Tag Archives: hiring

How to Attract Digital Natives as Employees

The need for insurance agents will grow 10% faster than the overall job growth average between now and 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  reports. Yet hiring in the insurance industry remains precarious, with only temporary periods of stabilization, The Jacobson Group  says.

As digital natives form an ever-increasing percentage of the workforce, this tech-savvy demographic will become the backbone of our organizations. Ed Kooijman, head of operations at 12CU, adds that many traditional organizations will adopt digital natives as leaders as a key strategy for getting ahead.

This gives rise to an important question: How are P&C insurance companies preparing to attract and retain a workforce consisting primarily of digital natives?

The truth is that property and casualty insurers face multiple challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining digital natives. To attract digital native workers and stay competitive, P&C insurers are changing their approach in several ways.

Creating a Digital-Friendly Workspace

The term digital native is used to describe workers who grew up in today’s high-speed, screen-focused digital environment. When used in a hiring context, this term helps explain what millennials and Gen Z expect from the workplace.

As more digital natives occupy the workforce, adapting modern workspaces is a predictable response. In fact, workspaces have changed with every generation to leverage emerging technological assets and meet new demands, Nick Mason writes at OfficeSpace Software.

Nevertheless, the changes occurring in modern workspaces differ from those experienced by previous generations. Today’s digital natives expect to be able to communicate and collaborate easily whether or not they occupy the same physical space, PwC technology leader Antonia Cusumano explains. They want to collaborate to produce results more than they want to clock a specific number of hours in the work day or week.

Digital natives’ focus on collaboration and results has changed their view of the office. “The workplace is no longer a specific destination where employees gather,” CIO contributor Paul Chapman says. He explains that working is more about a mindset than a physical location. “83% of workers don’t think they need an office in order to be productive.”

To this end, insurance companies seeking to enhance their internal culture with the digital native perspective need technologies that match or exceed the tools these workers already use daily. According to John Mancini at the Association for Intelligent Information (AIAA), organizations that fail to adopt new technologies will struggle to attract and retain the industry’s best digital native talent.

See also: Winning With Digital Confidence  

Using outdated, siloed systems is confusing and inefficient in the minds of digital natives, IO Integration contributor Mike Watson says. This is especially true because millennials are well-versed in technologies that empower smart, dynamic collaboration across remote and in-person teams.

Making Information Easy to Access

The internet provides the foundation of the digital native experience and helps define their approach to the world. Marie Puybaraud at Work Design Magazine explains that cloud-based data, along with multi-platform connections, provide digital native workers with instant, streamlined access to social and professional networks.

This is why dark data, or siloed data that isn’t being used to make better decisions, can frustrate digital native workers. They’re accustomed to information being readily accessible, and they see this as a fundamental aspect of strong decision-making.

Digital natives usually see technology as a tool rather than a solution, writer Jillian Richardson says. Consequently, insurance companies that invest in the latest technology simply to do so may be pushing these workers away, rather than attracting them. A clear goal for technological tools like software platforms, along with a careful consideration of how the new technology will be implemented, can help companies create a digital and physical environment optimized for these employees.

It’s important to bear in mind, however, that while digital natives are comfortable with a wide range of technologies, they weren’t born with a complex understanding of cutting-edge tools like artificial intelligence or machine learning. Rather, digital natives have a lower learning curve for the technologies that are changing the insurance industry, says RapidValue marketing consultant Shuvro S. Sarkar.

Similarly, multitasking isn’t a skill that digital natives have developed independently of previous generations. Although digital natives’ willingness to attempt multiple tasks at once is often higher than that of previous generations, their ability to succeed at those tasks is about the same, according to an October 2017 study published in Teaching and Teacher Education. Workspaces that allow digital natives some quiet time and space to focus on a single task remains essential.

Speaking the Language of Digital Natives

Insurance is also uniquely poised to speak the language of digital native generations. Digital natives may possess a confidence with technology that previous generations lacked, but they are keenly aware of the uncertainties in the broader world. Addressing this uncertainty within the context of insurance can make digital natives more interested in pursuing a career in the industry, says Michelle Tucker, global head of analyst training at AIG.

“Insurance can provide some degree of certainty as a safety net supporting people’s lives and business pursuits,” Tucker says. “That idea really resonates with the individuals that we’re bringing into our organization.”

The uncertainty that digital natives face in their overall lives is, in part, driven by the technology they are so comfortable using. Many are concerned, for instance, that the jobs they pursue at the start of their careers may be eliminated by technology, says Richard Partington, economics correspondent at the Guardian.

