One of the questions that we get more often than I’m comfortable with is, “Do you provide continuing education credit?”
The answer, for better or worse, is no, we don’t. You may disagree with our decision, but that’s what we chose to do. I could say that the choice was made before I got here, but quite honestly, I agree with the decision (right now). That’s not to say that we will never do it, but for now, we have chosen to focus solely on providing high quality learning. I could give you a few reasons that we don’t do it, but that’s not the focus for today.
I really want to focus one compelling reason that we should be investing in continual learning. For my purposes, I’m excluding the bulk of the continuing education (CE) courses that I see out there. I find that many CE courses are designed to meet the states’ minimum requirements and are designed to provide the insurance practitioner with fast, cheap and easy credits.
Please note that I wrote that the bulk of CE is this way. I don’t want to paint with a broad brush. I have friends who do live and online CE courses. They provide quality learning that doesn’t take shortcuts. They have created products that I would be proud to be associated with. Again, I’m not opposed to CE courses, I’m opposed to bad CE courses.
I understand that an investment in learning can be expensive. I’m working on my CPCU and the materials alone cost $100-300 for each class that I work on. After the materials, the tests cost (and they’re not cheap). Now add to that the cost of the time that it takes to study and prepare.
Whether you’re using self-study aids, like the CPCU, for continual learning, you send people to live classroom events, or you use our Academy of Insurance content for your learning, there are costs associated with learning. As a business leader, you don’t necessarily mind costs because you know that businesses have costs and you’re in business to make money. I guess it’s true that you have to spend money to make money.
What is the return on investment (ROI) for learning?
When you invest in learning, you are investing in your people. Team members want to know that you have their interests in mind. One way of showing that is in providing them with continual learning. The investment in learning then becomes a way of increasing team member engagement, loyalty and happiness. Who doesn’t want engaged, loyal, and happy teams?
The more engaged, loyal and happy your team members are, the less likely they are to be tempted to leave your team for another team. That saves you the cost of losing and hiring a team member. When you lose a team member, you’ve lost what you invested in that person and more. You lose their production while you hire and train their replacement. You lose your production (and other team members’ production) while you hire and train the replacement. If you make a mistake in the process of finding a top-quality replacement, you’ve multiplied those losses 2-4x because you jumped for the wrong person.
Highly trained team members also serve your customers better than poorly trained ones. Consider the additional opportunities that a well-trained team member can spot when dealing with your customers. Consider also that the more expert your team members are, the more confident your customers will be when dealing with them. You should also recognize that team members that are more engaged, loyal and happy will also treat your customers better, giving them better service. All of these factors lead to higher customer retention. Expert advice and stellar customer service are ways to keep your customers around, even if you are not the cheapest option in town (and you shouldn’t be).
If you’re convinced that there is an ROI that you can calculate, let’s get to those steps now
Step 1: Budget for learning
Learning costs time. Every minute that you devote to learning is a minute that you cannot devote to immediate production. If you have someone engaging with a one-hour online learning event, you lose their production for about 90 minutes, if you do it right. If you pull people away from their work for a full-day class, you lose an entire day per person.
Learning costs money. Quality learning events can cost anywhere from $40 for an online class to $1,000 for a multi-day classroom event. You don’t have to pick the most expensive option, but if you’re committed to learning, you’re not going to be able to pick the least expensive option. By the way, if you enroll someone in a class that has books, pre-work, or travel, your costs all go up, but you already knew that. That’s why you’re actually considering the cheapest and fastest options you can find. Don’t worry. I’m not mad at you. I understand your plight.
If you commit to the costs, they become another part of doing business, like the costs for your licenses, rent, equipment or salaries. If you plan on time for people to be away from their desks, no one has the pressure to attend a webinar and respond to emails at the same time. Yes. I know when you do that, so (for your sake) quit it.
Step 2: Cultivate a culture of learning
It’s been said that culture is everything. In fact, in speaking with a hiring manager at a prior job, he told me that he hired based on cultural fit over knowledge, skills or experience. So, build learning into your culture. Make it an expectation. When you hire, ask people what they are learning. Build personalized learning plans for your team members. When you meet with them, ask them how they are progressing in their learning plans.
Let the team see you continually learning. You don’t have to keep going after designations. Although, why not? More letters can indicate that you are a fan of more learning. Create a learning plan for yourself and show it to the team. Let them know that your learning is a priority to you. If you’re in a webinar, or online class, put the phone on do not disturb, make yourself unavailable on chat, and turn the cell phone off. If it’s important to you, it’ll be important to them.
Remove the excuses from everyone’s vocabulary. I’m too busy doesn’t exist. There’s no budget isn’t reasonable. Something came up shouldn’t happen. There’s never enough time. The money could be used elsewhere. Things can just come up. Those should all be the exception, not the rule. The team doesn’t get to make these excuses. You don’t get to make them, either.
Step 3: Create the next generation of learning
If you have a team, you have someone that can help us teach the next generation of insurance practitioners. I hear you. People say that they don’t like to speak in public. I get it. I’ve felt that way before and to be honest, I get super nervous before I speak. I ask myself questions like, “what do I have to tell these people,” or “why should I be speaking to this group?” In the end, I’m speaking because it’s what I do, and people listen because they believe that I can help them.
If you’ve budgeted learning and cultivated that culture of learning, someone on the team will start to shine as someone that people trust enough to ask questions. You’ll have people that will become busier helping other people. They’ll be so busy that their normal work gets harder to finish. Why not foster that?
Don’t let them flounder with their work getting farther behind. Relieve them of some duties so that they can become a learning resource to your team. Let them see if they like it. Ask them to take a class and bring it back to the team and teach it. Give them opportunities to lead your learning activities. Give them the space to take outside speaking opportunities so that they can become a resource to other insurance practitioners in your area.
You might find that you have the next generation of insurance educators in your team. It might even be you, and that’s a pretty good ROI.
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