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April 9, 2018

4 Key Elements for Onboarding Producers

Summary:

It's well-established that the onboarding process is key for new producers, yet only 32% of companies currently have a formalized program.

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The benefits of a formalized onboarding program are well-established. Across all industries, companies use onboarding to achieve three primary goals, according to research from Aberdeen:

  • Engage new hires in company culture
  • Improve new-hire productivity
  • Reduce first-year turnover

In the insurance industry, where just shy of 50% of new-producer hires reach validation, these three onboarding objectives are closely related and even more crucial to the success of agencies and brokerages.

Yet, only 32% of companies currently have a formalized onboarding program, Aberdeen reports. As we’ve mentioned previously, onboarding programs must be formalized to create any lasting, demonstrable effect. New producer hires must have a similar experience throughout their first several months on the job to determine which actions further the goals.

The proven approach is to establish a framework for the onboarding process that is required of all producers, complete with a set schedule, key milestones and benchmarks. With that focus on structure and schedule in mind, here’s an overview of The Institutes Producer Accelerator, featuring Polestar, a successful four-part producer onboarding program

1. Getting started — the first month

The first four weeks of any new job are a whirlwind. Producers are tasked with shoring up their sales expertise and insurance industry specifics while also ingraining themselves in their new company’s culture. Finding the right balance of these elements will depend heavily on the producer and his or her job history. A sales pro with little hands-on experience in the insurance business will have very different needs from a recent risk management and insurance graduate who’s never made a sales call. Similarly, a successful producer from a competitor may have all the knowledge and experience needed to succeed but may need to learn new basic processes to fit with your organization’s culture.

The best approach for most producers is to create a blend of training and refresher content on sales and insurance basics with a heavy dose of your company culture. Make sure that your program covers insurance topics, like client loss exposures and commercial liability, as well as sales and time management principles, like understanding the sales cycle and best practices for delegation.

See also: How New Producers Can Get Fast Start  

Producers should also be introduced to senior managers who can detail the company’s culture in the context of its business strategy, competitors and industry landscape. Most importantly, during the first month of a new producer’s tenure, he or she should be matched with a mentor. According to research from Reagan Consulting, 55% of new producers have a mentor—most often a senior producer or sales leader. Reagan researchers concluded that mentors offer the most help to producers hired from outside the insurance industry and individuals with little sales experience.

2. Building relationships — months two and three

For new producers, their second and third months should optimize their performance in their new roles within your organization. That means continued meetings with mentors with a heavy focus on goals and objectives, along with specific challenges facing your firm. It’s also a time to continue building insurance and productivity know-how.

The second onboarding phase centers on helping the producer establish strong relationships—not only with mentors, co-workers and company leadership, but clients, as well. Weeks five through 12 should focus heavily on refining producers’ sales tactics and targeting specific trouble areas commonly facing new producers, including asking for referrals and shifting from price to value when working with prospective clients. These skills are best learned in a coaching-call environment where the producer and coach role-play specific interactions and the coach provides highly tailored feedback.

3. Expanding skills — months three and four

After a few months on the job, new producers should begin to switch from learning material to maintaining their knowledge and staying current on the insurance industry and sales best practices. New producers should identify the industry publications they’ll use to keep up with the industry. They can also take advantage of webinars and other forms of group learning, where insight from other producers is often just as valuable as the material being presented.

It’s also a time for producers to start developing specialties to set themselves apart and present unique value to the organization. Producers should work with their mentor to select a specialty industry to focus on and familiarize themselves with industry trends, like data analytics and other technological advances.

See also: 4 Good Ways to Welcome Employees  

4. Developing strategies — months five and six

As a producer enters the sixth month on the job, formalized onboarding should begin to taper off in favor of more specific career guidance through mentors or direct supervisors. At this point, producers are probably not fully verified, but their path toward greater success and productivity should be relatively clear. Part of their transition to a fully contributing team member may be to start networking at industry meetings and seminars and providing unofficial mentoring resources to more recent producer hires.

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About the Author

Susan Kearney joined The Institutes in 2007 as a senior director of knowledge resources. In her current role, Kearney is a key source for industry issues and technical insurance, providing content for trade publications and leading workshops and seminars.

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