Fueled by an expanding economy and increased liability risks, the insurance producer sector continues to expand. In fact, recent data from the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals the agent/broker sector
led industry growth with 2,100 of the industry’s 5,000 new jobs in October 2013.
“Agent/broker employment, currently 673,200, is racing for the prior peak of 679,300, set in July 2007,” said economist Robert Hartwig. “If the recent pace keeps up, employment in this segment will pass that prior peak in three to four months.”
The Insurance Information Institute believes the trends reflect growth in youth employment, as well as increased demand due to the changing risk landscape.
“From our perspective, things are getting better on the employment front,” said III spokesperson Loretta Worters. “Many young people, who have traditionally been interested in finance and banking, are starting to see the opportunities in this industry.”
As a result, Worters said, the employment of insurance agents is expected to grow through 2018.
Before independent agencies break out the champagne, however, a word of warning is necessary. A recent study from the Center for American Progress
found that for positions earning less than $75,000 a year—including most insurance producer positions—the cost of turnover is roughly 20% of the positions salary.
That means the cost of a bad hire is roughly $9,490 for the average independent agency.
To avoid turnover costs and enjoy the employment boom, Worters recommended hiring agents “who are multilingual and those who have a strong knowledge of relevant technical and legal terms.”
Shirley Borghi, a Georgia advocate for Hispanic health, said multilingual status is a particular “blessing” for producers
“Hav[ing]a staff that speaks Spanish and other Latin dialects has been very successful,” Borghi said. “There’s not an intimidation there because they don’t speak English, or don’t speak English as a first language.”
If producers can “speak the language, they can answer the questions and—like anything else—there’s a trust factor,” she added.
One way to insure quality potential hires is by hiring temporary interns who possess the right skills, to be sure they’ll be a good fit for the agency, said John Belyea.
“We’ve been doing a lot of hiring, hiring into junior positions,” said Belyea, who serves as COO at Moore-McLean Insurance Group Ltd. “And we’ve found that hiring three summer interns each year is a great way to expose college kids to insurance, because getting good people is as important as getting clients these days.”
Belyea said the internship functions as a “test drive” for the kind of young hires Worters recommends, and limits potential employee turnover in the future.