Supporting Agent Professional Development
In their 2018 Labor Day Survey, the business think tank The Conference Board found that the greatest source of disappointment for most American employees is a lack of professional development opportunities in their career field. TCB warns that this is “a warning signal for any organization looking to attract and retain talent in today’s tight labor market.”
**Professional development is a critical aspect of keeping employees in any field engaged and productive, and the insurance industry is no exception. Increased productivity isn’t the only reason for independent insurance agencies to create and maintain a robust learning environment. The longer agents work, the more likely they are to become comfortable, which can lead to complacency and even stagnation. **
Some smaller agencies worry that providing educational opportunities is cost-prohibitive or that providing professional development may incentivize agents to take their new skills elsewhere. The contrary is more often the case, however. Online learning platforms have made professional development more affordable and accessible than ever, and equipping your agents with new skills shows them you value their efforts. Nurturing agents is far more likely to build a loyal staff than neglecting them.
Clarify your expectations for agents
According to research conducted by the State of the American Workplace, confusion about job expectations is one of the leading causes of employee burnout, and a Gallup poll found that four out of ten employers don’t know what’s expected of them at work. Make it clear to your agents what you expect of them, including the skills that you want them to hone. Defining roles and requirements doesn’t limit agents. Instead, it frees them to develop their most critical skills with confidence.
Professional development doesn’t have to be restricted to online courses and webinars. Perhaps the most effective form of development is interpersonal development. Pairing your most seasoned agents with new hires gives younger agents a role model and opportunities for constructive feedback. Veteran agents benefit from the questions and insights of fresh new recruits. In-house mentoring also builds community and develops relationships among staff that create a more supportive overall work environment.
Balance knowledge acquisition with skills development
While it’s important that agents stay up to date on insurance requirements, regulations, and other industry knowledge, it’s equally important that they develop soft skills such as building customer relationships and effective communication. Having time to experiment with new technologies is another important area of development, and agents will also benefit from exploring areas of complementary expertise like sales and digital marketing. A well-rounded professional development program will create a more flexible and valuable team.
Invest in industry-specific training programs
**While more general skills can be developed through inexpensive and even free online learning platforms like Udemy and Lynda, it’s also critical to allow agents to gain greater mastery in their specific field. Programs like Rainmaker Advisory offer tailored, insurance-specific training that gives your agents (and your agency) a distinct advantage over the competition. **
Get in touch with AgenciesOnline today to learn how we support agent professional development through partnerships with learning experts like Rainmaker Advisory.