Continuing education will always be a key to an agency’s success. Here's how COVID-19 has changed what and how we learn.
The Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU) annual Accelerate conference is coming up, and while it will be virtual like last year's event, it promises to be bigger and better. That's because getting together to network and learn has never been more important than in our post-pandemic world.
Continuing education will always be a key to an agency's success. However, what we learn and how we learn it is changing.
Here are three ways the coronavirus pandemic changed the way agencies will evolve through learning:
1) Urgency to explore and learn. We're seeing a greater urgency to explore more of the newer features of agency systems and software. Once everything changes in our world, we find ourselves becoming more than just a bit curious about a new tool. Learning becomes mandatory for survival.
Agencies are digitizing the workflows and functionalities they lost when offices were shuttered last year. Additionally, there's a growing desire to learn things we just didn't have time for in the past.
I would argue that education is more important than ever because of the array of new challenges we've faced during the pandemic and the onslaught of new solutions to address them. These tools are all aimed at making you more efficient. When you're more efficient, you're more profitable. And if you're more profitable, you and your employees will be happier.
2) Access to solutions. We lost those hallway and break room conversations during the pandemic. It was easy to get a question answered or solve a problem when you could seek out a colleague and discuss an issue face-to-face. Now, agencies are providing documents, FAQs and self-service tools that employees can access 24/7.
We're all adults and we should be trusted to figure some things out for ourselves. What's more, self-service gives us more control over our day. We can find the resources we need without looking for someone to help us find a form or figure out how to make a change for a policyholder. Learning by doing is a powerful thing.
3) Deeper talent pool. The future success of the independent agency channel rests with finding the best talent. By and large, we've learned that we can be efficient working from home, so why be limited to the talent within our geographic footprint?
More and more agencies are learning firsthand that technology can connect them with the best possible talent, regardless of location.
I believe that, if not for the pandemic, independent agencies would have remained hamstrung by geography, unable to hire and retain the best and brightest. Now they're seeing it's possible to hire a great claims handler halfway across the country or to retain that customer service representative who had to move away when their spouse found a new job.
Accessing the best talent regardless of where they live will require learning new ways to do things and using new tools—and by now, you already know a thing or two about that.
If there's one piece of advice I would give to any agency staff member, it's “be intentional." Be intentional about staying connected. Be intentional about hanging on to good habits you developed during the pandemic and shedding the bad habits. And be intentional about reaching for new and more efficient ways of learning.
Debbie Ivie is learning experiences manager for Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU).