There’s no doubt that 2022 is a unique year, both in terms of where the world stands with the COVID pandemic and when it comes to economic and world events. Whether it’s in small ripples or crashing waves, the ebbs and flows of 2022 are impacting insurance agencies and their agents.
A great way to brave the storm is to acknowledge the issues and make plans to overcome them. Here are some of the biggest challenges facing insurance agencies in 2022 and how to overcome them.
The Great Resignation saw 47.8 million people quit their jobs in 2021, and the movement continues. In an employment atmosphere where people would rather stay home or change professions, it can be difficult to find the high performing support staff and agents. Add to that the unique skills insurance agents need, and the challenge gets even more difficult to overcome.
One element driving the situation is the ease with which people can earn a decent income doing office work from home. As more and more companies introduce remote and hybrid work environments, some people have been opting for these career paths instead.
A great way to overcome staffing challenges is to be completely transparent regarding what the position requires and what’s involved. This way, those inclined to consider switching agencies or getting into the insurance business have an accurate picture of what to expect and the most appealing aspects of this industry.
For example, you should clearly outline, both in job listings and during the onboarding process, details such as:
Agents and other employees often don’t understand how to take advantage of benefits, resources, mentorship, and other tools that are essential to success. But you can proactively provide guidance, starting during the interview process and continuing through each new employee’s onboarding. This can help you both attract and retain top performing people.
New agents may come in with a sense of optimism and aggressive professional goals. While this initial momentum can help power a productive start, it can also set them up for disappointment. At the same time, it can be easy to under-support new agents during the onboarding process, leaving them with questions and challenges that impact morale and productivity.
The time onboarding takes compounds the problem because most people in your agency are probably already busy trying to grow and sustain business. But investing a little extra time in getting new employees comfortable can pay big dividends in the long run.
There are a few things you can do to hook new employees with a positive experience during their first couple of months. A great way is to use a mentorship model that helps new employees get their questions answered and have their concerns addressed in a safe setting. Providing a mentor also gives them a point of contact with whom they can have honest conversations as they work through some of the bumps and bruises new agents may encounter.
It’s also helpful to maintain and continually update a portfolio of resources agents can use to boost their performance and enhance efficiency. In this way, you create a supportive onboarding experience, which can also boost your retention rates.
Neither of these solutions requires too much time on your part, either. You can set up a self-selection process for mentors so only those who have the space in their schedules sign up for the privilege. And maintaining a collection of resources can be a simple matter of storing effective scripts and other tools in the cloud and giving everyone access to it.
Another facet of a successful onboarding program is frequent check-ins with new employees. This applies to new agents and those who have transitioned in from another agency. Even agents who are comfortable with the daily duties of the insurance business may need someone to talk to when it comes to unique elements of office culture or administrative details. Check-in meetings can vary in length, too. As long as all issues are addressed, it’s well worth the time.
It can be tempting to overgeneralize what it takes to make your agents happy. As long as they’re getting new clients and keeping existing ones, all is good, right? Not necessarily. Effective insurance agents have to balance the pressures of sales requirements with the daily tasks needed to support their own success and that of the agency.
In addition, a subtle — or overt — spirit of competition can erode confidence and unsettle otherwise content agents. While some may consciously choose to gamify their performance evaluation system, even agencies that try to remove competition can have a hard time extracting it from the cultural fabric. The combination of these and other factors can lead to early burnout and issues within the company.
Agents need not only to have their successes recognized but also get the support they need around:
One of the most effective ways of supporting agents in these areas is to use company meetings to directly and openly address each topic. At the same time, provide avenues for private, more intimate conversations around these concerns.
When possible, meetings addressing these kinds of concerns should also include paper or digital collateral that agents can refer to later on. In this way, they can find answers to many of the questions on their own.
Inviting agents to have conversations about what can create a more positive experience requires more than simply saying, “We’re here if you have any questions.” In many cases, it would be better to proactively reach out and schedule a meeting with each agent.
Digital transformation has been pulling many industries, including insurance, into the 21st century’s cloud-native movement. The global investment in digital transformation initiatives is expected to crest $2.4 trillion by 2024. For insurance agencies, this is a challenge because many successful, effective agents have gotten to where they are without using a lot of digital tools. Others are drawn to companies with digital processes and resources.
It’s often recommended to do your digital transformation in phases, evaluating the effectiveness of each phase as you go along. You can then use the data you gather — both empirical and anecdotal — to inform the next phase.
For example, you could digitize your customer relationship management process with CRM tools, see how that goes, gather feedback, and then move on to something else, such as an online insurance portal. Digitizing in phases allows people to adjust gradually instead of forcing them to revamp years and years of processes they’ve grown to love and depend on.
Weaving in remote or hybrid work arrangements can be difficult, but the planning and time it takes to implement your solution can be worth it. Retaining top talent used to involve a combination of pay, benefits, and company culture. Now you also have to take into consideration meeting employees' needs when it comes to where they work. This may involve a remote or hybrid work ecosystem.
In a remote work setup, the employee spends the vast majority of their time working away from the office. In a hybrid work situation, they have pre-designated days when they come on site. By satisfying these needs, you give employees not just a comfortable work environment, but also a chance to save on commuting expenses and childcare.
The first step involved in providing employees with the flexibility they need to work from home some or most of the time is to identify which roles absolutely require someone to be present in the office.
Next, you can set up a communications system, either using technology you already have or acquiring a unified communications solution. This way, you can overcome the challenge of people feeling out of reach or out of touch.
Then, because you’ve identified your core requirements, you can have conversations with each agent and employee regarding what they want. In the end, you may end up saving on utilities or even office rental expenses by using remote or hybrid work arrangements.
Generating quality leads is an ongoing challenge for insurance companies because, regardless of how strong your current client base is, it’s never a good idea to rest on your laurels. Getting high-quality leads in your marketing funnel breeds future success, both in the short and long term.
High quality leads are those that have been well vetted and qualified. At the same time, it’s better to have a good volume of leads, not just a few good referrals. With hard-working agents, quality leads will likely come over time, but not every agency can wait for strong leads to trickle in.
If that applies to your insurance agency, you can depend on Nectar. A lead-generation partnership with Nectar provides you with prospects according to the criteria and schedule that works for you. Learn more about how Nectar can help drive your business today.
This article reflects the features of Nectar as of the date of publication. Features are subject to change at any time. This article is meant for informational purposes only, it is not a guarantee that using Nectar will help you achieve specific business or financial results and is not intended to serve as the sole recommendation for any business financial decisions.