Insurance agent workplace culture

The average American spends an estimated one third of their life at work—that’s about 90,000 hours! As an agency owner, your employees are one of your company’s biggest assets, if not the greatest one. Making sure they feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated is vital to helping your business succeed. Creating a positive company culture at your insurance agency is an important part of this.

What is company culture?

A popular analogy for culture is that it’s like the water fish swim in. It surrounds us whether we realize it or not, and many times we don’t know it’s there or how it’s impacting us. It can be hard to define company culture because, just like other cultures (national, local, regional, religious, etc.), it’s made up of many different elements. Culture isn’t just one thing. 

A company’s culture can best be described as the combination of shared values, goals, and attitudes which guide the organization and its employees. In many ways, a company’s culture helps create structure and drives the overall mission of the organization. Company culture can be created intentionally or unintentionally, so it’s important to think about what you want your company’s culture to be like in order to turn that vision into reality. Organizations that don’t intentionally create a positive culture often unintentionally develop an unhealthy culture.

Why is it important to create a positive company culture?

A company’s culture influences nearly every part of the business from employees to clients to profitability. Companies that boast a strong organizational culture appeal more to candidates who are looking for a permanent career with plenty of opportunity for growth. That’s why creating a positive culture at your insurance agency may help you decrease employee turnover. This is a big deal in the insurance industry, now more than ever. 

The industry is facing a talent shortage and insurance agencies (along with insurance carriers and MGAs) are competing to attract and retain the next generation of insurance producers, customer service representatives and back office support staff. Not only does a positive workplace culture benefit employees but it also helps the company build a stronger brand identity which can help attract more business.

The do’s of creating a positive workplace culture

Free snacks, a gym membership, work from home? There are plenty of ways to foster a positive workplace culture and every business will have their own unique strategies to do so. If you’re just starting out, or need some help figuring it out, here are a few things you can do to ensure a positive culture at your small business.

Do promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at your agency

One way to ensure a positive workplace culture is to make sure all employees feel included and treated equitably. The insurance industry hasn’t always had a great reputation for the diversity of its workforce, but that’s rapidly changing. The most successful insurance agencies of the future will include people from all different backgrounds, and foster a culture that values the different points of view that arise from a diverse workforce. If you’re looking for more resources to further your insurance agency’s DEI efforts, the Insurance Information Institute’s diversity page is an excellent place to start.

Do listen to employee feedback

It’s easy to think of feedback as a negative. No one wants to hear about everything they’re doing wrong. However, listening and implementing employee feedback can actually have a positive effect on your employees and your business. Not only does it show employees that the agency cares about what they have to say, but it’s also a great way to discover any pain points and fix them before they become a bigger problem. Make sure you’re giving your employees a chance to share their ideas freely and without consequences. Anonymous surveys can be a great tool for this, but even better if your culture encourages honest feedback from all directions and shows people that they won’t be penalized for giving it.

Do set, and follow through with, clear company goals

You might think your independent agency’s goals are obvious: Sell more insurance policies to more clients and retain clients year-over-year. This may be true, but you also might have staff who don’t see how their specific role ties directly to the overall success of your agency. Creating goals for the company as whole, and helping individuals tie their role to the company goals, can create a positive culture. This sense of shared purpose, meaning everyone feels like they’re playing on the same team, swimming in the same direction, or another metaphor of your choice, goes a long way toward improving culture and outcomes at your agency.

The don’ts of creating a positive workplace culture

Creating a positive workplace culture isn’t always easy. It can be especially challenging for independent insurance agencies, where you’re often dealing with widely disparate personality types all trying to run at a hundred miles per hour to succeed. 

Sometimes culture gets overlooked unintentionally. And sometimes, agency owners inadvertently do more harm than good when trying to create a great workplace culture. For example, something you might think is a great idea like creating competitions for the top-selling insurance producer may actually leave non-sales employees feeling unappreciated. That’s why it’s important to cover some tips for what not to do when trying to create a positive workplace culture at your insurance agency.

Don’t encourage employees to skip breaks or avoid taking time off

Your agency staff are not robots, and treating them like they are is a surefire way to foster a negative workplace culture. Expecting employees to continuously churn out quality work, and close deal after deal, without regular breaks and time to recover is unrealistic. More likely than not, pushing your agency staff to work more will yield negative results. Impacts like lower productivity, more presenteeism, burnout, and employee churn can become common, ultimately impacting your revenue—and your reputation! 

Studies show that encouraging employees to take breaks, including much-needed days off, actually improves productivity and employee performance. Encouraging breaks also shows employees that the agency values their overall wellbeing, not just their work output.

Don’t hire strictly for culture fit

You’ve worked hard to create a great culture at your insurance agency. Logically, you want each new hire to fit into the culture you’ve created and not disrupt it. At first glance, hiring employees who are a good “culture fit” seems like the best way to do just that. While it can be good to hire individuals who “fit” the current culture, it’s also important to hire those who can bring a different perspective to the company. In recent years, this has been coined as “culture add.” Try to hire employees who align with the agency’s core values but can also bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table. By focusing exclusively on “culture fit” an organization can fall into discriminating against people who might add a much-needed element to the team.

Don’t try to force a positive workplace culture at your agency

It’s great to be thoughtful and intentional about the culture you want to create at your insurance agency. Unfortunately, trying too hard to create a positive culture can be counterproductive. Remember that creating a positive work culture is not going to magically happen overnight but doing so is absolutely worth your time and effort. As the head of an independent insurance agency, the best thing you can do when it comes to fostering a positive workplace culture is to be consistent in your leadership. Building a stable organizational structure can help set a strong foundation for a positive workplace culture to grow.

From your most experienced insurance agent to the person who answers the phone when your clients call, your employees are key to keeping your insurance agency running smoothly. Building a positive culture at your agency helps your staff stay motivated and engaged, even when they’re faced with challenges. These do’s and don’ts are just a starting point, but hopefully they’ll help you think about how you want to approach the workplace culture at your own agency.

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