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Hiring: a critical agency concern

Demand for agents grows, but hiring right ones is the issue

The insurance-agent community has changed dramatically over the past decade and the number of agents is expected to grow 6% through 2031. But insurers and agencies are struggling to find the right kind of skills and personalities to build effective teams. Finding, recruiting, and hiring them takes focus and, for some, new disciplines.

we are hiring sign
Demand for agents is projected to grow by 6%

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. has more than 523,000 insurance agents who earn a median income of $49,840. Zippia reports women agents outnumber men, growing in percentage from about 69% in 2010 to more than 71% in 2019.

The Bureau estimates 52,700 agent job openings annually. Plus, the demand for agents is expected to grow, especially for independent sales agents as insurance companies rely more on brokerages and less on captive agents.

Among top critical issues facing the industry, according to the 2022 Agency Universe Study, finding qualified staff is the most serious issue for 41% of respondents, up from 39% in the previous study.

Finding people with the right mix of traits is the challenge. People who have or want to seek broad knowledge across multiple disciplines can be elusive. Also elusive are candidates with curiosity and persistence to review legal requirements, government mandates, and who know financial planning strategies to better help clients.

Candidates must be able to develop uniquely personal relationships with clients to direct them to the most appropriate policies and coverages. Sensitivity and tact prequalifying clients and building trust during sensitive conversations about credit scores, health histories, and end-of-life decisions require higher levels of emotional intelligence.

Wrapped up in all this is the ability to sell something that doesn’t exist. We sell expertise and protection, and often must quickly shift tactics and sales strategies relevant to client needs.

For every 100 agents hired in the industry, only 11 of them will still be on the job in 36 months. Studies indicate the high rate of departures are because agents are hired who don’t have the skills, and once working they don’t feel valued at work if they do have them. In an older study, nearly half (46 %) of financial workers said they were indifferent or dissatisfied with colleagues because of poor attitudes, lack of motivation or accountability, or not being qualified for their role.

More than half (53%) said that about their managers, too, noting poor communication styles, lack of time devoted to employees and teams, and no personal development support.

Where to find them

Licensed professionals rarely face unplanned unemployment. Their personal and professional networks offer them ongoing recruitment potential, meaning, they often are not dissatisfied with their current job but are open to new opportunities. For agencies and small businesses, that means constant recruiting and a lot of patience.

Anybody can post on a job board, and in fact, says 86% of candidates are found there, but only a fraction of them have talent for a sustained career. About 55% of job-board candidates are hired, but they leave within three years and you end up with high staff turnover and more frustration.

CareerPlug reports that career pages on company websites account for a 4% of applicants but 19% of hires. Company websites “are a high-quality applicant source for insurance businesses” because candidates who desire to work in the industry seek you out – especially if you have a good reputation for agent care.

Referrals bring in less than 1% of applicants, but 12% of hires. Current team members and clients can be a great source for employee leads.

Always hiring, always recruiting

If you don’t have immediate openings, you should be recruiting and interviewing anyway for the next opening you might have. Identify quality players before you need them and expedite the hiring process once you start needing to hire by targeting those you know. If you wait until you lose an employee to start searching for a replacement, it puts you at square one with a long game to play.

That also means that workplace culture and environment, flexibility, opportunities for growth, and benefits become attractors – and negotiating points – for candidates you’re wooing from their current positions.

How many leads you generate and provide agents are also competitive advantages to attract and secure candidates.

While it might sound like fantasy football at some level, the point is how you will build a team that generates high quote-to-bind rates, high renewals, and total premium paid? That’s a team to build and pursue.


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