This fear isn’t entirely unfounded in the insurance industry, says Peter Westerman, who works in product development at ALM. Highlighting the value of digital natives — and their ability to spot and implement insights that technology can’t replicate — is key to addressing these fears and hiring top-tier talent.

See also: Workplace Wearables: New Use of Big Data

In return, digital natives can help P&C insurers speak the language of their prospective and current client base. Younger generations are currently the most frequent users of new insurtech tools and systems, L’Atelier managing editor Sophia Qadiri says. Recruiting these natives can help established property and casualty insurers better adopt these customers’ viewpoints, making it easier to create the seamless digital experience this rising customer base demands.

Like the rallying cry that early internet and software pioneers declared, the internet wants to be free. Today’s digital natives don’t always see information as free, but they do expect the information they need to be readily available when they’re pursuing a goal on the job.

Attracting and retaining digital native staff can help property and casualty insurers better understand and address the changing world of insurance. To do so, these insurers will need to invest in technological tools that provide the information access and collaboration capabilities digital natives have come to expect from their technology.

New Year, New Job? Get the Right Support

As the first month of the new year unfolds, some of you may be facing the challenge of starting a new job, or at least a new or expanded role. Psychologically, many people seem to prefer starting new life challenges like this at major milestones, like the turning of the year. Whether that is the case for you, or you’re in the equally challenging position of hiring a new starter, you know how vital it is to start well and make a positive impression.

Anxiety about this type of change has, of course, fueled a whole industry of self-help books and management advice. Perhaps the most famous text on the subject is The First 90 Days,” by Michael Watkins. Although his approach to the first three months can feel like a relentless standard to meet, the structure does discipline you to: set goals; network with stakeholders effectively; listen to your team; and determine actions to be taken (rather than getting trapped in analysis-paralysis on strategy). So, I would recommend it as the classic text on the subject.

However, both from my own experience and from seeing too many new leaders struggle and fail to achieve what is expected, I believe more support is needed to ensure senior hires succeed. This is crucial not just for them, but also for the organization and individuals who hired them. With the high costs of recruitment and potential doubling of those costs if a replacement needs to be found, it is more important than ever to invest in helping your appointment succeed.

A recent article in Coaching at Work magazine, “Gainful Employment,” by Pacifica Goddard, caught my eye as it looked into this very challenge. She quotes Lynne Hardman, CEO of Working Transitions, who has found that the recent recession and cost of recruitment have caused companies to reduce the number of on-boarding programs, even though 40% of new hires don’t work and even though research shows that programs significantly reduce the likelihood that new hires will leave before the cost of their recruitment is recouped.

Given that the costs of hiring a senior customer insight leader can be anything from 50%-200% of annual salary, more businesses are seriously looking at on-boarding strategies. One growing solution, investigated in the Coaching at Work article, is on-boarding coaching, which allows people in senior roles to get more comfortable with not having all the answers. It provides a safe environment for the expression of concerns or issues that would otherwise feel too vulnerable. Such new hires also mention the benefit of having time set aside in their busy schedules to look at the bigger picture (something I’ve heard before from my clients).

Top tips from the “Gainful Employment” article include:

  1. Arrange to first meet new hires prior to start date or induction;
  2. Plan to achieve goals of individual and the organization;
  3. Identify “quick wins” and support early actions to generate support and feedback;
  4. Provide feedback — to client, line manager and stakeholders, identifying next stages, goals the necessary continuing dialogue.

The growing evidence that such interventions are helpful and cost-effective does not surprise me. What is of interest is that a technique that had previously been reserved for the more senior directors is becoming more widely applied to empower strong early performance across key senior and middle-management roles. So, this is of direct relevance for new customer insight leader hires.

While speaking at industry events throughout 2014, I became aware of the scale of the talent wars happening in the customer insight recruitment market. Many companies are struggling to recruit even the analysts they need, let alone their customer insight leader, and are finding the need to pay more and take gambles on imperfect candidates to achieve their targets. Although this is a problem for the industry, it should also be an opportunity for coaches with a background in customer insight.

It will be interesting to see how the fusion of niche technical expertise and coaching practice develops to meet the needs of all those companies who need to ensure their new customer insight leader has a productive first 90 days.

Thoughts From an Insurance Millennial

The risk management and insurance industry has become very concerned about how to attract young people and encourage them to pursue careers there. The industry has taken steps, including with programs such as MyPath  and InVEST, which educate students and young professionals about the industry and career paths that could fit their interests.

