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Societal Trends

I participated in a teleconference today sponsored by the Society of Insurance Trainers and Editors and hosted by the Insurance Institute. Much of what was discussed was the issue of training younger generations, who, as one participant put it, leave school in a state of “permanent partial attention.”

This is the first true television and Internet generation and they live, he remarked, in a state of perpetual multi-tasking. (He then joked that some of us on the teleconference were probably multi-tasking. Yes, I was guilty of it, I was checking my e-mail at the time.)

In addition, he believes some members of this generation learn only what they need to learn then discard the knowledge, bringing their test-cram college mentality into the workforce. What can trainers do to help Gen Xers and Ys retain knowledge? One good tip was to set some training ground rules. Insist students to turn off cell phones, PDAs, and yes, their laptops if they have access to wireless Internet.

Next, since class participants often leave classes using 25 percent of what they learn, one trainer asserted that you can improve that rate to 90 percent if you involve supervisors who will reinforce, coach, reward, and encourage trainees in their newly learned skills. Supervisors must reinforce what is taught in the classroom or, no matter how sophisticated the training, it will fail.

Training, they insisted, must come from trainers who understand the cultures, the practices, and the processes of the insurance industry. Real-world examples are critical to learners, because if they cannot contextualize what they hear, no matter how smartly packaged the information, it is virtually useless.

It’s also useful to provide access to experts in the subject whom students, post training, can email or call for additional help when they need it. This allows students to put their knowledge into practice with the help of an expert mentor and without fear of ridicule for asking questions.

Finally, they believe, you must instill in insurance students that their insurance education is lifelong to ensure their success. I know when I earned my professional designations I was making a statement: That insurance wasn’t my job, it was my career.

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