Insurance Academy

3 Facts that Providing Learning Opportunities Tells the Team

By | Academy Journal Blog | September 6, 2017

According to dictionary.com, loyalty is the state or quality of being loyal (I guess they never had my English teacher. She told me never to use a word to define itself.); faithfulness to commitments or obligations. (and) faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.

Employers consider loyalty an important trait in those that they hire. Not sure about that? Why do you think that organizations are surveying their team’s engagement? Employee loyalty is an indicator of how long they plan to stay around and how productive they will be while they are there.

For my father’s generation, loyal was something that you just were. He worked for the same people for as long as the place was open. He would have stayed there for years had the place stayed open. He almost never considered taking a different job. I’ve heard stories of prior generations that were so loyal to their employers that the family was banned from using competitors’ products. They felt like company A put bread on the table and it was wrong to use company B’s products and put money in their pockets.

I’ve heard people in my age group use this phrase, “I’m as loyal to my company as they are to me.” Note the shift. Loyalty is no longer a given, it’s earned and it appears to be earned mutually. In my age group, that loyalty consists of things like compensation, benefits, time off, and the like. For us, it has been about what we would get out of the employment that drew us in and kept us. We’re not as blindly loyal like our fathers were, but we give our loyalty fairly easily.

For those generations that have come behind us (Millennials and Generation Z), loyalty isn’t a given at all. They want to know what the company plans to provide them. They give their loyalty reluctantly and take it away quickly. If they sense that they are not important to their employer, their employer isn’t important to them. Since they are the largest generation to enter the workforce since the baby boomers (totally overshadowing my generation), we need to pay attention to their needs or someone else will.

The bottom line is that we cannot assume that our people are going to be loyal to us forever. They want to see that we’re loyal to them. One way that an employer can demonstrate loyalty to their employees is by providing learning opportunities. Since we’re in insurance, let’s be very clear about this. I don’t mean just providing continuing education. There are a few reasons that I don’t always count CE as learning opportunities. By the way, I’m not lumping all CE providers into the following. I have friends who provide great CE and it’s always a quality learning event.

  1. CE is often, but not always, required for an insurance professional. Producers have licenses and CSRs have licenses. Underwriters don’t (usually) have licenses. Claims adjusters have licenses, but the customer care team that takes the first notice of loss doesn’t usually have a license. You get the point. Offering someone a CE course may not meet everyone’s learning needs. Even if someone on my team needs to have CE, I’m doing the minimum necessary by providing it. Let’s face it, everyone that has licensed individuals makes sure that they get the minimum CE that they need to keep their license and continue to be productive for their company. Since it’s required, it doesn’t communicate loyalty. It communicates that we’re only willing to do the minimum for them and that’s probably not enough.
  2. CE is often, but not always, a cheap substitute for learning. It doesn’t take much more than a single online search for CE to find what I call the CE buffet sites. They offer all the CE that you want or need for one low price of $24.99. I get it that the price is alluring. We all like a deal. If my only concern was being able to afford the CE for my team, I might be tempted to take a deal like that. My biggest question is what will they learn? In my mind, if all that the team gets is the CE, I wasted time and money. I’m not saying that the CE isn’t important, because it is. I’m saying is that it isn’t the most important thing and your staff knows it. If all we’re providing is CE, we’re not providing any proof that our team is important.
  3. CE is often, but not always, the easy way out of learning. I’ve already mentioned it, but let’s look again at it. These easy CE providers are creating content, putting it online, and making it as easy as possible to qualify for credit. It’s a short cut. It’s not learning. If I provide that to my team, I’m not communicating to them that I want them to succeed and excel. I’m communicating that I want them to do the bare minimum to get by. That will make the excellent ones leave and I will create a team of those who are looking for the easy way, not the right way.

