News

The Importance of Social Capital in the Workplace

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in News | Comments Off on The Importance of Social Capital in the Workplace

 

The insurance industry has taken great strides toward identifying human capital through various profiles and tests.  We have also done a good job focusing on developing talent, providing leadership training, and creating workplaces that offer more flexibility and employee focused benefits.  All of this is important; but an often overlooked aspect that affects retention, engagement, and performance is social capital. 

Employees who are connected to their colleagues are more likely to work toward common goals, less likely to act in an opportunistic manner, have a greater degree of trust, and often produce better results.  Some of the soft skills that make an employee socially successful are difficult to identify with traditional tests and profiles.  The ability to relate on a level that encourages collaboration and fosters trust is one of the more important skills in the workplace.  This is how great ideas are shared and developed, and it is a skill set that insurance millennials embrace.  They want to be connected to their colleagues and they want to feel part of an organization that has a common goal.  Investing in HR activities focused on building relationships among your employees may be more important now than ever before.   

We have had insurance employees express dissatisfaction with pay and other variables in the workplace, but ultimately decide to stay with their employer because they consider their coworkers their friends and extended family.  Opportunities for your insurance employees to build and maintain social relationships are of prime importance for the next generation.  Specific examples include team outings to sporting events, movie nights, and meals out together.  Just food for thought!

Independent Insurance Agency Workplace Trends

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Independent Insurance Agency Workplace Trends

In 2016 we fielded a lot of questions from employers regarding PTO, flex scheduling, and work hours in general.  As the talent pool shrinks, more employers are rethinking their traditional HR practices in order to attract the employees that they would like to hire.  It is clear that things are changing somewhat, with more employers offering different flex options with earlier or later start times.  A couple of agencies have offered a flex schedule option of a 4 day work week with extended hours.  We are seeing these options more often in order to accommodate daycare or school scheduling, as well as traffic patterns for those employees with a longer commute.  Sometimes an accommodation in this area can be effective with recruiting new employees. 

We do see options of working from home on a limited basis.  As a side note, we have seen employers in outlying areas set up for completely remote employees with varying levels of success depending upon the investment in IT , and identifying the employees that are self-disciplined and able to work autonomously.

With regard to PTO and work hours, we analyzed data on 31 independent agencies in south east Michigan.   The large majority of Michigan independent insurance agencies are using PTO time instead of separate vacation and sick days.  The average starting PTO for a new employee was approximately 15 days for the first full year.  After that time, the increases were seen primarily at 5-9 years with days increasing to an average of 19.  There were also increases at 10 years +, with varying schedules and “maximum” days.  Experienced employees who have built up to higher PTO are reluctant to lose that time when switching employers, so we do see some flexibility from employers in order to make a job offer that is accepted.

The average work day was approximately 8.5 hours, with 1 hour for a lunch period – so most of agencies have a 37.5 hour work week if the lunch period is deducted.  We have noted that there are a few agencies that have decided to reduce their hours by shortening the lunch period.  This seems to be something that most employees favor. 

Building a Bench for the Insurance Industry!

Posted by on Oct 19, 2016 in News | Comments Off on Building a Bench for the Insurance Industry!

Recognizing early on the looming staffing crisis for independent insurance agencies, The Michigan Association of Insurance Agent’s established the MI Future Foundation. For the past 15+ years, MI Future has been working to bring prospective employees and independent insurance agencies together, through a focus on public relations and education.

MI Future is doing a great job of attracting young talent to our industry. We recently attended the Insuring MI Future Summit, and were impressed with the progress that has been made by this group. 

Through no small effort, they have managed to coordinate a program where students in area high schools can earn credit toward graduation for insurance related courses.  These courses also qualify for college credit within the state of Michigan.  Currently, there are active high school programs in Genesee and Ingham Counties that provide excellent models for duplication. The curriculum for this program has been approved by the state, allowing it to be offered in any county in the state.

Even this small amount of insurance knowledge makes these young people desirable as new hires for independent insurance agencies.  Please spread the word if you have any connections within the educational community.  We have many young people graduating college with general degrees, big debt, and no suitable employment.  A high school providing this program will give students a leg up on a real job upon graduation, even before completing their degree.  The insurance industry continues to provide a stable, lucrative, and diverse array of career opportunities. 

