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The Talent Gap: Recruiting and Retaining

Monday, April 25, 2016
Written By
John Kuehn

I hear this constantly while out in the field and while on the phone with brokers from all over the nation:

“John, I am having the hardest time recruiting and retaining employees at my agency.”

Fifty percent of baby boomers are going to be retiring in the next five years (I’m a Gen X’er, so I have more than a few years to go. Actually, my wife said I can’t retire as early as I’d like—I would drive her nuts being at home all the time!) Since the average age of a P&C producer is 59, the insurance industry is going to be left with a wide talent gap to fill.

Furthermore, according to Zywave’s 2015 broker survey, the number one planned investment in the next 12 months for P&C agencies is hiring new producers/employee training. This isn’t just about that buzzword we all hear: “millennials.” If you want to recruit and retain top talent, there are some investments you need to make across the board.

High-growth firms invest in a lot of ways. What are the investments you need to make in order to recruit and retain top talent? In my experience speaking with P&C agencies all over the country, both recruiting and retaining start with three fundamentals: technology, people and community.


Are you still using manual or paper forms? What about legacy systems? The appetite of the employee has changed. We live in a world where you can do pretty much anything on your smartphone or tablet, and many do. I’m not just talking about millennials on their smartphones. I read the other day that baby boomers spend 13 hours a day on devices.

Technology is the horsepower of your business. Chasing paper forms no longer appeals to any generation. So imagine a potential employee’s reaction when they come into your agency and it’s filled with old files scattered all over desks. What about the stress and disorganization your current employees are suffering because of this? There’s no excuse for it.

There is a plethora of new technology developed for our industry. Basic expectation of the next and current generation of employees will be investments in better, automated tools and platforms. If recruiting and retaining talent is critical to your organization, it is imperative that you are able to compete.


If technology is the horsepower of your business, people are the manpower. People make the company, and drive the culture and vibe.

Investing in your employees by means of monetary advancement is one thing, however, a recent survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management indicated that employees ranked interesting work, employer flexibility, feeling valued, having training and advancement opportunities as top factors influencing their decision to change jobs. You need to invest in these categories to not only retain your current employees, but to attract new talent as well.

Create a formal internal training program that includes mentorship by other employees. Set milestones for external education. Develop performance-based criteria and a reward system outside of commission. Offer “perks” like flexible start times, unique time off (comp days, floating holidays or summer hours), or the ability to work from home. Create an environment that exudes innovation and creativity while arming your talent with the technology to succeed—which, by the way, is an investment in them just as much as it is in the technology itself.

We all want to feel a part of something bigger. However you do that, make sure to have fun with it. When’s the last time you had a company outing dressed in costumes for Halloween? Haunted workstations, candy cane hunts, Leprechaun lunches—whatever or however you choose to celebrate, keep it fun, blow off steam and take care of your best assets. It creates a strong culture of fun that employees truly appreciate and it builds in a natural employee referral program for new hires.

One quick note: Make sure to hire based on personality as much as skill. My company, Zywave, makes it a point to do this and has found great success in doing so. Cultural fit is just as important as skill fit.


Going outside your four walls in any capacity brings new perspective. Job seekers and current employees alike are looking for companies to be active in their local and networking communities.

Expand your philanthropy with a specific chosen cause and encourage employees to volunteer locally. Host office events at a place that you do business with to support your client and the community.

Become a thought leader within your industry through social media or blogging. Make sure you join and find the time to attend networking bodies to expand your reach within your industry. Both local and networking communities are a big part of your company reach.

Recruiting and retaining talent is a major concern our industry faces; you can no longer solely rely on traditional ways to acquire and cultivate smart employees. What are your obstacles to growth? If you’re like the 1,000+ brokers from the survey we conducted above, your top two obstacles are recruiting and onboarding/training producers. Investing in the fundamentals of technology, people and community will get you on the right track to start growing and cultivating within your four walls.

Okay, so we now have a better understanding of what needs to be done to attract and retain talent. Our next series will take a look at how to prove yourself as a trusted advisor, so when the CEO of one of your largest clients retires, you’re prepared.

2 responses to “The Talent Gap: Recruiting and Retaining”

  1. I agree with your point about paper records becoming more tedious and seeming outdated at this point, especially with so many digital solutions being available on the market today. Having work materials and record-keeping in a digital format allows for better methods of backing up data and more immediate response to customers, which then brings more value. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great Article! Totally agree that cultural fit is just as important as skill fit! Skills can be taught but it’s vital that a potential candidate is on board with your values, mission and culture!

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