus on modernizing and digitizing its operations has proven to be an added selling point with talent, Ahuja said. Hiring remotely has also helped boost the talent pool, with remote workers equaling in-office productivity, she said.
Conrade Insurance Group adapted to the tight job market by redefining how it recruits employees, according to Chris Conrade, its president and risk consultant.
Before that, the 31-employee agency based in central Kansas would rely on filling vacant positions by word of mouth.
“A lot of the folks in our agency had worked in other agencies previously and we had been able to rely on folks employing their own networks,” Conrade said.
Facing competition in larger markets and struggles with the Great Resignation, Conrade Insurance Group decided to embrace hiring people without prior experience and actively recruit at nearby colleges and career fairs.
“For every person that we bring in with experience, we need to very intentionally bring someone in that’s new to the industry,” Conrade said.
Done correctly, he added, the agency’s hiring approach should be beneficial.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Conrade said. “If embraced in the right way, inviting new people that previously wouldn’t have considered this industry as their career path … we further diversify, which is good.”
At the same time, Conrade said, it is important to keep an in-office culture.
“We have a place where we go to work,” he said. “As we seek to attract new people into the business, they have to know that there is mentorship and somebody that feels responsible or accountable for the development available to them.”