Please spread the word if you have any connections within the educational community.  This is a great opportunity for young people in every area of the state. 

More information can be found at www.insuringmifuture.org

 

Governor Rick Snyder has declared February “Careers In Insurance Month”

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in News | Comments Off on Governor Rick Snyder has declared February “Careers In Insurance Month”

Governor Rick Snyder has declared February “Careers In Insurance Month”

In an effort to support the initiatives of the Insuring Michigan Future Coalition, the Governor has issued a proclamation giving Michigan insurance careers it’s very own month.  The state recognizes that the insurance industry currently employs 50,000 people and that number is projected to grow.  In addition, 25% of the current insurance workforce will retire in the next ten years.  This means that there is tremendous opportunity for young insurance professionals within the state of Michigan.

We need to help spread the word to young college graduates that there are many opportunities for stable and well-paying insurance jobs.  The average wage for Michigan’s insurance industry is $64,000.  This is well above the average salary for other industry groups within the state.  The variety of insurance positions is extensive, and the scope is beyond what most people consider when thinking of the field.  Positions in underwriting, claims, loss control, accounting, customer service, marketing, sales, auditing, compliance, etc. create opportunities that are a good match for many different skill sets and interests.

Internships are available with many Michigan insurance organizations.  If you know of any talented young graduates who aren’t sure of their career path, having them visit www.insuringmifuture.org  could open up many opportunities for them.  With some internship experience, we are able to assist candidates with landing a great insurance job.  Even without experience or a college degree, we are finding that some organizations are open to bringing in entry level talent in administrative roles and then training them in different areas of insurance.

 

Michigan Independent Agency Survey Results 2014/15

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Michigan Independent Agency Survey Results 2014/15

Michigan Independent Agency Survey 2015

Michigan Spring and Millennials are in Bloom!

Hiring Trends

Our independent agency clients have entered a new era of staffing. We are seeing a significant increase in hiring of candidates with little to no insurance experience. In 2014, 12.5% of our placements with independent agencies were with candidates who possessed little to no insurance experience. The first quarter of 2015 saw that percentage increase to over 20%. The most common entry points have been production, employee benefit analysts, and reception/administrative roles with an eye toward training them in either personal or commercial lines. We have also seen an increase in career transitions with the appropriate educational background. For example, financial analysts in other industries who can apply their skill set within the employee benefits area.

Compensation 

Salaries are climbing in commercial lines and employee benefits in particular. Below are the averages we are seeing with new hires. When the positions involve very large/complex accounts, self-funding experience, or marketing/client facing skills, we are seeing up to $90k in the commercial lines and employee benefit account manager positions.

Compensation by position – Average
Position 2014
Commercial AM $55-70k
Commercial CSR/Tech $42-50k
Personal AM $35-50k
Emp. Benefits AM $55-70k
Emp. Benefits CSR $45-60k
Analyst
Agency/Operations $70-90k
Manager

Staff

The average headcount has remained relatively stable, with a slight increase over 2013. However, agencies have reported an anticipated retirement rate of 27% of their current staff within the next 10 years. Several agencies have started to train new people so that they have a “bench” in place. Every industry is going to be in an eventual race for talent as we face a high retirement rate and a shortage of qualified employees.

Flex Time / Remote Office

We have not seen an increase in flex time or working remotely. This is an area that Millennials are going to impact. This generation expects more flexibility in their work schedule. When the shortage is great enough, accommodating that is going to be important to attracting and retaining talent. 

Summary 

Michigan independent agencies are financially healthy. There has been steady growth, with most agencies reporting an increase in overall revenue of at least 5%. Staffing levels have remained steady, but hiring to replace retiring employees has increased. This is a trend we see continuing well into the next decade. The new workforce is more educated and has a thirst for technology and team based work philosophies. They are blurring the lines between professional and personal life much more than prior generations, both with scheduling and with overall work relationships. An investment now in updating HR practices and tuning into the Millennials will be time well spent as we move toward 2020 when it is estimated that almost half of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials. That’s only 5 years away!

 

 

Is accepting a counter offer a good idea?

Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Is accepting a counter offer a good idea?

 

Should I accept a counter offer?

