SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN INSURANCE HIRING TRENDS

With continued low levels of unemployment and a lack of people entering the insurance industry, the local market continues to be employee driven.  As a result of these factors, we are seeing changes in compensation, hiring criteria, and flexible schedule options. The ability of insurance agencies to adapt their practices and customize employment situations to attract great employees is now front and center.  The agencies who are succeeding are implementing some of the trends discussed below. 

Compensation

Salaries are climbing again in the independent agency and broker arena, but it is an uneven trend.  Currently, we are seeing more increases on the P&C side overall.  There is also an uptick in job offers including hiring bonuses. Typically, these are offered as an attempt to compensate for anticipated bonuses or to help pay for COBRA when the new employer has a waiting period for health insurance benefits to commence. 

The actual salaries are a moving target.  In commercial lines and employee benefits when the positions involve very large/complex accounts, self-funding experience, or marketing/client facing skills, we are seeing salaries and incentive packages that are in the $80s and up.  Personal lines account managers with expertise in high net worth accounts are also seeing salaries beyond the average range.

Compensation by position – Average 
Position 2019 
Commercial AM $60-75k+
Commercial CSR/Tech $45-55k+
Personal AM $40-60k+
Emp. Benefits AM $60-80k+
Emp. Benefits Analyst $50-80k+ 

It is interesting to note that salary has become more dependent upon qualities other than technical insurance skill.  Soft skills are sometimes being valued more than depth of insurance experience.  Also, we are seeing compensation levels rise for Gen X and Gen Y employees, as insurance agencies realize the pending retirements within their current staff.  The compensation packages for these employees is sometimes not commensurate with their immediate contribution value to the organization.  It is driven by competition in hiring the next and smaller generation of insurance professionals. Below are averages for positions within a mid-size independent agency.  There will be exceptions on both the higher and lower sides due to work environment, flexibility, overall benefits, and hours expected from the employer.  Yes, there is such a thing as battle pay!

Soft Skills

There are many soft skills to hire for within the insurance industry.  Technical insurance knowledge can be taught, but soft skills are difficult to teach.  The insurance industry remains a people business, and the ability to interact successfully with both internal and external customers is important in most positions.  Employers want employees who are pleasant and have a positive attitude. These are base soft skills.  The employee who performs above the base level in this area brings additional strengths to the agency.  Some areas that we see as becoming even more important are:

  1. Creative problem solving – employees who identify issues and offer ideas on how they can be solved.  Technology and the pace of work/life are changing rapidly.  Being able and willing to identify ways to adapt to changes, increase efficiency, or create work arounds in areas benefiting the organization are highly prized.  This includes identifying opportunities that might have been overlooked through a different paradigm.  Multi-generational workplaces create a great environment for people with this soft skill to thrive.
  • Bridge builders – this may be one of the most overlooked contributions.  Employees can be experts in their own specific area, but not engage in dialog and interaction with other departments outside of what they need to accomplish their tasks.  The individual who can build trust and goodwill with other departments can sometimes uncover ways to enhance the overall organization.  Being willing to ask why and invest time in developing relationships is a soft skill that has diminished with less personal interaction in daily life.  Collaboration enhances ideas and promotes bonding among co-workers.
  • Verbal and written communication – grammar and spelling issues reflect on your organization.  Employees who can convey information clearly and concisely have an advantage.  Written communication with clients should be free of grammar and spelling errors.  It should be easy to understand and to the point.  Telephone conversations should be friendly and professional.  Employees who have the skill of active listening are better able to identify and meet expectations by both the employer and the clients.

Flexibility

Job candidates often express the wish for greater flexibility.  This alone can be the sole motivator for a job change.  Flexibility encompasses a lot of different arrangements, some of which are easier to accommodate than others.

  1. Flex scheduling options – offering staggered schedules has become more popular lately.  We are seeing options such as 7am-3:30pm, 8am-4:30pm, 9am-5:30pm.  Some employers will also allow a reduced lunch hour in order to accommodate leaving earlier in the afternoon. This is viable for many employers when they have enough people to cover their core hours of operation.  We are also seeing a trend of less than a 40-hour work week.  Typically, it is now 37.5 hours.
  • Working remotely – the ability to work remotely is sometimes a strong motivator for employees that live a good distance from the office and would be willing to commute, but not every day.  While there are employers that hire totally remote workers, this is still an exception.  More often we see one or two days per week, and sometimes the ability to increase that with tenure and performance. Employers seem to prefer a balance with inside office work because it allows for collaboration and ease of communication.
  • Reduced work week – offering extended daily hours and a four-day work week.  Some employers have offered this option to promote flexibility. When co-workers cover for each other, this has the added benefit of extending availability to clients outside of the agency’s core hours.