Workforce upheaval and the digital consumer revolution continue to disrupt the independent agent channel. However, these massive challenges can serve to benefit your agency and your business.
The insurance industry has been grappling with the effects of COVID-19 since early March. While the microeconomic shock may vary for each agency, the macroeconomic figures scream out, and, as the band R.E.M. sang, “Everybody Hurts."
Meanwhile, workforce upheaval and the digital consumer revolution continue to disrupt the independent agent channel. However, these massive challenges can serve to benefit your agency and your business.
My colleagues and I believe that the independent agency system can and must transform itself; the coronavirus only bolstered that belief. The transformation must include digital evolution, more relevant workflows and profound shifts in risk management. It must focus more keenly on customer experience and the product. Finally, it must include major changes to the agency team's structure, skills and capabilities.
Having been a small business owner and agent myself, I believe our people can transform any agency and pull it through. But that workforce must be diverse for the independent agency channel to develop through the disruptions and emerge with an improved business model. It must, of course, include seasoned insurance professionals, but as I've come to appreciate in the past five years, it must also include professionals who don't necessarily have insurance experience but, more importantly, have astute business and technological skills.
When these groups of people collaborate, the workforce chemistry is catalyzed, creating a powerful insurance team. To create a cross-generational, cross-talented workforce that can tackle big challenges, you must:
- Attract talented people with outside-the-insurance-box skills and experience.
- Blend the traditional and nontraditional. As a cooperative whole, the combined team can catapult the organization ahead as a competitor.
- Make the company or agency relevant to a diversity of workers with an appealing combination of financial, cultural and work elements.
Over several years, Westfield has changed hiring patterns dramatically. Non-insurance professionals have come on board with skills such as data technology, data analysis and user experience. Long-standing employees have learned or expanded their skills in insurance workflows, tech solutions and customer experience. These two generations of workers have met in the middle, changing each other for the better.
Robyn Hahn is president, small business, at Westfield, a super regional insurance carrier that offers commercial lines coverages in 21 states and personal lines coverages in 10 states through independent agents.
This article was originally posted in the August 2020 issue of Independent Agent magazine.