 

Every year has a theme with insurance employment.  Last year was the year of the counter offer.  As insurance recruiters, we can typically smell a pending counteroffer a mile away.  The insurance job candidate will give send us many indications based on their level of enthusiasm, the questions asked or not asked, the frequency or infrequency of communication, etc.  In short, we know that something is awry.

 

Please recognize that this is not an unusual situation and your insurance recruiter isn’t going to be angry with you – but we need to know what is transpiring.   We have an obligation to counsel both parties, and an employer may have a second choice waiting in the wings for a position they need to fill.  As an insurance recruiter, we will counsel you not to accept a counter offer.  An insurance candidate may understandably view this as biased, but truly it is not.  This is why we encourage you to do your own independent research on the subject.  You can find several credible sources on the internet that will provide you with the potential pitfalls and statistics relating to accepting a counter offer.   Below are some of the key points you will find, but there are many others as well.  The bottom line is that you should be extremely cautious about accepting a counter offer.

 

  • Statistics show that more than 80% of people who accept a counter offer end up leaving or being terminated within one year.

 

  • The employment relationship is forever altered.  A counter offer may be extended due to panic at the thought of losing an employee, but once the moment has passed loyalty can be called into question and resentment may build from feeling that they were strong armed into a salary increase.

 

  • Unless your motivation was strictly monetary, nothing has changed.  Promises may be made, but ultimately once the crisis is over things will most likely remain the same as they were.

 

  • Sometimes the counter offer is just a delay tactic while your replacement is found.

 

  • Your reputation with the other employer is damaged.  It is highly unlikely that they would ever consider offering you another position.

 

Some relationships are meant to end.  Perhaps the employee has outgrown the position, perhaps the culture of the company has changed and it is no longer a good fit for either party.  Fear of change can hold both parties back from moving forward when they really should.  We see this play out time and again, with the vast majority of people accepting counter offers being either let go or resigning again within a 12 month period.

 

If you were directed to this article by your insurance recruiter and ultimately decide to accept a counter offer, we will tell you what we always tell insurance professionals – don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call us when it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.

 

HIRING AND INTERVIEWING ARE LIKE DATING – BE A GOOD DATE!

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in News | Comments Off on HIRING AND INTERVIEWING ARE LIKE DATING – BE A GOOD DATE!

Yes, this is true even in a conservative industry such as insurance.  For a successful experience, the details and subtleties are important.   Please give some thought to the following with regard to insurance staffing.

THE EMPLOYER

Your organization has a reputation to uphold.  Even if you do not wish to extend an offer to the insurance job candidate, you want that candidate to have a good experience.  If your job candidate is ever asked about your company, you want their answer to be that they interviewed there and thought it was a great company but it just didn’t work out.  This is just what you would want a person you dated to tell someone that inquired about you.  What you don’t want is for the insurance job candidate to tell all about their awful interview experience where they felt rejected and disrespected.   Your insurance recruiting agency can help you to create positive candidate experiences.

How do you create a good insurance job candidate experience?  It is just like dating.

  1. If you are interested in the candidate, invite them for an interview in a timely manner.  If you are not interested, let them know that in a timely manner.
  2. Provide feedback.  You don’t have to go into great detail, but some feedback after an interview is customary.  Your insurance recruiter can assist with how to deliver positive feedback even if the candidate is not right for the insurance position.
  3. Make sure the process moves along at a good pace.  Long gaps between interviews create uncertainty with a job candidate.  Uncertainty lowers the likelihood of the job candidate making a move to your company.  This is especially true in the insurance industry where many candidates are risk adverse!
  4. Don’t make the mistake of over-underwriting.  A recruiting process that is too long or contains too many interviews or assessments will ultimately turn off a good insurance candidate.  After a certain point, you aren’t going to gain much more useful information.  What is reasonable?  For the average position, no more than 2-3 interviews and 1-2 assessments or profiles.  All of this should take place within 2-3 weeks if possible.  Positions with more responsibility will take longer – this is an average.
  5. Counter offers are becoming increasingly common.  Talented insurance professionals are in demand and they are sometimes reluctant to “break up” with their employer even when they are unhappy in the relationship.  An effective courtship will help tip the scales and convince them they could be in a better relationship.
  6. Don’t make an offer unless you are fairly sure it will be accepted.  There are many variables that go into an accepted offer other than salary.  The delivery and timing of the offer is also important.  There are many things that can be done to prevent the acceptance of counter offers and other undesirable outcomes.  Consult with your insurance recruiter before making an offer.
  7. Make the insurance job candidate feel welcome.  Keep in touch between the offer/acceptance and the start date.   Realize that they are taking a leap of faith and provide a bridge between their prior insurance position and your company.

