Insurance Talent Gap: 5 Ways to Hire the Best Next Generation Insurance Professionals

by | May 14, 2018

insurance industry operational obstacles

The business of insurance is tough.

While distribution, underwriting, and claims are the most highly debated aspects of the insurance industry, (and some might argue opportunity-rich), it is operational obstacles which most often hold insurance organizations back from reaching their full potential.

Over my 12 years in the insurance industry, both as an independent agent and the CMO of Agency Nation and the Trusted Choice Platform, I’ve come to believe there are three operational issues in particular which plague our future success:

  • Insurance Talent Gap,
  • Succession and
  • Legacy Systems.

Why haven’t we solved these obvious operational issues?

Why aren’t there best practices to guide us through overcoming operational obstacles?

Well, in truth, there are best practices (especially for succession). Many of which are outlined in the Big I’s Best Practices Study.

The problem is NOT that we don’t know what to do, but rather we don’t actually want to do the work required.

Overcoming operational obstacles forces us to examine the intrinsic, philosophical belief structure and culture of our business.

No one wants to do that.

An operations project is a painstaking endeavor often yielding zero instant gratification. 

There is nothing sexy about operations and therefore it never gets prioritized. As a result, the organization continues to struggle and hack it’s way forward amongst growing operational friction, employee frustration, and exasperating inefficiency.

This post is part one of three-part series investigating meaningful and practical paths for overcoming operational obstacles keeping the insurance industry from capitalizing on the opportunity available throughout the rest of our business.

Part II: Succession: the Insurance Industry’s Silent Killer (coming soon)

Part III: Legacy Systems and the Disintegration of Insurance (coming soon)

Let’s get started…

Hiring to Solve the Insurance Talent Gap

One of, if not the biggest operational obstacle the insurance industry must overcome in the very near future is the talent gap.

According to McKinsey & Company, one-fourth of the insurance industry’s workforce will retire by 2018, creating a deficit of potentially 400,000 positions.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials now make up the largest segment of the US workforce.

We must replace our retiring workforce, which means we simply can’t ignore the Millennial generation any longer.

How do we hire the next generation of professionals?

Recently I was asked about hiring by Independent agency owner, Nick Thalhammer.

“I’m 95% personal lines and agency is made of myself and one other producer agent. I’m trying to create an independent agency of the future. A big part of my strategy is digital, targeting millennials/younger generations, use of carrier service centers for service, and creating a fun working environment where everyone feels like they’re part of the company. I’m planning on hiring another person soon so any information on hiring would be great.”

My response is in the following video:

We’re the Problem

The truth is current insurance professionals, you, me and everyone else are ? to blame for the talent gap issues our industry faces today.

It’s almost like we try to convince people how boring our industry is. When in fact, insurance (outside of professional athlete and time cop) could be one of, if not THE MOST EXCITING career in the world.

As Nick Lamparelli says,

“If we just dig in a little deeper, insurance is incredibly exciting.”

Budding young agent rockstar Avery Moore puts it this way,

Insurance is Sexy!”

On the surface, Avery’s position may seem shallow and audacious but she goes on to explain,

“There’s room for everyone. There’s selling, there’s marketing, there’s processing, and managing, and pretty much anything else you could think of. Is your dream to be a deep-sea diver? Great! You could work in insurance to inspect dam walls or large watercraft and get paid to do just that.”

Yes! 100 percent, yes! I think we’d all agree with Avery. This is the reason you’re most likely still in the insurance business today.

Somehow, you begrudgingly fell into the business, but you once you got in it was like,

“Holy shit, this is pretty cool!”

Yet, according to a report by Accenture, only 2 percent of recent grads express interest in working in an insurance company.

insurance hiringWhy do we struggle to enamor top talent to the insurance industry?

We don’t have a Wolf of Wall Street.

Insurance may be sexy to insiders who’ve had a chance to experience what this great industry offers, but we’ve done a terrible job sharing that sexiness with the outside world.

In fact, the Door-to-Door Life Insurance Salesman meme with his nerdy glasses, sweat-yellowed white shirt, and black briefcase hucking policies in suburban neighborhoods still plagues our reputation to this day.

Enter the insurtech startups. These young, tech-driven, and fast-talking crafting narratives of world domination from their trendy warehouse offices in Manhattan or San Francisco and it’s easy to see why new talent is drawn to these organizations over traditional insurance businesses.

Insurers need workforces that are lean, agile and willing to embrace change to thrive in an environment of digital disruption and rising customer expectations. (source)

We know this, but how?

Gallagher is doing a great job with their “Life at Gallagher” Instagram account:

5 Ways to Overcome the Insurance Talent Gap

1) Start With Why

We’ve all read or at least heard of Simon Sinek’s masterpiece Start With Why.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy you do it.”

The same principle is true in hiring.

No one wants to be a producer or a CSR.

Honestly, who wakes up in the morning and WANTS to work in insurance?

You don’t fall in love with this industry until you stubble into (or are forced into it by a family member) and get a taste of what it’s really about… repairing lives.

Isn’t that our “Why?”

We repair lives.

That’s one hell of a “Why.”

Yet, we don’t tell this story enough. At least not in a meaningful way. Sure, we hand it to our advertising team and let them bastardize it with celebrity endorsements and hapless cartoons.

But have you ever taken the time to ask yourself, “Does this message inspire?”

People want to be inspired.

They want to believe in something.

We have an industry worth believing in, we simply suck at explaining our “Why” in a way that connects.

The ? is to find your organization’s unique “Why” and tell that story over and over and over again.

2) Always Be Recruiting

The worst time to start recruiting is when your organization actually has a need. This adds urgency to the process.

In turn, urgency creates stress and opens the door to bad hiring decisions where instead of finding the perfect person for your company, you’re trying to convince someone with a “Good enough” resume they should give insurance a try.

