Has the Insurance Industry Missed the Recruiting Boat?


All of us in the industry responsible for training and recruiting are working as hard as we can to attract new Millennials to our business. Focusing on colleges, we’re teaching, recruiting, interning and trying our hardest to attract new candidates. Sadly, our insurance classes are lucky if they have ten students.

Maybe our industry has missed the boat.

In 2008 – 09 when the economy tanked, the insurance industry missed a great opportunity. When the economy dissolved, the first thing to crash was the construction industry. What if our recruiters had focused on cherry picking construction managers, loss prevention personnel, estimators and other construction personnel who suddenly found themselves jobless? We wouldn’t be having the claims talent crunch we now face, at least in the property arena.

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Four tips to giving a great insurance speech

dumbpoodleAs insurance professionals, we must often deliver speeches in meetings or to large gatherings. It is never easy to find the time to prepare adequately for the talk. Even once prepared, many of us dread public speaking. These four tips will help you painlessly prepare your presentation.

  1. What is the theme of my talk? Always begin and end with a clear theme. If you are discussing premium increases at a Rotary Club, for example, your theme may be this: Premiums are increasing worldwide. The only way to control your premiums is through a more structured, loss-sensitive insurance program or through tighter risk management controls. Punch that theme repeatedly in your talk.
  2. Know your audience. If you are addressing your colleagues, your tone will be much different than when addressing CEOs of competing businesses, for example. Just because you feel comfortable with your audience, do not let your guard down too far. Remember that every word you utter could later appear on social media or in some blogger’s post, either in or out of context.
  3. What steps can the audience perform when they leave your talk that can help them implement action to your theme? Maybe they can meet with their current broker or hire a risk management consultant. Perhaps business owners should explore higher deductibles or other premium cost-saving measures. Anyone can regurgitate statistics and dry, “Rates are expected to increase six percent in the commercial property sector in 2015.” Provide action steps for your audience as a takeaway from your talk and watch their interest grow.
  4. How do you want your audience to feel after your talk? Open your talk with some humor and close with a laugh, as well. If you’re just not funny, find a funny meme like Dumbpoodle or make one yourself. Never let your audience walk away feeling gloomy. Audiences rarely remember content — they remember how you made them feel.

By taking these four steps each time you prepare a speech or even informal talks to your staff members, you will find preparation easier and your talk much more effective.

Improve your insurance technical writing by removing passive voice

meetingWhat is passive voice and why should you avoid it in your insurance writing? No matter what you’re writing for the insurance industry, a blog, a technical report or a white paper designed for marketing your business, passive voice weakens your writing. Once you understand a little about passive voice, it becomes much easier to find and eliminate it in your own writing.

What is passive voice?

Passive voice sentence construction occurs when the subject of a sentence becomes the object of an action. I know, it’s a grammar thing, something we disliked in school. Here’s an example of passive voice.

Our underwriting team was defeated by the western region.

Passive sentence construction weakens your writer because, in a nutshell, no one takes responsibility for the action. Written actively, this sentence would read like this:

The western underwriting region defeated our sales team.

Ouch! That wording smarts a bit more, doesn’t it?

In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon.

The applicant was rejected by Tom due to his negative loss history.

In active voice, the subject of the sentence (Tom the underwriter) performs the action.

Tom rejected the applicant due to his recent negative loss history.

One easy way to fix this and many passive sentences is to put the actor, Tom, ahead of the verb, “rejected” in the sentence.

Tips to find passive voice

To find passive voice, look for verb forms like “to be,” like “is,” “are,” “were,” followed by what is known as a past particle, a verb typically ending in “ed.” To make things harder, not all forms of “to be” are passive, but it’s a good red flag.

Here are a few more examples.

The claims department’s closing ratio was reduced last month by a high number of flu-ridden adjusters.

Rewritten actively you might say something like this:

Absenteeism in the claims department from the flu reduced last month’s closing ratios.

Here’s another passive construction.

The marketing team’s attendance at RIMS was delayed by one day due to bad weather in Atlanta.

Rewritten actively, the sentence might read like this:

Due to bad weather in Atlanta, the marketing team arrived at RIMS one day late.

I know what you’re thinking: “This is too hard! It’s grammar! I have a solution for you, or rather Microsoft Office does. While grammar check in MS Word won’t catch every instance of passive voice, it does a darn good job.

Here’s the plan

First, ensure you turn on grammar check in Word. If you aren’t sure how, read this link. Just be sure when you click your Review tab on Word and you click the Spelling & Grammar tab, the box at the bottom marked “Check grammar” has a check mark in it. (Now, if I’d said “is clicked,” I would be using a passive construction and Word would not catch it.)

Next, run the Spelling & Grammar check on your entire document. If you are new at writing active voice (the opposite of passive voice and what we strive for), you will probably have a high percentage of passive voice in your document. You will find the percentage of passive voice instances on the final grammar check tab under Readability, Passive Sentences.

Finally, to narrow down the location of your passive writing, go paragraph by paragraph with Spelling and Grammar. Do this by highlighting one paragraph at a time. If necessary, highlight sentence by sentence. Find the offending sentence and reword it. As you move to active voice in all your documents, you’ll find your writing comes alive and your audience, whether or not they understand grammar mechanics, will appreciate your writing style much more.

I’m a technical person – Give me a number

What percentage of writing should be passive? Professional writers argue percentages, but I strive for no passive writing in my work. If you’re new to this concept, shoot for five percent passive, and then aim even lower as you learn.