Looking at the issue from the standpoint of a Millennial working in the industry (I’m 21 years old), I’d like to suggest three other ways to spark curiosity in the “Next Generation”:

1. Auto Insurance 101 Classes

Most of the youth population hasn’t considered pursuing a career in insurance or is completely turned off by the prospect. Who could blame them? For many, their only exposure to the industry stems from paying high premiums for car insurance. When I started driving, I paid around $1,200 annually for insurance on a car I bought for $8,000. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just save the money and, if something happened to my car, use it to buy a new one. I didn’t realize the exposure I had because I might damage someone else’s car or hurt another person.

An insurer could use this lack of understanding to design an auto insurance 101 course that would have two benefits. The course could explain coverage and create intelligent customers for the future. The course could also be designed to spark curiosity in some to learn more about how insurance works and about all the good it can do. Some will begin to ask their parents questions or even pursue studies in risk management and insurance in college.

Try adding incentives for taking the classes, such as reducing premiums or providing lower deductibles for the same price. Building intelligent consumers should reduce their risk as drivers, so the incentives might even pay for themselves.

2. Sponsoring Sports Teams, Clubs, etc.

Sponsoring sports teams, clubs and other youthful groups in a community or at a high school or college could be strategic in attracting the “Next Generation.” In addition to generating name recognition and positive PR, a company could expose some youthful minds to the industry. For example:

Someone sponsoring a local high school soccer team could create a competition to answer the question: How much are David Beckham’s legs insured for? The winner gets a signed jersey from a local Major League Soccer player.

Someone sponsoring a local college’s political clubs could create a competition around the question: How much would it cost to insure the White House? The winning club gets a paid trip to the state’s capital and a luncheon with some state officials.

3. Partnering with Teachers to Make “Classroom Insurance Policies”

This can be a fun twist on teaching a classroom about insurance. After working with the InVEST program to gain relevant teaching material, reinforce the concepts through a simulation that students can relate to. Create basic “classroom insurance policies” and give students an amount of “money” they can spend to buy different policies and endorsements. This would take some time initially to build the program but would be an enjoyable way for students to learn and get some exposure to reading a policy, applying endorsements/exclusions, etc.

An example: Forgetful Student Policy

A policy could include protection against forgetting that an assignment was due and would allow the assignment to be made up that night for half the credit (actual cash value). An endorsement could be bought to upgrade the policy so that the assignment could be made up for full value (replacement cost). Exclusions could include large projects or papers.

Creating interest and reinventing the image of the business must be an industry-wide, collaborative effort. Understanding that learning can be exciting for these young students and professionals should greatly increase the success of efforts to attract the “Next Generation.”


How to Handle New ‘Ban-the-Box’ Laws

The term, “ban the box,” refers to the question on hiring applications that asks if the applicant has a criminal record/conviction; if so, he has to check the “Yes” box. “Ban-the-box” laws are laws designed to restrict employers from including questions that ask about prior arrests or convictions on initial employment applications. The purpose behind the law is to reduce unfair barriers to the employment of people with criminal records. The ban-the-box movement requires employers to act and fast. Numerous states and cities have enacted such laws, and we expect more to follow in the near future.

Illinois’ ban-the-box equivalent, titled the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, takes effect Jan. 1, 2015. Illinois is prohibiting private and public employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until after the employer selects the applicant for an interview or provides the applicant with a conditional offer of employment. Illinois’ act applies to all private-sector employers with 15 or more employees.

There are exceptions. The act does not apply to: (1) jobs that cannot be held by convicted criminals under federal or state law, (2) jobs  requiring licensing under the Emergency Medical Services System Act and (3) jobs requiring fidelity bonds. The act gives the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) the power to investigate alleged violations and authorizes IDOL to impose civil penalties up to $1,500. We expect that IDOL will start fining employers as soon as the act goes into effect.

Private-employer ban-the-box laws currently exist in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland,   Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island. Numerous cities have passed similar laws. Pending legislation exists in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and numerous cities.

Some states’ laws prohibit employers from asking about criminal history in the initial employment application before conducting an interview, while other laws prohibit such inquiries until after the employer makes a conditional offer of employment.

Be wary, as ban-the-box laws vary in terms of what types of criminal-history questions employers may ask applicants. For example, some laws only allow employers to ask about specific convictions and explicitly prohibit employers from asking about non-conviction arrests or expunged records. Exemptions can vary as well, with exclusions for facilities or employers that provide programs, services or care to minors or vulnerable adults.

As each state’s ban-the-box law may vary, it is important for employers to reevaluate their pre-employment and hiring practices. Employers affected by ban-the-box laws that do not update their applications and pre-employment processes risk being investigated and fined on an individual and potentially class-wide basis. Employers that operate in different states need to be diligent to make sure their applications are tailored to each state and city.