Always be recruiting.

Always be recruiting.

One more time, always be recruiting.

I’m always recruiting… the person, not the position.

I hire world-class people first, then put them in positions to succeed.

I NEVER hire position first. Never ever.

This is why my team outperforms larger, better-funded marketing and media teams all day long.

I’m bragging, but it’s the #truth.

The following infographic from Peak Sales Recruiting, speaks specifically to sales professionals by applies to all positions within your company:

always be recruiting

The method I use is simple, I keep a private Google Doc with the names of people I’d love to work with. I’ll periodically reach out to these individuals, making sure they’re aware of me, my company and what we do.

I’m slowly dripping our “Why” to them one interaction at a time.

This way, when the day comes that I need their skills, filling the position is as easy as a phone call.

“Always be recruiting” isn’t a just a best practice, but a necessity in today’s dynamic and ever-changing marketplace.

It’s easy to make your resume look worthy. And truthfully, it’s impossible to know whether someone is a good fit or not if the first time you interact with them is at the interview.

The ? is to keep an active list of individuals you’d love to work with. Whether you ever hire these specific people is less important than the process of continually thinking about what type of skills, attitude and experience your company needs.

3) Mentorship

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” ~ Steven Spielberg

Want to know what scares the heck out of me?

Lack of knowledge transfer.

How do we transfer the decades of experience accumulated by world-class insurance professionals such as Tom Minkler, David Walker and Spencer Houldin to the next generation?

There is no insurance mentorship mechanism in place today. Nothing formal at least.

Thus the burden falls on media organizations to document and share our leaders experience through content.

At Agency Nation we try to share as industry leadership stories as we can, like our “The Independent Agent: REIMAGINED” series.

We’ve also done countless interviews on our podcast, Agency Nation Radio.

Another tremendous resource is The Insurance Nerds podcast, Profiles in Risk. The Insurance Nerds should be mandatory listening for all new insurance professionals.

Hiring isn’t just an issue related to the Property/Casualty industry. Matt Sapaula, The Money Smart Guy, (and speaker at Elevate 2018), is a dynamic and outspoken proponent of the life insurance and investment space:

Anyone willing to wear a, “Make Insurance Cool Again,” hat is OK in my book.

Here’s the deal…

In a 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, it was found that for Millennials who are likely to leave their employers within the next two years, 71 percent felt unsatisfied with how their leadership skills are being cultivated.

The talent our industry needs to thrive in the digital marketplace will never be satisfied with a job.

Job – a paid position of regular employment.

Instead, these individuals, the dynamic, driven, self-starters with an ability to change the course of your organizations future, are looking for a career.

Career – an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.

In some cases that career may span the rest of their working lifetime with your company, while for others, your company may be just one project in a series that make up a career.

Regardless, everything falls apart if we don’t enable a mechanism to transfer the knowledge, skills and experience of today’s leaders to those of tomorrow.

So, for those with knowledge, skills and experience, please… give of it freely.

I beg you.

The ? for prime talent is structured growth potential, knowledge transfer and leadership development.

4) Culture

The Pew Research Center reports that millennials value job enjoyment above compensation, followed by job security and flexibility. (source)

Now, if you’re of a certain age, you may have just asked, “Job enjoyment?” Then followed that question with an internal monologue about the entitled Millennial generation and how they’ll never understand what hard work really is… blah, blah, blah.

Job enjoyment or better put, career enjoyment is different from the completely played buzz term, “Work-life balance.”

Work-life balance is bullshit.

What talented professionals want is not work-life balance, but rather work that fits their life.

In an April 2017 LaSalle Network survey of 6,000 new college graduates, 70 percent ranked “opportunity for growth” as their top priority in choosing a position.

The days of “Paying your dues” are over.

Too many big corporations have hosed the parents of too many Millennials too many times for their ever to be blind trust between company and employee ever again.

Instead of expecting trust and loyalty, organizations must now build real, tangible cultures people actually WANT to work in.

A digital culture.

The ? to bridging the insurance talent gap is building a company culture which fits the life of the staff (instead of forcing staff to fit the company).

5) Tools and Freedom

I purposely didn’t title this one “Technology” because I don’t think technology in-and-of-itself is the issue, but rather availability (and/or acceptance) of modern tools and methodology.

The next generation of insurance talent doesn’t care that you’re the most innovative company, just that they don’t have to learn MS-DOS or COBOL programming to access the database.

Give the tools to be successful and…

(this is the scary part)

…the freedom to use those tools as they see fit.

insurance talent gap toolsDid you know there are still insurance carriers who restrict their employees from viewing Youtube?

I mean…


This is 2018.

You want me to come work for your business and I can’t even watch the latest episode of The Show at my desk?

Thank, but no thanks.

What about VOIP phone systems, cloud-based customer databases and file sharing, or even efficient messaging systems such as slack?

These are basics.

The ? is for the best talent to be the best and compete at the highest level there is a base level of tools and freedom they’re going to need to maximize their impact.

The Rub

The insurance talent gap is a known issue.

There are known solutions.

Yet, few organizations are doing what is necessary to be successful.

Those that do, however, will be rewarded handsomely in the form of an intelligent, energetic and loyal workforce mining opportunity in all aspects of your business without you even asking.

I promise.

Here are three additional resources helping drive growth in insurance industry talent:

Get involved. Be part of the solution.

READ NEXT: The Millennial Mom Insurance Agent: the honest gap between fruit snacks and rate increases

Thank you,

Ryan Hanley

P.S. Get the most dynamic newsletter in the insurance industry. Click here to subscribe today!

image credit: Erwan Hesry on Unsplash, gifs from Tenor.

Get the good stuff

Get regular hits of insurance inspiration delivered to your inbox.

Share This