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One Novel Approach to Solving the Talent Crisis

This post is part of a series sponsored by AgentSync.

It’s not a secret. Insurance has a talent crisis. Not that people who work in insurance aren’t talented – whooooo boy. But that there aren’t enough people who stick around, and the ones who have stuck around are largely preparing for imminent retirement.

For consumer-facing producers, it’s a known fact that turnover is high. One oft-cited industry stat says more than 80 percent of agents leave within a matter of years. Insurance personnel in internal roles typically see more stability, but turnover is on the rise, moving from less than 10 percent to closer to 15 percent.

In some industries, high turnover is neither surprising nor does it threaten the long-term stability of that industry. Much of our retail and hospitality industry services are predicated on the assumption that turnover will be high and training must be quick.

In contrast, insurance is an industry where learning the language, the state rules and their variations, and even understanding the basic order of operations can take years. Someone with decades of industry experience has the kind of institutional knowledge that protects their business from making the kind of mistakes that cost real money in lost productivity or actual state fines.

So how can the industry as a whole keep our most valuable, knowledgable assets from literally walking out the door?

An innovative approach aims to keep insurance in insurance

Industry longtimers Brett McKenzie and Nick Lamperelli banded together to found the community Keep Insurance In, https://insurance-nerds-unite.mn.co/, bringing together insurance professionals from underwriting to marketing to ops to infotech. The Keep Insurance In website gives members a forum for discussing trending topics in insurance and news, standing office hours together, and a community for connecting over job opportunities with resume building and mock interviews to boot.

While it’s months old, the community is already planning to branch out to provide a forum for Spanish-speaking insurance pros, plus a book club and jobs board.

The project blossomed out of a partnership between Brett McKenzie, Principal Strategist and Founder of CoVerse Communications and CMO of Indemnity Lab LLC, and Nick Lamperelli, Managing Partner of Insurance Nerds and Co-Founder and CEO of The Insurance Advocacy Forum of Florida.

McKenzie said the demand really began with her insurance communications company, CoVerse.

“We launched around the fall at a time when a number of big-name organizations and insurtechs were laying thousands of people off and we were inundated with not just resumes but people seeking a different kind of support beyond what we sought to provide,” McKenzie said.

CoVerse was doing triage, helping insurance professionals build resumes after decades with employers they had planned to retire from. McKenzie spent many working hours calling contacts to connect job-seekers with potential employers or coaching them through interview processes.

“Every time I looked at my phone or LinkedIn on my laptop, I had dozens of people moving into 30, 60, or 90 days without a job lead,” said McKenzie.

She recognized the people reaching out were in a real place of struggle and need, but it wasn’t what CoVerse was designed to support. Yet, McKenzie was unwilling to simply let talented, seasoned insurance professionals walk away from the industry. Through their Insurance Nerds work together, McKenzie connected with Lamperelli to form a solution.

The kind of low-profit, high-touch community that they saw as necessary was too broad to rely on one organization alone. By combining CoVerse’s resources with the Insurance Nerds braintrust and community input, Keep Insurance In was born as a forum for job seekers in insurance.

“I was laid off for the first time ever only a year ago, and it is a kick in the kidneys. At your lowest point, you have to go back out and face interviewing and present a resume and LinkedIn profile to the world when you’re feeling that way,” said McKenzie. “Nick and I both know how that feels. We wanted to create a community where people can talk to others who feel that way, and remind them that it really isn’t you, it’s the company that this has ended up in this situation, and this is a sad consequence.”

Keep Insurance In: Community picks up members

One of the first initiatives for the Keep Insurance In community was office hours, which Lamparelli hosts with a pilot group nearly every day. Office hours could be tips for interviews, discussions of trending insurance news, software demos, or skill training. Recently, a planned Excel skill session turned into a discussion on modern recruiting practices. The Excel session was pushed to the next morning.

While upskilling and cross-training is certainly a core benefit for the office hours group, Lamparelli said the main benefit of the morning office hours is to have a commitment.

“It’s so easy to get off to a bad start if you’re not working,” said Lamparelli. “The worst thing you can do is not have a routine, to wake up later and later and then soon you’re waking up and not showering. You have to keep that routine going, even if you aren’t working. You have to wake up as if you were going to work, as if you have stuff to do, and do something.”

By setting office hours, Lamparelli said the job seekers he works with often share their own metrics to boost self-esteem and maintain a schedule. Setting goals and achieving them, he said, can help people maintain confidence, even in the face of career setbacks.

“You know there should be enough opportunity in our industry, especially with hundreds of thousands of people retiring. You know there’s enough opportunity that everyone should land in the role they’re suited to,” said McKenzie. “So, upskilling and cross training, learning to leverage AI, this is making someone a better professional.”

Other ways to address the talent gap

While Keep Insurance In has a jobs board, the community isn’t courting recruiters yet.

“We’re balancing being able to connect people with jobs with letting people feel safe to be authentic and vulnerable in a supportive space,” said McKenzie.

That doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to the role carriers and agencies have to play as employers in the insurance industry.

“We all know that in the next 10 to 15 years we’re going to lose 50 percent of insurance professionals due to retirement,” said McKenzie. “But we’re also losing younger, nonretirement-age talent due to layoffs and inflexibility in work life balance and some of the challenges the pandemic environment created.”

Insurance companies must face the same struggles other employers are facing, such as increased worker demands for flexibility and better pay. Carriers can be resistant to allowing employees to move roles if a position isn’t the best fit. And many insurance businesses miss out on employees with highly transferrable skills – think someone who does corporate risk assessment for a school system, or who manages security vulnerabilities at an IT company.

Yet, another problem in attracting and retaining insurance talent is a self-created and unique-to-insurance issue.

“Insurance has a bad stereotype. We don’t get exposed to insurance until later in our lives, so we’re told a whole bunch of stuff about it and those stereotypes drag on and they usually have some basis in truth. The industry itself hasn’t draped itself in glory,” said Lamperelli. “I’ve had a pretty exciting career and done some things that were extremely interesting and stimulating, but you never hear about how exciting insurance can be.”

Lamparelli and McKenzie agreed part of the revolution of insurance employment will necessarily involve the continued tech transformation.

“Tech has transformed insurance jobs – going through a manual to rate a homeowner policy or doing business on floppy disks… these are uninspiring ways to work,” said Lamparelli.

To check out McKenzie and Lamparelli’s work, explore the Keep Insurance In community. Or, if you’re interested in seeing how AgentSync can help you make insurance careers more rewarding for your internal compliance and operations teams, your producers, and your adjusters (and drape yourself in glory), get started with a demo today.

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