In 375 B.C., Plato released the Socratic dialogue ‘Republic’. Contained within was the quote, “our need will be the real creator.” Over time, that quote has morphed into the well-known English proverb, ‘Necessity is the mother of all invention.’ And perhaps that quote does not exactly represent what I have recently witnessed from many independent agencies, but it is certainly close. Perhaps a more accurate statement with independent agencies during the last 20 or so months would be, “Necessity is the mother of all implementation!”
Agencies that had never contemplated having employees work from home were forced to do so. Many agency owners have told me that they will never go back to having everyone in the office five days per week. And many of us are aware of more extreme examples, where agencies gave up their building leases and are now operating fully remote all the time. In addition to implementing the systems needed for employees to work remotely, agencies have implemented many tools that they had previously been slow to adopt, whether it was for the electronic signing of documents, on-line payment processing, video proposals systems, or more. The past 20 months seems to have driven more implementation of technology than perhaps the previous five years combined.
At IIANC we continue to put major emphasis on helping our members better understand and implement the myriad of technological solutions available to them. In partnership with six other Big “I” state associations, we formed Catalyit. Catalyit will be an instrumental resource for independent insurance agencies, and we are proud to be a part of this fantastic solution. We earnestly believe that with the right technology, independent agencies can thrive, and Catalyit can be the source for all the technology guidance that an agency needs.
But tech is not the only place where “necessity” may require agencies (and other) businesses to reinvent themselves. Partly as a result of COVID, with several other factors also playing a role, the current state of the labor market is less than ideal. Between planned retirements, early retirements, younger people voluntarily leaving the workforce, and abundant opportunities to work in the “gig economy,” there is a labor shortage that employers are having to deal with. Additionally, many employees grew accustomed to working from home during COVID, and a significant percentage do not have the desire to go back to a traditional schedule of being in the office five days a week.
I recently had conversations with two different agency owners that have lost employees that were given the opportunity for fully remote work elsewhere, whereas their agency was only willing to give 1-2 days per week of remote work. The ability of agencies to retain knowledgeable and experienced employees will likely be a tougher challenge in the next couple of years than it has been previously. Agencies will need to better understand how they compare to their peers in terms of compensation and benefits. And things like office culture and employee onboarding will likely need to be examined to assess whether the experience and opportunities you are providing employees are designed to attract the type of employee that you need.
In this regard, I strongly believe in what some refer to as the principle of “magnetism.” You will attract people to your agency who gravitate to the type of culture and energy you put out to the world. Perhaps it is more like “birds of a feather, stick together.” If you want to attract fantastic employees, you need to be a fantastic employer. I think that holds true in nearly all economic environments, but given our current labor crunch, this is going to be especially true. IIANC has designed tools to help you and your agency. Visit our Consulting Services section on our website or contact Jason Sabo, IIANC’s Business Consultant, for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-377-1641.
But the challenge of recruiting experienced talent, or retaining existing employees, is only part of the battle. As an industry as a whole, we need to recruit new talent that is ready to work in agencies… enter, InsurAcademy! At this time last year, InsurAcademy was mostly a vision and was very much still under development. I am extremely proud that in less than one year, we have now graduated two classes (our pilot class and our inaugural class) from this exciting new initiative.
InsurAcademy is a vocational training program designed to bring candidates in from outside the industry and develop them into job-ready account managers ready to be hired and trained by agency owners. Coming out of this program with North Carolina insurance licenses, graduates have also successfully completed training in a number of other areas essential to have them ready for a fast start in working for an agency (visit InsurAcademyNC.com for more information.) Growing this program will continue to be a main focus of IIANC in the coming year.
Whether your primary challenges are found in technology, staffing, training, tightening insurance markets or in another area, IIANC is positioned to help you succeed. If you are not familiar with how we can help solve the biggest problems you are encountering, then please reach out to us today! 2022 will certainly bring both opportunities and challenges, but whatever it brings, know that you are never alone! Best wishes for an awesome 2022!