Again, I must stress that the above comments are about those easy two-steps to CE websites that don’t provide any learning, just an easy way to get your CE credit and get back to work. Those are billed as time and money savers, but I think that they’re time and money wasters. If you like them, I’m not mad about it, I just think you should consider other ways to get your CE credit so that you can learn and still get your CE.

We recommend providing people with real learning opportunities that will improve their understanding of insurance, customer service, leadership, and sales. There are other topics you should consider, we just offered a few here. Why should you provide real learning opportunities? It’s all about what you’re communicating to your team.

Providing learning opportunities says, “We’re interested in you being the best you can be.”

The first place we should be providing learning opportunities is in the early phase of someone’s career. They should get the learning that they need to excel in their new position. Don’t assume that they know insurance. If they passed their licensing exam, graduated with honors from an insurance and risk program, and their parents have owned an agency for 40 years, we hope that they know something about insurance, but let’s not assume it. Let’s show our concern for the team by providing what they need in the early days of their careers.

Learning doesn’t just happen once. We have to continually reinforce what’s been learned. We should provide opportunities that take the team back to square one every once in a while. As the story goes, Vince Lombardi started the first day of practice in 1962 by saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Just because someone passed a test means that they got past the gatekeeper. Now they really need to understand insurance. They need to know that there is a difference between a DP-3 with liability and an HO-3.

They need those building blocks in place early and they need to be checked on often. By providing learning opportunities that help them where they are in their career, we’re telling the team that we want them to succeed.

Providing learning opportunities says, “We’re interested in helping you further your career.”

Learning also needs to build on itself. It’s great and important to go back, but we also should provide learning that stretches them. They not only need to know the state required minimum auto coverages, but they also need to know why they offer higher limits. Hint: it has nothing to do with commissions or premiums.

We should be providing learning that helps the team to grow. Learning can be tailored to fit where they think they want to go in their careers. Whether it’s a team of underwriters and one of them wants to get into actuary and another wants to move into an agency; or it’s an agency and someone wants to become a risk manager; we should create learning opportunities that help them to decide if that’s what they’re really after. We should create learning opportunities that help them to move into their next position; even if that position is on another team. It communicates that we’re interested in their future, not just the company’s or mine.

Providing learning opportunities says, “We’re investing in you.”

I railed on the cheap CE websites, but I also understand that teams have budgets and learning is often a hard item to keep from cutting in the budget. We should be taking a hard look at the investment that we make in people. If we’re willing to invest time and money in our people, our people will be more inclined to return that investment.

Investing time and money means that we need to be willing to let people get away from their daily tasks and work to be able to focus on learning. It may be that you make sure that they’re spending an hour a week attending online learning. Maybe you give them a couple of days out of the office to attend a classroom learning event. Maybe we have a time set aside to discuss the things that we’re reading, studying, or the classes that we attend. There are options that require that someone is out of the office for multiple days, but there are also options that only require that they’re away from work for an hour at a time, a couple of times a week.

According to the Association of Talent Development’s 2016 State of the Industry survey, employees attended an average of 33.5 hours of training during the year and employers spent $1,252 per employee in 2015. That means that to be average we should be providing only an hour of learning every other week, or less than 3 hours per month and we should be spending about $100 per month for learning. Again, that’s an average. The only question that remains is: do we consider our teams average, below average or above average?

Those are among the reasons that we created our Basic Personal Insurance Course. We considered that the insurance industry needs new talent and that talent needs training. We have created this course to be a beginning point for the industry. Keeping in mind that budgets are always tight, we kept the price reasonable. Understanding that you hired someone because you had work for them to do, we are keeping the time commitment reasonable. It’s only two hours per week for four weeks.

If you’re interested in the course, give a look at its page on Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance. If you have questions about the course, you know how to reach me.

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Latest Comments

  • September 11, 2017 at 9:38 pm
    Mike F says:
    Great article! THe baby boomer generation makes up most of the industry's employees which prestents a great opportunity for the younger generation as the more experienced agen... read more
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