How To Invite Diversity Into Your Agency
Owner, Agency Performance Partners
Co-Founder Agency Appeal
As we continue to travel across the country speaking, training, and consulting, we see one ongoing problem – the insurance ecosystem is not very diverse. You have “the girls” who work the office, generally a pre-retirement white male as the owner, and a few middle-aged white male producers. If we want to survive and thrive, we have to invite and celebrate diversity.
The opening paragraph you just read is, of course, a large generalization. I know some amazing female agency owners, minority producers, and male customer service reps. But let’s not be fooled; by and large, most minority populations are widely underserved in the insurance space. So how do we invite more diversity of gender, race, religion, and age into the independent agency world? It starts by inviting them to our industry.
Now, this may seem odd, but when is the last time you invited anyone to come check out your agency (such as a friend, colleague, or networking partner)? We have to make our environments warm and welcoming to diverse team members and clients. If you walked into a workplace and couldn’t identify a potential “work best friend,” would you stay? Or worse, if people snickered or stared at you, would you want to work there? The answer is most likely no.
Oddly enough, where we see this the most is in welcoming the children of the agency owners. Yes, they may be super “millennially,” but they do bring a fresh and new perspective. When a 24-year-old comes to an agency where everyone could be his/her mother, it’s obvious that he or she may think twice about coming to work for you. However, my message to every single child of an agency owner is simple and clear. If you think you want to be in the agency business, go work at your parent’s business for three years, and then decide. Now, I mean, you have to work; work like you NEED this job. You will learn more in three years being close to the owner and the operations than you ever would in three years at an entry-level job. Use it as a way to boost your next opportunity, but don’t you dare discredit what you will learn!
You can open up the possibilities of new business if your staff is able to serve more diverse groups, communicate in different languages, and involve the agency in community organizations. For most people, even when English is their first language, insurance can be daunting. Imagine not feeling 100% comfortable with the industry language and then signing up for insurance – no way! Diverse languages will help you bring in new business and new groups to your agency.
When ages, religions, and cultures collide, there can be conflict. The age gaps tend to drive the biggest conflict. When the 23-year-old new employee is trying to stream Netflix while listening to Spotify, subsequently slowing down the entire network, get ready for a few eye rolls. Similarly when a more tenured employee prints a document only to scan it, then fax it, and finally shred the paper copy, the millennial may question their sanity. The coolest thing about diversity is the ability to learn from each other. If we all stay the same, what fun is that? I know all there is to know about being a married, upper-middle-class, white Irish female. But understanding what it’s like to be a gay Latina – that seems interesting to me. Or learning how insurance used to work or simply learning the client’s history from the longest standing team member.
If we want to grow both professionally, financially, and personally, we need to develop and embrace diversity in the workforce of insurance. This means really making an effort. When done correctly, it can open up some pretty amazing doors!