The takeaway:

Have your HR department or labor counsel review your employment applications and company policies to ensure that questions regarding an applicant’s criminal history comply with applicable laws. Additionally, employers should consider providing compliance training to employees involved in interviewing and hiring to make sure they are knowledgeable about the new laws.

Laura Zaroski wrote this article with her colleagues Joseph M. Gagliardo, Lily M. Strumwasser and Laner Muchin.

5 Rules for Hiring Quality Producers

A simple and obvious solution to many, likely most, agencies’ growth issues is to hire a quality producer. As proven by the 70%-80% failure rate for such hires, the solution is much easier said than done. However, hiring quality producers is not as hard as it often seems, if agencies follow some rules. (By the way, these rules are based on my clients’ actual, repeatable successes. These rules are not based on theory.)

Identify the deadwood.

Quality producers do not want to work with a bunch of retired-in-place producers and owners clipping coupons. Just think about it from their perspective. Can you see a really good producer saying, “I can’t wait to get to work to sell lots of insurance while all my coworkers sit around not making any sales! What an invigorating place! I just love making everyone else rich!”?

Good producers want to work in agencies where everyone is pulling his weight, where other producers are good and generate competition. Good producers want to work in an agency that is growing. Agencies supporting deadwood don’t grow.

Eliminate that deadwood and start creating a real sales culture.

Firing deadwood or invigorating them is even more difficult for most agency owners than hiring quality producers. But the agency owner must.

For what it's worth, I have never seen a producer fired who did not benefit. To the best of my knowledge, they all found a better job that fit their personalities, reducing stress and increasing happiness. I have even seen many return to the agency and thank the owner for firing them because they knew they needed to leave but did not have the inner strength to do so.

If an agency owner cannot fire deadwood, she cannot build a true sales culture. Building a sales culture with deadwood producers is like attempting to build a house with twigs as the foundation.

A real sales culture is based on accountability. The producers not only have to make sales but, more importantly, are held accountable for all the activities that eventually lead to sales. A sales culture is built and managed daily rather than just measured once a month or, more honestly, as usually happens, annually. Try it! You’ll like it!

Once you're completed the first two steps — identifying and eliminating the deadwood and establishing a culture of accountability — you can begin the search. Don't begin the search first.

— Test.

The best test for producers is the SPQ Gold test from Behavioral Sciences. It is good on many levels, but what has been interesting to me is the apprehension that flashes across the face of so many agency owners when I describe the test. They know they would fail. They are then caught in an important emotional bind. They have to hire someone who is better than they are at selling.

One of the secrets to why producers fail 70% to 80% of the time is that a large proportion of agency owners are not good producers, and if someone is not a good producer he typically doesn't like to hire good producers. Good producers are intimidating and ego-busting. Good producers can even be grating.

My clients who climb this emotional mountain successfully always do so using the same technique. They separate their emotions from what is best for the agency. Again, easier said than done and likely impossible to do on one’s own. A support system is likely required. Asking for help is actually key to successfully hiring producers. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.

Don't have owners involved in ANY initial interviews.

When agencies advertise for producers, they try to list all the desired qualities. However, I have never seen an advertisement list the most important quality to owners: that the producer is a good guy (whether male or female).

The search for that quality is a huge reason so many owners fail to find a good producer. Do you want a producer who is a good guy and can’t sell or a producer who may or may not be a good guy but can sell?

Owners have a tendency to fall in love with every producer they interview, so they need to stay out of the process at the start. Let just about anyone else do the initial interviews.

Develop and manage.

If you just follow the first four steps, your odds of successfully hiring a quality producer will increase dramatically. But if you really want to maximize your prospects, you must create clear producer-development and -management plans. These are two different plans. Considerable detail is required. If you’ve never done this previously, these plans are nearly impossible to create on your own. Hire specialists.

These are not easy steps. Frankly, most agency owners are not emotionally capable of taking these steps, and many are not emotionally capable of delegating these steps, either.

Having to delegate to people who are better-equipped to hire successfully is often the most painful part of the solution. Delegation feels like abdication of personal responsibilities. Yet delegation is leadership. Being a leader — and a leader is the decision maker who does what is right for the agency rather than making the emotionally easy choice for the owner — is what really makes the difference in finding and hiring quality producers.

NOTE:  None of the materials in this article should be construed as offering legal advice, and the specific advice of legal counsel is recommended before acting on any matter discussed in this article. Regulated individuals/entities should also ensure that they comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations.