Posted by Nancy on March 1, 2014 in Personal
I recently spoke with risk management consultant and former insurance agent Dan Weedin, author of Insuring Success. Weedin and I share something in common: A passion for the insurance industry and a concern that today’s top insurance talent is disappearing. We talked about some of the challenges facing agencies and insurers as they try to align staffing needs with retiring talent.
As millions of Baby Boomers retire within this decade, the industry’s talent crisis is real. An added area of concern for insurance organizations is that many of those “Boomers” are deciding whether they should take that last chance and change careers. “Burnout, disgust, and unhappiness in one’s job will lead to change, especially at an age when timing is of the essence,” Weedin says. As these long-tenured and valuable employees leave, so do all their “smarts” that organizations accumulated over the span of their working career. That is how an organization can lose its memory and suffer from what Weedin refers to as “institutional amnesia.”
Can the insurance industry solve this problem? Yes, according to Weedin, but organizations must begin immediately to develop a solid strategy and execute a talent management plan. Here are several changes he suggests organizations can make.
- People are tired of “working for the man” and are seeking new opportunities. “Companies have done this to themselves,” Weedin believes. “Command and control leadership tactics won’t work any longer. Collaborative cultures are much better. Business guru Peter Drucker once said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ It’s about the culture and how people contribute that makes a difference. The rewards go far beyond the financial. Employees must be challenged and continue learning to stay with an organization for the long-term.”
- Pay special attention to Boomers between the ages of 50 and 60. Later Bloomers are making employment changes, according to Weedin. “They’ll either start their own companies or look for employers that offer value-added employment for them. You don’t engage employees through command and control. To attract these employees with the technical knowledge so desperately needed in the insurance industry today, a more collaborative and flexible workplace is imperative.”
- Insurers are slow to react to market changes and slow to react to make changes in their culture. The result in the industry is the merging and acquisition of companies, which can be problematic. This paradigm shift needs to occur quickly, or insurers will find themselves in constant “catch up” mode, losing valuable ground.
- Create an environment of collaboration. Develop areas where employees from different departments can converge and communicate. There is plenty of research that shows that happy, more connected employees are better workers that stay longer and improve the company and its bottom line.
- It is difficult yet imperative to find and keep good talent. The most profitable companies tie compensation to underwriting success, which can only be achieved with help from the claims department. Accurate data input by claims personnel allows cleaner underwriting profit analysis by insurers.
Innovative insurance companies are making major changes to cope with the tidal wave of retirement. Consider moving away from cubicle seating and into more open workspaces. Question the traditional departmental seating in favor of more open and collaborative workspaces. It’s working in high tech, and it would work wonders in the insurance industry. Consider placing rows of adjusters between underwriters and sandwich in other departments to encourage cross-pollination. Underwriters see the results of their work in action and claims people can discuss coverage intent and coverage language. Open seating increases a company’s intellectual capital. By nature, most humans want connection in the workplace, especially the new pack of millennials entering the workforce who grew up with coaches, mentors and social media. Allow them to fulfill these needs by creating a culture of collaboration and affiliation.
In today’s competitive environment, a one-shot leadership event will not deliver the changes your organization needs to remain competitive. Moving forward in this century’s business climate, insurance organizations must develop an intentional strategy to develop intellectual organizational capital, invest and empower employees and create a culture that rewards all employees. The results, according to Weedin, are fewer headaches, happier employees who stick around, and ultimately, increased profitability. Companies that fail to find that balance between empowered employees and profits will ultimately fail.
Posted by Nancy on February 19, 2014 in Litigation Management
I visited a local social media networking group in Phoenix the other night. The [mis]information provided by the “expert” regarding the use of images in social media posts was scary. The group coordinator assured these fledgling bloggers and posters that as long as they don’t have a call to action in their post, they can use any image they find on the internet. After all, they were “educating” the public. Wrong!
According to Ruth Carter, owner of Carter Law Firm in Phoenix and the author of The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed, “A lot of people think you can use any image you find online as long as you provide an attribution and a link back to the original, but that’s not true,” Carter said. “What you might be doing is committing copyright infringement and making it easy for the artist to discover that you stole his or her work.
“When a person takes a photo or creates a graphic, they own the copyright in it. This means they have the exclusive right to control where others can copy and distribute that image. If you use their work without their permission, you could be committing copyright infringement. If you get caught, if you’re lucky you might get a cease-and-desist letter or a DMCA takedown notice. However,” Carter continued, “they could send you a bill for using their work or they could sue you. In the worst-case scenario, you could be sued for up to $150,000 per image plus the artist’s attorneys’ fees. And it doesn’t matter than you didn’t know that you were committing copyright infringement when you did it.
