Male and Pale
Generation Next: Moving beyond our
white male workforce to a more diverse labor pool attracts the
talent and skills we need.
My job requires me to think about, research and write about
the future of the insurance brokerage industry in human terms.
I lose sleep over how to sustain our proud and
steeped-in-tradition industry when what may be called for is an
end to those very traditions.
I am in good company. These days many industry leaders are
asking themselves simple perpetuation questions. They’re
finding, as I am, that the answers are complex and sometimes
unsettling. If you’re not yet wondering what needs to be
done now to ensure that you have a workforce in place that can
take your firm into the future, then you’re either
sporting blinders or too busy with today to look clearly ahead.
Open your mind. Think forward. Ask yourself: How do we make our
firm and our industry more attractive to the best and the
brightest that the labor pool has to offer?
Maybe a better first question is: Whom do we want to
attract? We talk a lot about youth. We talk about diversity.
But are we referring to ethnic or racial or gender diversity?
Or all three? As an industry, we know we’re statistically
homogeneous: mostly white, mostly male, mostly 35 and
For the most part, I believe we arrived at this point
honestly. We hired from among those who applied for the jobs,
so our workforce represents the traditional insurance applicant
We were a family-owned business industry, so sons and
daughters—and then grandsons and
granddaughters—became our workforce legacy. We liked to
recruit experienced professionals from carriers and other
brokerage firms, and this became our standard staffing system.
But as the industry became stereotyped as old, white guys, we
became less attractive to everyone else. So how do we make our
firms and our industry more attractive to a more diverse
population and, therefore, to a deeper labor pool?
First, we open our minds.
It’s human nature to want to repeat what’s worked
in the past. But when it’s not working so well anymore,
then we have to change or face extinction. Many firms have
changed because they realized that the older labor pool was
nearing retirement and more likely to stay put. And maybe they
also realized that experience doesn’t always yield the
highest return on investment.
Experienced labor comes with all sorts of issues. For
example, a top producer from another firm comes on board and
wants to be the alpha dog at your firm, bringing bad behavioral
habits, sales techniques that don’t work for you with
your clients and prospects, and generally wreaking havoc in
your established sales organization.
Think, instead, of the beauty of growing your own. Picture
an eager, energetic group of new hires learning it the right
way—your way, working together as a team with a healthy
dose of competition.
Picture the innovation that can come from emerging
professionals from all backgrounds and all walks of life.
Commonalities may be limited to intelligence, ambition,
interpersonal skill and a personality that can withstand risk
and a certain amount of rejection. Picture the loyalty you will
enjoy as your critical senior staff members mentor these
Then, we set the stage. Good
things are already happening on your behalf. Making you and the
rest of the world aware of them is one of our challenges. Some
of the terrific programs in place include high school
teacher-training initiatives. In these programs, universities
partner with teachers who get graduate credits for learning
about insurance. They, in turn, teach their students about
insurance, exposing them to a new career choice.
FAME, The Foundation for Agency Management Excellence,
provides college scholarships to juniors and seniors in RMI
majors and has published a how-to guide for member firms called
“How to Develop and Implement an Effective Internship
Program.” Some firms take the matter into their own hands
and develop their own “universities” with set
curriculum and trained instructors. Some of these programs last
as long as it takes to get a college degree. This month, a
consortium of carrier, broker and other industry groups is
meeting in Atlanta for The Griffith Foundation’s
Insurance Education and Career Summit to discuss how the
perception of our industry can be changed to ensure its
viability into the future. All of these programs need
support—not just financial support, but shoe-leather
support. We urge you to get involved now.
Finally, we open the
door—to men and women, to young and experienced
workers, to majority and minority candidates, and to everyone
in between. Creating diversity is not about excluding the
traditional labor force but balancing that core group with
others who will enrich our bottom line as well as our exposure
to those not from the same mold as ourselves.
The time to think forward is now. Forward to a future made
possible by reaching out to a wide array of candidates and
hiring them on their potential to carry your firm into the next
market, the next opportunity and the next generation.
Kramer is The Council’s senior vice president, Office
of the President.
Julia answers your management
questions online. Visit “Ask
Julia” at LeadersEdgeMagazine.com.