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Make the Most of Your Training

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.

Writing Coaches

An interesting editorial in Business’ Insurance’s April Industry Focus touched on an issue I’d blogged about a few weeks ago. Big changes are heading our way as Generation Ys enter the workforce.

Editor Ronn Zolkos (he’s obviously a Gen Xer; notice the spelling of his first name!) commented on a problem discussed at the Finance and Insurance Workforce Summit recently in Chicago. That problem is the poor writing ability of Gen Ys.

Apparently, constant instant messaging and e-mailing has enabled a generation to skip grammar almost entirely. Although highly competent technically, members of this generation may lack even rudimentary writing skills.

Zolkos recommends hiring writing coaches for the Yers who struggle with writing’ write. He called hiring a writing coach a “perk.” Others managers may, as they struggle with this critical issue, call it a “necessity.”

Get Ahead of the Market Madness

This has been a busy new year for me. While I don’t think the recession is over yet as the financial pundits trumpet, since the first of 2010, I have received more agent and carrier phone calls and emails asking about advertising collateral and training.

As the recession lifts, put your organization in the public eye now and get ahead of the competition. I would love to help.

Here are just a few of the projects I’ve either completed or have in process right now.

  1. Website rewrite for a large Midwest independent agency.
  2. Website rewrite for a California insurance agent who sells to a highly technical market.
  3. Helped an agent craft his biography, which he loved. We found an awesome “hook” that makes his prospective clients say, “I need to meet this guy!” Boring biographies are, well, boring. Most professionals need at least one and perhaps two bios. I would love to chat with you about building a strong bio.
  4. Completed three seminars for Insurance Journal Academy on agency/carrier human relations management. My next seminar on April 28 is on the Agent/Carrier claims relationship. I promise, if you attend, you’ll never look at claims management and service expectations again!
  5. Writing curriculum for CPCU education.
  6. Presented to the Arizona Claims Association about the importance of diversity in the workforce.
  7. Assisted a large MGA with marketing collateral.

Why wait until the economy is in full swing to advertise? If I can help, please contact me at 602.870.3230.

Diversity a Great Topic for the Insurance Industry

I spoke last month at the Arizona Insurance Claims Association, the premier (albeit only!) organization in Arizona dedicated to the property/casualty claims adjuster. When I last spoke there, I talked about the brain drain carriers and agents are experiencing and how Gen Xs and Ys could leverage this exodus to their advantage, but I wasn’t sure diversity would go over too well. One of my blog readers asked how it went. Frankly, I was surprised by how interested the audience was in this topic.

To remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing and global market, the insurance industry, like any other industry, must have top intellectual talent. And that talent lies in diversity, not just of race and gender, but in diversity of thought.

Studies have repeatedly shown that diverse groups perform better and that a certain amount of healthy conflict must occur before groups arrive at superior decisions. And because the insurance industry is becoming more and more team-driven, the need for training in areas of diversity becomes even more critical. Studies repeatedly show that diverse teams make better decisions.

If your organization would like to explore diversity or inter-generational issues, I present in these critical areas. As an instructor for Insurance Journal’s Academy, you are invited to take part in my upcoming seminars or purchase my earlier seminars for your organization.

The link to the Academy is here.

Have a great, productive week.