“If you need images for your blog or website, use images that come with a Creative Commons license, preferably one that allows you to modify and commercialize the image,” Carter recommends.
To prevent needing a $300-plus an hour lawyer to defend yourself against a copyright infringement allegation, use images with creative commons attribution or purchase images from legitimate vendors.
Every artist is entitled to make a fair profit on his or her work. You may consider an image “just a picture.” In fact, the artist may have worked hours on that image or graphic. Not only is it cheaper in the long run if you avoid litigation, it’s the ethical thing to do.
Posted by Nancy on February 16, 2014 in Writing tips
One Christmas I was in a long line in the post office in Garden Grove, California. An elderly woman was in line in front of me and when she finally got to the counter, she ordered a book of stamps. After her request, she qualified her statement by saying with a great deal of irritation, “And none of those darn Elvis stamps, either!” Everyone within earshot tried not to laugh out loud.
While bulk mail may save a few pennies, I always use a real stamp. In fact, I often get creative and use stamps with themes or beautiful pictures just to draw the letter opener’s eye to piece.
If we can help you write copy that will produce sales, contact us at 602.870.3230.
We help agents, carriers and insurance thought leaders throughout the US with their blogging, marketing and ghostwriting efforts. Why not call for a free consultation? With over a quarter century in the insurance industry, we understand your business.
Posted by Nancy on February 10, 2014 in Marketing
Did you know that about 20 percent of today’s websites and blogs are developed on WordPress?
I’m taking more WordPress training today so I can continue to help you deliver stellar social media results. Small changes to the way you handle your social media tasks can really help improve search engine results for your business.
We will cover some tips for WordPress users in the near future.
Posted by Nancy on February 6, 2014 in Marketing
, Writing tips
There is a lot of poor writing out there on the web. Even in professionally written White Papers and blog entries, there is lots of room for improvement. As agents, consultants and claims people, we should write in top form before we send that letter or publish the final draft of our blog. Here are a few tips on sentence and paragraph length.
The “eye likes white space.” If you mail a letter or publish a blog without adequate paragraph breaks, readers will quickly lose interest. Creative use of white space encourages the reader to dig in and begin reading, then refuses to intimidate the reader along the way.
How long is a sentence?
Most writing experts agree – use concise sentences in business writing. Strive for an average of 15-to-20 words in even the most technical documents. However, good writing uses varied sentence length. If you write all 10-word sentences, your work would be choppy. If you use all 20- or 25-word sentences, the reader will soon lose interest. Vary sentence length and strive for an average of not more than 20 words per sentence. Briefer is better. A four-word sentence that is informative is perfectly acceptable. “Risk management maximizes profits” speaks volumes in four words.
How long is a paragraph?
A paragraph is a relatively short block of text that opens with a statement—a topic sentence—which describes what the paragraph contains. Many writers, even experienced ones, tend to stray toward lengthy paragraphs. This is a mistake. Strive to average less than 100 words per paragraph. Also keep formatting in mind, because if you format using more than one column per page, your paragraphs should be even shorter.
Remember these three rules for better business writing:
1. The eye likes white space
2. Sentence length average: 15-to-20 words maximum
3. Paragraph length average: Less than 100 words
Posted by Nancy on February 5, 2014 in Personal
Read the latest Cavalcade of Risk for current risk-related insights. It also includes a link to my recent column on dog underwriting ideas to reduce canine liability.
Posted by Nancy on January 31, 2014 in Personal
Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC) framework can provide strong benefits to organizations, helping to integrate and manage regulated operations. In this survey sponsored by Corporate Governance Consultancy Services, 33% of respondents shown in this infographic state that enterprise risk management is the most important. 27% of the respondents say that enterprise risk management continues to be important. For more details please visit http://www.care-web.co.uk/blog/grc-software-guide-to-organizations/
This year my women’s group, which has been meeting once a month for our third year, is reading and discussing a book by Amanda Gore, The Gospel of Joy. I heard Ms. Gore speak at a teleconference last year and her highly personal presentation really hit my core beliefs.
Her book is perfect for a study group since there are twelve chapters in the book, one for each month. Each chapter explores a different spiritual principle, for example, listening, laughter, hope and gratitude. Gratitude has always been my struggle. I sometimes say, “My glass isn’t only half empty; it has a hole in it.” In other words, I have to work to stay grateful.
One of the questions in her gratitude chapter hit home with me. It asked, “Did your parents’ behavior model gratitude?” I can easily say that, “Yes,” their behavior did. Both my parents were independent insurance agents and both people of strong faith. My father, a Lutheran, served in his church as a council member and all-around fix-it guy. My mother, a more reserved Catholic, quietly put her faith into action by volunteering for years at the Westside Food Bank. Their motto in business was “Service before self” and while they were very successful insurance agents, they never let profit interfere with doing the right thing.
