Why Is Onboarding So Hard?

Agent and Brokers Commentary: January 2023

Doctor with an IPad

The American Medical Association has been working with medical schools and awarding grants for the past decade to reinvent medical education. The basic question driving the change: Why make med students spend so many of their brain cycles memorizing minutiae about, say, the exact dosage of a drug to administer to the whole range of possible patients when, in practice, they could simply use their iPhones to search for the precise information based on age, gender, weight and the full range of their health issues and medications? 

For the AMA and med schools, the answer was obvious. As a result, they've deemphasized memorization and increasingly let students consult the sorts of reference material they'd have access to as practicing physicians. 

Insurance agencies and brokerages are heading in the same direction as they onboard new hires. As Aimee Kilpatrick, chief operating officer of Cadence Insurance, explains in this month's interview, the large regional broker is focused on providing online resources for its people so what used to require research is now at their fingertips. She says Cadence is also working with The Institutes to make learning more interactive, including through gamification, and to use technology to check in from time to time to make sure people have mastered key concepts.

But there is still a long way to go. Technology will make it ever easier to break training into bite-size pieces that can be fit into onboarding at the point when they're most relevant and to reinforce them later, rather than having so much of the education be one-and-down in a classroom sort of setting. Technology will also make it increasingly simple to gather information and forms without ever pushing back from the desk, as well as to make sure new hires are meeting compliance requirements. 

Improvements in onboarding are certainly needed. With so many agents and brokers retiring and with new demands by customers in the post-pandemic era, many agencies and brokerages are in heavy-duty hiring mode, and they simply don't have the time to let new people go through the two-year-or-so sort of apprenticeship that used to be the norm. 

With the AMA and medical schools, once they reconceived education as a combination of technology together with those bright, young minds, they created room for other sorts of learning. Many schools have added what they call a third pillar of education. Rather than just teach clinical and basic science, schools also teach the budding doctors how to provide care within a complex medical system -- a crucial skill, but one that they had been largely left to learn on their own while on the job. 

Agencies and brokerages will surely see the same sort of progression. As technology takes some of the load off new hires, they'll not only come up to speed faster but will have room in their minds and their days for learning more specialized information about a market, more about their clients, more about sales techniques and so on. 



P.S. Here are the six articles I'd like to highlight this month for agents and brokers:


One challenge is recognizing this might be the greatest time ever to recruit people, because 70% of employed individuals say they need a second income to make ends meet. 


To begin with, we all should rethink the terms independent agency “system,” “channel” and “distribution.”


Younger generations want jobs in which technology reduces frustrations, increases productivity and enables quick successes. In insurance, too many obstacles still exist.


Haphazard marketing may result in a decent amount of web traffic. But if those prospects do not convert into customers, you've wasted your time, effort and money. 


Drawing on our national franchise, we set up an "insurance village" after Hurricane Ian. Here are three lessons we learned that can help agents make an impact after a natural disaster.


Across the sales value chain, insurer executives generally have low satisfaction with digital capabilities, particularly in early stages of the sales process.

Paul Carroll

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Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership.

He is also co-author of A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the Future We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050 and Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993.

Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.


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