For independent agencies to continue to grow and attract top new talent, they need to develop a genuine belief that the only way forward is tech-forward.
When the college class of 2021 grabbed their diplomas and embarked on their budding careers, they became the first generation of workers younger than tech giants Google and Amazon. That means we officially have a new workforce who have lived their entire lives in a tech-centric way.
Further, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of tech among all generations. In-office gatherings were replaced by virtual meetings while people of all technology competencies started using food delivery apps and even buying houses and cars online.
This surge of everyday tech use extends into the office and is only growing. For independent agencies to continue to grow and attract top new talent—all under the spotlight of the Great Resignation where employees are demanding more from employers—they need to develop a genuine belief that the only way forward is tech-forward.
Here are three strategies for a tech-forward mindset that independent agents can use to find and keep talent:
1) Invest in a modern employee experience. When prospective employees walk into an independent agency office for an interview, does it feel like 2022? Or does it feel like 2002?
Employees of all ages want their work life to be easier and faster. In outdated conditions, it won't take long for employees to get frustrated and turn their direction to another company that offers what they consider to be baseline modern technology.
Investing in cloud-based solutions that allow streamlined operations, mobile access and an open platform so that key tech can work together is one of the most important ways to create a modern experience at a workplace.
Here are a few examples of modernizing the workplace:
- A self-service portal so employees and their clients can interact digitally.
- Automated workflow processes to empower employees with their work.
- Data analytics tools to give agencies valuable insights into their business.
- Manager dashboards and data tools to give agencies valuable insights.
- Sales and marketing tools to manage and automate the entire sales process.
2) Use tech to free up time so employees can spend it on what matters. Providing high-quality client service is at the heart of what an insurance agency does. By freeing up an employee's workday from routine tasks like filling out paperwork, working on non-licensed work or entering data manually, they have more time to spend it where they really want to—working with and for clients.
Too much time spent on paperwork is a relevant problem for agencies, according to Vertafore's 2022 insurance workforce whitepaper, which examined the current state of insurance professionals in the industry. When asked about the amount of time spent on tasks in a given week, the answer “creating proposals" garnered 26% of votes, not far behind “communicating with clients," which was 29%. Paperwork may not be how most agents want to spend their time, but it is claiming a significant portion of their week.
When employees have the right digital tools in place, they will be more efficient and have more time to act as trusted client advisors. And, in turn, those employees are more likely to stick around as valued members of the agency's staff.
3) Embrace tech to respond to what employees want. For many, flexibility is no longer seen as a “nice to have" when choosing where to work, according to the whitepaper. When insurance company owners were asked what changes they made to retain employees in the past year, they ranked “adding remote work options" and “increased work flexibility" as second and third respectively, behind the leading item of “financial compensation," according to Vertafore's whitepaper.
To stand out in the pack of hiring companies, an agency needs to offer a flexible work environment that allows employees to work the way they want. If the agency doesn't offer it, that candidate will find a place that does.
A remote work environment also needs to operate well and help employees feel connected to each other. Cloud technology is a critical component in helping a company respond to the shifting expectations of employees by creating a successful remote work environment that fosters connection, visibility and accountability among employees and managers.
Embracing this hybrid work model can also help agencies reach more talent in other markets. For example, an agency with remote opportunities can now hire talent in other states where it originally wasn't able to. Broadening an agency's potential talent pool like this is only possible with a flexible workspace powered by technology.
No matter where an agency is on the path to modernization, it's never too late to put a solid plan in place to meet employees and clients where they want to be met. Because the truth is that every graduating class from here on out will be entering the workforce with the belief that a tech-centric workplace is just the way it is.
Mike Erlandson is the vice president of agency industry solutions at Vertafore.