I grew up with three older brothers and one of us, usually me or my brother, Ted, was always wrecking a car. (I was quite sure my father owned an interest in the local body shop he insured.) After our accidents, my father would assess the damage then quietly say, “Everything happens for the best.” Frankly, at the time I thought he was slightly mental.
“Dad,” I finally asked when my brother ran his Mustang into a ditch at the end of our street, “How can a car accident ‘be for the best’?”
“Perhaps this minor accident where no one was hurt saved him from a major collision. After all, cars we can fix. You and the boys are irreplaceable.” Dad could always put things into perspective for me. I am so grateful for the wonderful lessons my parents taught me.
This story leads me to my topic – professional gratitude. There are so many insurance gurus who have mentored me over the years, from one of my first bosses at Commercial Union – who predicted, “Ms. Germond, in five years you will be a claim manager,” and I was – to the many risk managers who helped me when I was a fledgling risk manager, never an easy job.
Over the years I have trained and mentored my share of risk and claims professionals. Rarely do they thank me. I’m not dismayed by this; I rarely think of it because at some level, I am sure they are grateful but unaccustomed to expressing gratitude verbally. Today, though, I urge you to take a moment to contact a person in your career for whom you are grateful, either past or present, and say, “Thank you.” I guarantee you: This will mean a great deal to him or her.
As many of you know, for years I have alternated between running Insurance Writer full time and working more directly in the insurance industry. I just couldn’t stay away from a challenge. But I also know there is more to life than a paycheck. This year, I’m putting it all on the line to branch out, utilizing my God-given gifts to provide specialized services to the insurance industry.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ms. Gore, here is a link to her YouTube channel. If I can help you, these are some of my areas of specialty:
- Copywriting, including White Papers, advertising copy, articles, ghostwriting and blog entries
- Consulting with small-to-medium sized businesses to reduce losses and improve workers’ compensation programs
- Curriculum development and on-site training, including:
- Customer service training
- Workers’ compensation claims management training
- CGL coverage training
- Business auto training
- On-site Associate in Claims training
- Miscellaneous management training
Please feel free to contact me at (602) 870.3230.
Posted by Nancy on January 7, 2014 in General Insurance
, Risk Management
Property Casualty 360 and other industry magazines report escalating dog bite settlements. The industry is moving to endorsements and policy language to exclude canine liability. Why doesn’t the insurance industry take a more analytical approach to underwriting household dogs? As dog trainers will tell you, aggression is not breed-specific. Almost any dog improperly socialized, or with dog aggression in its line, will bite. I’ve seen American Kennel Club-elite Labradors, one of the friendliest breeds, that will take a chunk out of you, and German shepherds that wouldn’t bite you if it would save their own or their master’s life.
Rather than deny coverage by breed, why not partner with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and use the Canine Good Citizen program as an underwriting guideline? The Canine Good Citizen must pass 10 temperament tests – for example, allowing a stranger to approach, demonstrating a lack of dog aggression (very important since so many people get bitten when their people-loving dogs tangle with other, not-so-dog-friendly pooches), and the dog’s reaction in a crowd. Evaluators are available in hundreds of locations throughout the United States.
People who love their dogs would happily dole out the small cost associated with their dog’s evaluation rather than face no insurance. This is not a blanket endorsement of the American Kennel Club. However, their Canine Good Citizen certification is a strong indicator of Fido’s friendliness and steady temperament.
The insurance industry has always adapted coverage to meet the needs of a changing society. Dog ownership is not changing; in fact as crime rates escalate, more Americans turn to dogs for their safety. Underwriters do not understand canine temperament. Instead, there has been a knee-jerk reaction to exclude one of our home’s best protectors against burglars, and many Americans’ best friends. Simply, insurers refuse to take a more nuanced approach to underwriting dogs. Using the Canine Good Citizen is a solid approach instead of a blanket exclusion by breed. It might take some time to develop the partnership with the AKC, but in a previous discussion I had with a staff member at the AKC, they are eager to help.
Americans love their dogs. And dogs will not go away. Instead, more owners will deny they own an excluded breed and insurers will be stuck in coverage battles that will do nothing to further the industry’s image. Additionally, messing with America’s best friends will do nothing to improve the industry’s always struggling image.
It’s time for the insurance industry to wake up and smell the dog food. A more nuanced approach to pet underwriting is a win/win for the industry and for pet lovers everywhere.
Posted by Nancy on December 24, 2013 in Associate in Claims Classes
I’ll be teaching the AIC 40, Personal and Commercial Auto Coverages, online beginning February 20, for Prepademy. Visit this link for more details. Remember, your professional education is something no one can take from you.
Join us for a great classroom (online) experience!