When you’re looking for a good insurance hire in an employee’s market, you need to understand the forces at work.


I recently read an article about the current real estate market and it seems a great analogy for what we are seeing in today’s insurance hiring marketplace. Everyone has heard of home seekers losing out to more competitive bids or terms.  As frustrating as that can be, the first step toward success is understanding and accepting the market you are dealing with.

Just like the real estate market often fluctuates, so too does the insurance employment market.  Make no mistake that we are in an employee market currently.  Insurance employers in an employee market can make great hires, but they need to be smart about their interviewing and recruiting efforts.  Here are some mistakes that we see as specialty insurance recruiters. 

Not making your best offer upfront

Trying to obtain the house we want for as little money as possible is our default position.  This is true for many things in life!  In the current market multiple offers are common, and many are at or above list price.  This is not the time or the market to low ball an employment offer. An employment offer of a salary lower than asking is not a reasonable strategy in the current market. Sometimes there will be negotiation, but if there is a better offer on the table you may not get that opportunity. It is important to understand the market and the prevailing salary ranges before making an insurance employment offer.

Not being open to different solutions

Perhaps a you have a firm idea of the ideal house, in the ideal location, and at or below what you are prepared to spend.  In this market a homebuyer needs to keep an open mind so they can work with what is available. In an employee’s market, you may be waiting a very long time to find someone who fits exactly the criteria you desire.  It is better to identify the problem or workload that you need to resolve within your insurance organization.  Is it possible that it could be managed by two part-time employees?  How about a full-time employee that needs to work remotely 1-2 days per week?  An employee that needs a flexible schedule due to traffic or daycare needs?  Lastly, you may need to consider candidates with less experience than you desire.  An eager learner may bring more enthusiasm into your organization and help build your bench for the future.  

Not making the candidate feel valued during the interview process

Okay, this one doesn’t really follow the analogy, but it is so extremely important that it cannot be stressed enough.  Timely communication and feedback are crucial.  Long delays between interviews, lag time after an assessment has been taken, excessive processes and interviews, failure to keep the candidate informed of the process along the way – all these things impact the feeling that the candidate is developing toward your organization.  Candidates have options right now.  The option to stay, or the option to interview with multiple organizations.  They simply are not going to make a move if they don’t feel confident about the organization or how they will fit in and be able to contribute.  Counter offers are very common and can be quite aggressive right now.  If the candidate has doubts, their resolve to leave will waiver.   A seamless interview and hiring process along with great communication will provide the extra reassurance a great insurance employee may need to make a change.

Not working with an experienced agent

An experienced realtor (or recruiter) will know what the market will bear.  If you have a seasoned recruiter on your side, you’ll be in a much better place to get your offer accepted.  They understand the emotions that are churned up by both parties, they know salary and benefit levels for their segment intimately, and they will prevent you from making an offer that will not be accepted.   They know which items are most important to each party, and they can help facilitate a match that benefits both.  Motivation, counter offers, needs for accommodation – those are all concerns that recruiters deal with regularly.  Rely on this experience and you will not be sorry that you did.

Not learning from your mistakes

Just like house hunting, you might have to go through a few disappointments with unaccepted offers.  It is not fun learning that your job offer has been declined, and it’s easy to get frustrated if you are having multiple offers declined.  It is important to solicit candidate feedback on your interview process and offers.  Is there something you can tweak to make things smoother?  Is your idea of salary levels off base?  How is your organization perceived in the local insurance arena?  If you have had the good fortune of historically low turnover, these can be difficult questions to ask but they are important if you want to attract and retain great insurance talent in this market.


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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!

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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. 

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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


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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.


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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.


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


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. 


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!



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