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Developing people to go the distance

At a glance

  • Ensuring your staff are trained to the highest possible degree can have lucrative business results.

Despite the uncertain economy, many brokers are determined, rightly, to maintain their training budgets. They know that people who are competent, challenged and have a defined career development path will be motivated to do a better job and give that extra discretionary effort.

Brokers undertake a full assessment of their people’s aptitudes and skills. They know what they want to provide and where there are gaps. There will also be a clear eye to the future on what the organisation needs to do to reach its next goals. At the same time, they are carefully scrutinising what learning and development opportunities insurers are providing, and whether they are worth taking up. This is an approach Zurich endorses.

But with earnings being squeezed, some brokers are looking at their training budgets and questioning how much they can afford to spend on staff development. For their staff’s technical basics, they’ll just rely on innate sales ability and, sometimes, on third-party funded training, which can be hit and miss.

Well-trained people bring benefits over the long term

When insurers offer exceptional training, the demand is always there. It’s why insurers that are committed to the broker channel continue to invest in development. From Zurich’s perspective, this investment is substantial. It is also not about being prescriptive but moving to a menu approach, where brokers access training based on their individual needs; for example, in areas like leadership, marketing or compliance.

Zurich knows that in the age of austerity, a great people-development offering will probably win out over corporate hospitality. Switched-on brokers want to move away from a sheep-dip approach to staff development. Quality is everything; whether you want part-sponsorship of an MBA programme or to learn about social media.

Where technical training is concerned, a workshop could be run by an individual, who is an expert in their field. This person should be able to speak with passion and authority on a topic that will inspire the audience to learn. Zurich is always pleased in this regard by the support we receive from our Senior Underwriters, Risk Engineers and Risk Managers for our Master classes, which are held on a regular basis.

Likewise, external training consultants have to bring something out of the ordinary. That’s when development of individuals begins to transform whole businesses.

Leadership training is much more than a ‘nice to have’

Zurich is determined to offer brokers training solutions that are both exceptional and tailored to individual needs. As such, Zurich provides a menu of consultancy and professional development options for its most supportive brokers.

Brokers will be able to select coaching from high-level external consultants in areas like leadership, marketing and compliance. These aim to help brokers develop their business and their people.

For Elite 100 Academy, Zurich has brought in external consultants Performance Associates to develop a group of over 30 broking rising stars. It prompted some fantastic feedback and it will continue to run with more advanced development for this group, in addition to a repeat of the introductory course.

The programme will also cover contemporary and emerging topics, which may be led by broker demand, such as our forthcoming Breakfast Bite seminars on social media. Zurich is also stepping up the number of Breakfast Bite seminars and workshops it holds locally. These provide insight and tangible benefits by using people who are experts in their field.

Taking place early in the morning, the seminars are scheduled to allow everyone to return to work with minimal impact on the working day and due to their popularity, availability is always scarce. Exceptionally good training and development is never ubiquitous, but for those brokers who can access it, the benefits will be long lasting.

Either way, I’d encourage you to find out more by talking to your Account Manager. A detailed discussion around how you plan to spend your training budget, and your other training plans, can at least help Zurich identify any gaps for you.

Top tips: Darren’s points on broker skills and training

Insider asked Darren what his priorities for people development would be if he were running a brokerage.

• Let your people know you see them as individuals: Each employee should have a well-constructed personal development plan, which shows what training would be of benefit and how they can progress in their roles.

• Get the most out of your managers: Make sure those who have management/leadership roles have the ammunition to do their jobs properly. Too often individuals can end up with management responsibilities solely because they have length of service experience and/or technical expertise. Top-flight training can make an enormous difference in terms of instilling expertise, techniques and the confidence to do a great job.

• Before signing up to any insurer training, check out its worth: Who is going to be presenting? What will your staff come away with? Is the time spent going to be worth it?

• Make the best use of your training budget: It is easy to spend on one ‘big hit’ training initiative, which may only benefit a certain number of employees. But, look carefully at what you can provide and see where insurers can supplement this and fill any gaps. You may want to keep some cash available as incentives and rewards for staff taking CII examinations over the year.

• Aim high – and go for it: Too often the insurance industry plays down what it achieves. This has led to the emphasis on low prices above quality and some negative public perceptions.

My belief is that that we should be viewed as a profession rather than an industry. This is why there is such pride among Zurich people that we have achieved CII Corporate Chartered status – and Zurich is determined to support brokers as they strive to be the best they can be.

 

Image © Getty

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