A League of Insurance Agency Superheroes
Operations | Katie Condon | Aug 30 2018
Although we tend to focus on the technology aspect of the business of insurance, agencies would be nowhere without smart and caring people. Technology streamlines, optimizes and corrects human error, but ultimately, people run and empower the business of insurance. They are a voice and a guide, especially in times of fear, sorrow and confusion for customers.
Still, when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees, many note how difficult it can be to attract the right people. In order to gage some effective ideas and solutions to mitigate employee turnover, we talked to the Chair of the Applied Client Network, Amber Bosma.
If anyone knows about staying power, it’s Amber; she’s been with Prins Insurance, Inc. for over 22 years! As Vice President of Business Operations, she holds a variety of responsibilities as it relates to providing insurance services, including hiring and human resources. Keep reading for Amber’s insights on hiring from a small job pool, employee turnover, improving communication and more.
What do you think are the biggest challenges insurance agencies face when it comes to hiring and employee retention?
Amber Bosma (AB): Insurance doesn’t always have positive connotation; there is often a “just collecting money” mentality. It’s about communicating what we really do, but we’re not always the best at that. Insurance providers are the unsung heroes, and we have to put out a more positive message about it.
I’ve even asked my kids if they’d ever want to take over the business one day, but what they don’t realize is that it’s not all about sales; you can get involved in training, legal, technology, all different kinds of things, especially at bigger agencies.
Do you have any tips for smaller agencies looking to grow their staff?
AB: My agency has about 13 people, but we have been challenged with growing our staff from time to time. I have a couple of different thoughts on this:
First of all, we tend to look at capacity before deciding if we really need to hire; we all think that we are busy, but are we always being productive? It’s important to grow your employees’ abilities to handle the work and still maintain control of it, and you can often do that without adding an entire body.
Sometimes it’s a matter of restructuring or using some outside help. We’ve used some vendors and Applied Client Network partners to assist us with tasks like accounting so that our staff can remain focused on their typical role responsibilities. We try to do what’s best for our customers and our employees.
If you really do need to hire someone, you have to think more outside the box. You can hire part-time staff to do specific tasks, or seek out interns from local colleges. Most of our staff, including me, come from local colleges; it’s a great place to seek out anyone that may be looking to work in the industry and even those who don’t know much about it. I didn’t think I was going to work in insurance, and now I’ve been in the industry for 22 years.
What are some specific ways to overcome small job pools, not uncommon for rural communities?
AB: We are in a definitely in a small job pool here; the town our agency is in has 1,200 people, so we do not get people banging down the door to work in insurance. We try to come up with creative ways to seek out good people — putting open positions on job boards, social media and online. Keep LinkedIn up to date; there are so many different avenues to find resumes today. Always collect resumes; we never say we are not hiring, and it’s ok to invest in a really good fit. It’s not about doing it one way, but having multiple channels to help grow your pool of applicants.
Depending on the role we are looking for, we might look for people outside the area as well. Our last hire was moving back home and came from Arizona. She saw the job online and thought it was a good fit for her. Particularly with sales positions, we would probably look outside the immediate area and see what kinds of opportunities are available.
How can insurance companies better engage their staff?
AB: Education is critical — give people the right tools to do their jobs. We actually require all employees to become licensed regardless of their role in the agency. We really want to make sure our people understand how it works and why it matters. Some of the work is self-study and some is in class. Insurance is constantly changing, whether it be rules and regulations, new policy forms or new endorsements from companies. We can’t just sit and be idle.
How do you help employees adjust to the rapidly evolving environment of insurance technology?
AB: We are a people business, but on the technology side, we have to keep challenging ourselves to check out what’s happening in the industry and what to adopt to do our jobs better, be more efficient, and ultimately meet customer needs. It’s a matter of understanding what they want as well.
It’s natural human nature to be frustrated by change and new technology — few people thrive on change. However, in business there is a kind of a “change before you have to” mentality. We are very open in those discussions [about introducing or changing technology processes]. When there are new changes down the shoot, we ask if people are willing to be involved in research so they also have a say.
People learn and adopt technology in different ways; some people are ok with getting all the information from a meeting, some need to be showed specifically how to use it and some just have to use it for a while until they have that “aha” moment. It’s critical to communicate what the end goal is and why you are doing this. New technology processes are a lot easier to implement when explained and people understand.
Amber Bosma, CIC, CISR, is a Principal Partner and Vice President of business operations for Prins Insurance in Sanborn, Iowa, where she oversees operations, accounting, human resources, IT systems, and LICA promotion. She both joined the company and became a member of Applied Client Network in the late 1990s.