 

 

South East Michigan Independent Insurance Agency Survey Results 2014

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in News, Uncategorized | Comments Off on South East Michigan Independent Insurance Agency Survey Results 2014

                      Southeastern Michigan Survey Results 2014

 

After a long winter, here comes the sun!

The independent agencies that were able to weather the recession have returned to profitability.  A slow but steadily recovering economy has helped, but agencies have also become more efficient and strategic.  The adaptations that were forced by the recession have created more streamlined and flatter organizations.

 

Due to attrition and growth, hiring demands have been very strong.  Locally we have a shortage of experienced candidates.  We lost a good part of the workforce during the recession to early retirements, career changers, and relocations.  At the same time, organizations suspended or cancelled their training programs during the worst years and now there is also a gap in the pipeline of younger people entering the industry.

 

We decided to conduct a survey this year because we received many individual inquiries from our agency clients regarding local trends in compensation, benefits, and the business in general during the past year.  Many of the national resources for benchmarking do not address the unique business climate of SE Michigan.

 

The results that follow were compiled from independent agencies located in Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Livingston & Washtenaw counties.  If there was a discernable difference between counties we have noted it.  We have also included data that we have gathered informally from active candidates and client companies in order to make sure that each segment was equally represented in the summary.  

Agency Revenue 

The reported differences between 2012 and 2013 were fairly consistent between agencies.  All responding agencies reported an increase in revenue between 5 and 10%.  We have seen demonstrated financial health among our client agencies, with many again looking to invest in producer hires and book purchases.

Staff

On average, agencies are at a flat headcount, or up by 1-2 employees.  Most agencies do not anticipate adding to staff in 2014.  The average revenue per employee was $124,927, although this was a large range (from approximately $88,000-$180,000).

Employee Benefits 

100% of the agencies reporting offer group medical benefits of some type.  All agencies reported an increase in their group health insurance premiums, with most ranging between 9 and 12%.  One agency reported more than a 50% increase.  Coverage offerings seem to have remained consistent, with some reductions in HSA contributions or small increases in employee contribution amount.  None of the responding agencies planned on eliminating their group health plan.

Flex time / Remote Office

30% of reporting agencies do allow flex time for their workers.  The vast majority of these agencies have set work shifts that employees may utilize.  Only two agencies specifically mentioned working from home under certain circumstances and only for certain categories of employees.  80% of reporting agencies have part-time employees in several categories, notably clerical and receptionist positions.

Compensation 

The below compensation levels reflect a combination of long term employees and recent hires. It is important to note that if we had restricted the compensation numbers to people hired in the calendar year 2013, the averages would have increased.  This is an employee market, and salaries are rising in order to entice people to make a move.

*Macomb and Livingston counties had slightly lower salaries for each category.

 

Compensation   by position – Average

Position  

2013

Commercial AM

$58,420

Commercial CSR

$39,333

Personal AM

$43,632

Emp. Benefits AM

$55,600

Emp. Benefits CSR/

$44,000

Analyst
Agency/Operations

$72,900

Manager

 

Producer Compensation

There are as many variations here as there are producers in the workforce.  

  • Average commissions paid were 39% on new business and 37% on      renewal.
  • The lowest reported was 25% on new and 30% on renewal.  Not surprisingly, the lower commissions      correlated with providing a base salary and/or draw against commissions.
  • A straight commission producer (no base, no draw) was paid an      average of 47% on new and 47% on renewal.
  • The majority of reporting agencies paid commission on all      accounts, regardless of revenue amount generated.  Those that did have thresholds set the      guidelines between $1 and $5k.

Training & Development

The majority of responding agencies require that their service staff is licensed.  If it is not “required” it is encouraged.  Most agencies preferred online continuing education courses or carrier sponsored classes.