But we write about insurance,” you may argue. “It’s technical and somewhat boring!” Experts argue that even highly technical writing should avoid the use of passive voice. Even though we’re writing about insurance, we should never bore our readers. Our writing should be clear, crisp, concise and active. This writing style engages the reader and helps to ensure he or she will tag along to the end of your writing, whether it’s a claim report, an underwriting manual or a insurance white paper designed to educate clients or consumers.

In conclusion

One of the problems of passive voice is that we may attempt to distance ourselves from our decisions with the use of passive voice. I recommend you step up and say it like it is – take responsibility by using active voice. After all, that’s what we do in the insurance industry – we make decisions.

Active voice bolsters your writing, helping to engage your reader every step of the sometimes technical way. With the help of Microsoft and a few simple tips, you can actively improve your writing.

Top Presentation Tips for New Trainers

Read my recent article offering training tips for new trainers at original source.

First day on the job? Here’s some advice for success, from trainers who have been there.

Tips from success trainers.New trainers face daunting challenges. Whether your boss promotes you into a training position or you are hired from another organization, you want to get off to a strong start. In part, that means avoiding mistakes commonly made by new trainers.

Although we often learn our best lessons when we stumble, some mistakes can seriously hurt your training program, damage your reputation, or even derail your career. Here are 10 tips to help you get your training career off on the right foot.

Complete a thorough needs assessment

Whether you use a formal interview process, a job-analysis approach, or you simply host informal talks with supervisors, needs assessment is critical to training success. “The biggest mistake I made as a new trainer and instructional designer was not taking enough time to understand my participants’ needs,” says Susan Michels-Ricker, a systems developer and project analyst at Federated Insurance Company.

Managers often will suggest a solution to the wrong problem. “We need training on X,” supervisors may say, when in fact the problem is Y. During your needs assessment, talk with a few of the people you’ll be training to see what they think of the proposed solution.

If you find that managers disagree with end users, you must diplomatically discuss how to reposition the training to fill the actual learning gap. With today’s tight budgets, you simply cannot afford to spend resources on the wrong problem.

Don’t answer every question

You may have gone from a role as a subject matter expert to a trainer. However, many of the employees you will train also have a reservoir of applicable experience and knowledge. When possible, draw from the participants’ combined knowledge instead of always answering questions.

Also, allow “dead space” or silence, which provides participants a chance to contribute. Keep in mind that many people feel uncomfortable speaking up in front of an entire classroom, so design small-group activities that allow learners to collaborate as they solve problems. Let your learners work and interact; otherwise, you will surely lose their interest.

Vary your training delivery methods

Games, simulations, social learning—there is an overwhelming number of ways to approach classroom training. It can be tempting to resort to the traditional PowerPoint-aided lecture. But be careful not to turn the lecture into an information dump. This presentation style rarely results in participants putting their learning into practice.

One way to increase interest in your presentation is to incorporate a case study. Ideally, this is a compelling story of how the training material is applied in a real-life scenario. You also can solicit examples from trainees that reinforce the concepts they’re learning.

Develop a tool to ensure managers reinforce learning

Studies show that the majority of learning takes place after the training event, when managers actively reinforce a course’s learning objectives. Since most managers won’t take the course themselves, offer them a management tool that outlines the learning objectives and lists action items under each of the course’s objectives.

For example, if you’re teaching a new technology to call-center employees, the management tool should be a checklist of the key principles and the action items associated with them that you taught the class to apply in their day-to-day work.

Slow down

Often we plug too much material into a presentation, forcing us to rush through it. “One of the most common mistakes I see with new trainers who are experts in the material is covering the material too quickly and expecting the class to keep up,” says Micah Bean, a training manager at Answer Financial. “I remember ‘bulldozing’ right through my material because it was so easy for me. I have since learned to slow down and read the room to ensure everyone is with me.”

Don’t pack too much information into a single training event. It overwhelms participants and they often walk away with no clear vision of how to implement what they learned.

Check the room and double-check your equipment

You’d be surprised how often trainers arrive too late. Show up early enough to ensure that you are comfortable with the room setup and that your equipment is working. Then, work the room—greeting trainees and building rapport with them.

Use humor appropriately

“Focus humor toward yourself, not toward your trainees,” recommends Steve Price, a performance consultant in Phoenix, Arizona. “It takes only one person feeling offended to get you an appointment with your human resources representative.”

Although we are flooded with off-color humor in our lives, we cannot afford to use humor in the workplace that might invite complaints. When using images and anecdotes in your presentation, steer away from photos and stories that can cause controversy.

Use images instead of text whenever you can

In the book Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo recaps the evidence that shows we remember images much more readily than words. Three days later, people remember only about 10 percent of what they hear, according to Gallo. Pictures increase recall to an amazing 65 percent, proving that we can greatly increase learning if we use fewer bullet points and more relevant images.

Take time to rehearse

We spend weeks, sometimes months, designing the perfect curriculum. Then we fail to practice it. Training professionals need to master the presentation. This enables us to stay on track after participants ask questions or sidetrack us.

“The most common mistake I see for beginning trainers … is that they don’t work hard enough preparing,” says Kevin Ring, founder of the Institute of Benefits and Wellness Professionals. “I’ve seen people spend weeks prepping a slide deck, but never once rehearse the actual presentation.”

If things go wrong, do immediate damage control when class ends

Sometimes training sessions stray off course, perhaps due to disruptive participants or some other issue. When this happens, face problems head-on before they come find you.

Go to your supervisor first so that he isn’t blindsided. If necessary, talk to both a trusted senior leader in your organization and your training peers. They can help you troubleshoot what went wrong and determine how to avoid that problem in the future.

Never underestimate the challenges of a new training position. These tips can help you make a smooth transition and continue to thrive in your new role.