Insuranceland Thriving with 50+ Workforce
an interview with Paul Hainer of Insuranceland
Insuranceland is a small insurance brokerage that provides individual and group clients a package of property, auto and life insurance policies. The company’s story is one of a small, family-owned business growing from the founder’s basement to a standalone office, where it now thrives.
We wanted to know more about Insuranceland after we met one of its employees and learned the company’s employees were largely over 40 and even had employees in their 70s still actively working and contributing. We met recently with Insuranceland’s president, Paul Hainer, to gain some insight into his company’s success and its human resources philosophy.
As a second-generation owner of the company, Mr. Hainer learned the key success factors in his business were a strong work ethic, customer relationships and business ethics.
The demographics of the staff at Insuranceland are very unusual compared to most businesses. Interestingly, 60% of Mr. Hainer’s office staff are over 40 years of age and 40% are over 50. There even are employees working in their 70’s. Among his sales team – all of whom are registered insurance brokers – over 80% are over 50 and 50% are over 65.
The composition of Insuranceland’s workforce is partly driven by a need for employees who deal with the public to be licensed. It requires at least one year to gain a license to sell insurance and it requires a significant amount of commitment on the part of the employee to train to take the licensing exam.
The most important hiring criterion at Insuranceland is commitment on the part of the candidate to the insurance profession. Mr. Hainer only hires people who have demonstrated their commitment to their profession by obtaining their license. Many of these are people from other professions who made a mid-life decision to change careers.
Commitment is important because it can take several years before an insurance sales person can realize significant income from commissions earned by growing their client base.
In a small business such as Insuranceland, everyone on the team has to be able to contribute. But, because dealing with clients requires licensing, Mr. Hainer can’t justify bringing in people as “trainees” while they qualify for their license because virtually all the activities in the office require licensing.
ADVANTAGES of an OLDER WORKFORCE
An older workforce tends to be more stable. Hainer has had experience taking on co-op students to train for the profession, but found they would leave to go to work for the major insurance carriers, where they could learn more and earn more.
“We find you’ll get people between 40 and 60 who are looking to make a career change. They have to be committed because it can take between one and three years to start realizing significant income”
For some, especially in the office, the transition is easy. Many have backgrounds in customer service and, for those changing careers, it means adapting from one type of product or service to supporting insurance services. The skills are highly transferrable, and the older workers are experienced dealing with anxious customers.
The older workers tend to be more prepared to put in extra hours to get the job done and this is more a reflection of dedication rather than an inability to perform tasks as fast as younger workers.
Says Mr. Hainer, “One thing that’s beneficial when you hire people that age is that their kids are older. They don’t have to pick them up after school. They show up earlier and they’re willing to stay longer. They have a [strong] work ethic”
One noticeable difference between older and younger workers is that older workers are more self-aware of their limitations and will ask for help. Younger workers tend to think they can do it all, which can get them into trouble.
DISADVANTAGES of OLDER WORKERS
One downside of an older workforce is workers may require more time for medical appointments or lose work days due to illness, but generally Mr. Hainer has been able to accommodate this with flexible hours. “They get sick, but you can work around that.”
A common belief is that older workers lack energy. According to Mr. Hainer, his staff get through the week okay, though he does notice a bit less energy by Fridays. “They pace themselves and keep up with everybody else”
The younger employees tend to look to their older co-workers for advice and insight. In return for this, they usually help their older colleagues with technology issues.
Typical of a small enterprise, Insuranceland helps engage its employees by promoting interaction and participation. There are the usual weekly staff meetings to deal with ongoing projects, but they also hold monthly lunches and pot luck dinners to help employees bond. Their slogan, “Our family, protecting your family” was the result of an employee contest.
The company has built itself by marketing itself effectively. They have a monthly newsletter that goes out to clients and includes tips on how to save money. They’ve sponsored local sports teams. To keep their name top of mind and to heighten their image as members of their community Insuranceland is actively involved in three charities and encourages employees to support these charities on a volunteer basis.
As testimony to the success of its employee engagement and employment practices, with its older workforce, Insuranceland beats out most other insurance brokers on client retention, with a rate of 92-94% vs. the average for similar companies at between 88 and 91%.