Change is as inevitable as can be, and it is not something humans take lightly. In fact, most people fear change. Not only do most of us fear change, but we have a strong preference for how things have to be done, and we like to do things “the way they’ve always been done”. The longer things stay the same, the more likely we are to avoid change. Our human nature tells us that, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Within many insurance agencies, habits have been formed it’s notoriously very difficult to break the cycle. With that being said, one of the keys to success in life and in business is the ability to be agile, adaptable, and open to new ideas and new ways of operating your agency. Here are a few tips on how to manage organizational change within your insurance agency.
Why Change Is So Very Hard
Well the simple answer is it takes work. It’s easy to leave things alone and just go with the flow. When deciding on how to manage organizational changes within your agency, take into consideration how long the current processes have been in place. Has your team ever used another process or procedure? Do you have proactive training measures in place to help your agency staff adapt and succeed? And most importantly, after trying new processes are you listening to your staff’s feedback so that you find out what’s working and what isn’t? A quick example from my agency is that we are in the process of changing management systems, and during this process I have included my managers in the decision making process, because I want to have their input on which direction they think we should go in. Remember, I have already made it clear to them that we ar
e going to change, and gave them the reasons why. These changes are going to help their workflow, and help the agency become more profitable. After we have taken all the advice from our teammates, we then include them on the roll out of our new system. In order for them to feel like they are personally invested in the changes, you need to include them in your change process.
Forming New Habits
According to the author of The Power of Habit, Mr. Charles Duhigg, habit learning is a three-step process: first the cue, then the actual routine of the behavior and/or actions, and finally, the reward. Once your brain learns this process, it takes less and less mental effort to complete the task, leaving more mental energy for other processes and procedures. Change is good, and it’s a major ingredient to growth.
Understanding how agency change takes place means examining the habits of your staff and your agency. This exercise will greatly help in making it easier for your teammates to break old routines, old processes, and old procedures, and form new, more efficient habits. If the agency’s change is making you break a number of habits/processes/procedures, take some time to analyze the process, because there is going to be more work, and in most cases more planning than if there is only one process change. Think strongly about the cue, then how you perform the task and the potential reward. Another interesting tip to help create new procedures is to disrupt your environment; for example, reorganize your desk or reorganize your office space to allow your brain to adjust and form new and improved habits. When deciding how to manage this change within your current agency infrastructure, a quick easy change can often be better than a gradual shift, especially when it comes to digital tools such as a management system or a new rating system, or even an agency mobile app. One thing you don’t want to encourage are habits that only partially utilize new systems, while still maintaining the old ones, because that is a recipe for disaster. Let me give you a another quick example; when Paradiso Insurance was releasing our agency app, we had a four step process to get people to download our app. First we created our paper approach, which included postcards and print advertisement to make people aware of what we have to offer by providing them with a great customer experience. Secondly, we created video (YouTube) and a lot of visual content marketing materials for the social world. Thirdly, we included our agency app into our onboarding process through our email marketing campaign, and also created agency blogs highlighting the benefits of our app. Lastly, we trained our staff on why it’s important to educate our clients on using our app. This was an “all-in” process, and today our staff believes in our app.
Communication is Key
Communication plays a large role in effectively running an insurance agency. It is something that directly impacts how to manage organizational/agency change. If you’re in a management role, you must get your teammates involved in the change process/procedure as much as possible. Make sure that you really listen to them, because they too want to feel as they are contributing to the process. If your staff members are hearing about new agency protocols or procedures through other teammates, you probably won’t receive good feedback. The quicker you can take the information from the management level and communicate it effectively to your teammates formally, the less of a chance you have for the rumors to churn out negative and destructive talk. This will alleviate worry and keep the message from becoming inaccurate and hurting your agency culture. Communication, in my mind, is the most important aspect to agency success.
If all of your teammates are on the same page, you won’t have any expectation issues, which usually lead to frustration and aggravation. Another one of the keys is to remove the fear of the unknown, because removing that fear can greatly improve the experience of going through these changes. On top of that, with staff speaking to each other, you can relate to one another’s experiences and work through any issues together.
I write about change because I feel it’s the number one thing holding back independent insurance agencies. The first thing is technology. Technology in our industry is moving at a snail’s pace, while the rest of the world is moving at light speed. Agency owners are aging, along with staff members, and that is a combination that usually stops change. Millennials are changing the way insurance is being bought, and the independent agency avenue needs to not only invest in sales training, but also invest in technology. This technology, such as an agency app, is exactly what millennials want. Just think back 7 years ago with the release of the Blackberry; their company was on top on the world, and today, the Blackberry isn’t as successful because it never changed. Let’s learn a lesson from Blackberry or BlockBuster and keep an open mind along with the willingness to invest in change. Change will allow you and your agency to GROW!
We too are changing our agency mgt system. Going from low horsepower Agency Advantage to Applied Epic. A leap of faith. The old one was just like building codes, the minimum acceptable process. We are embracing the change – so far. What did you come from and go to? What is your biggest challenge and have you overcome it yet?
Good luck and great article.
We’ve made several changes in our office, which most recently includes updating our on-hold sequence, moving desks or people around internally, upgrading agency management systems, and completely re-imagining our branding guidelines from the ground up.