30% of responding agencies had hired someone without insurance experience in the past year.  Training was mostly one-on-one with experienced staff members.  Sometimes this was supplemented by carrier sponsored classes and/or online tutorials.  Overall the outcomes have been very good, although time consuming.  The positions which were hired/trained for included personal and commercial lines assistants and producers.

Miscellaneous Questions 

The use of service centers and the likelihood of considering outsourcing for policy checking remained relatively unchanged from our 2009 survey:

 

  2009 2014
Utilize   Service Centers 67.0% 65.0%
 Consider   outsourcing
(policy   checking) 18.0% 12.0%
 
 

 

  • Most agencies provide 2-3 weeks of vacation and 3-5 personal/sick days.  The least amount offered was 1 week for the first year.
  • The multiples cited in recent book purchases ranged from 1.00-1.25, however only 2 agencies reported.
  • 57% of agencies report having a no social media policy during work hours.
  • Cell phone use was generally allowed, but there were several comments regarding overuse.  We heard a lot about this during the past year or so, with agencies struggling with setting limits without banning them entirely.
  •  18% of agencies report losing a carrier or broker contract in the past year due to volume demands.

Summary

Many of the employers we talk with have shared that although they are seeing profitability rise again, business is more challenging than ever.  There is general financial health with our agency clients and a cautious optimism for continued growth.

Hiring was very strong in 2013, much of it due to pent up demand and a willingness to invest in additions to staff.

We hope that this information is useful to you.  We appreciate your participation and value your business.  Please let us know your thoughts and feedback!

 

 

2013 Insurance Staffing Mid-Year Review

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in News | Comments Off on 2013 Insurance Staffing Mid-Year Review

Where are all the insurance job candidates?

Many agencies and carriers struggled to find qualified insurance professionals for their open positions in 2012, and we are seeing that trend continue with insurance staffing in 2013.

  • Our industry has a large percentage of baby boomers looking forward to retirement, or scaling back and working part time or contract positions.  They are not looking for a career growth opportunity.

 

  • The few remaining insurance recruitment/training programs were scaled back significantly during the recession, and millennials are going to college longer and pursuing advanced degrees.  Often this prices them out of an entry level position within the industry.

 

  • The fear factor.  Even though we have seen a significant recovery in insurance jobs, the recession is still fresh in the minds of insurance professionals.  Stability and seniority are important to many of the insurance job candidates we speak with, and they are more reluctant to take a chance on a new opportunity as a result.

 

Trends That Will Affect Insurance Job Staffing in 2013

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013 in News | Comments Off on Trends That Will Affect Insurance Job Staffing in 2013

There are some unique environmental trends at play that will affect insurance job staffing in 2013.  This year will be shaped by a challenging insurance employment market. The market is shifting away from a buyer’s market. As a result there are two key issues that need to be explored as hiring managers and companies think about their insurance staffing needs for 2013.

A reality check of hiring expectations

Despite continued high unemployment, many companies in 2012 struggled to find qualified insurance professional applicants for their openings. While this is a result in some part of real shifts in required job skills, it is also a reflection of the more detailed and demanding selection criteria that has developed in the current “buyer’s” employment market. Businesses will need to confront this environment as the new normal and respond accordingly.

During the recession it was possible to demand exactly the experience and background you were seeking as an employer, and to be able to find a qualified candidate with reasonable salary expectations. Currently, most companies will need to relax their stringent selection criteria and focus on bright people with great attitudes that can learn the skills that they do not already possess.

Growing awareness of the importance of the candidate experience

As businesses contend with the continued lack of qualified insurance candidates (perceived or real), it will trigger more intense competition for select insurance professionals. As a result, companies will focus more on wooing talent, in part by delivering a distinctive and appealing candidate experience during the recruiting process.

A great candidate experience requires timely communication, feedback, and a display of courtesy with regard to scheduling and interview techniques. This is very important for employers to realize, especially in a tight market. Even if the employer does not ultimately extend an insurance job offer to the candidate – a particularly bad candidate experience will be shared with other potential candidates that are known to that individual. It is a small industry – it is important to take some small measures to maintain a positive employment reputation.

President of Allison Personnel Service, Tricia Millstead is licensed in property & casualty, life & health, and surplus lines. In addition to attaining her CIC and ARM designations, she also holds a BBA with concentrations in marketing and finance and graduate studies in organizational psychology.