June 17, 2020 by Nick Novinger, Regional Manager (Quebec), Canadian Insurance Brokers Inc.
One question top of mind for brokers and their clients is: Will this remote work environment be something that we’ll see for the long term? Maybe not entirely, but there are parts we can take to make the broker world better than it was before.
A few months ago, the walls came down and across the country as millions of Canadians were told to hunker down in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost overnight, workers and businesses across Canada were catapulted into a remote work arrangement whether they were ready for it or not.
Most brokers are into their third month of remote work and, while much has been learned, the experience has raised questions around what the future of the working broker will look like.
Yes, this new reality for our business is something that’s been brewing for a long time. COVID-19 was the catalyst we needed to overcome the initial inertia around the status quo.
The vast majority of staff and brokers have adapted. Everyone is rapidly deploying new tools and processes to enable this new reality. The ones who were on the fence about remote work are going to have a tough time going back into the office after experiencing the freedom that remote working provides — not to mention the time (life) saved by not having to commute.
Despite the usual glacial pace of technology adoption in the insurance industry, brokers have been investing heavily in technology infrastructure to update the way they work with each other and with clients. Brokers are seeing massive efficiency gains from simply replacing in-person meetings with Zoom (or similar) software. A broker that used to see four or five clients a day in-person can now see 10 or more online in the same amount of time.
This is still an industry rooted deeply in relationships. Some brokers may fear that closing business will be more difficult without those in-person interactions. That might be true for some clients. But brokers just need to take lessons from Silicon Valley — use technology to enhance client relationships; increase service delivery; and boost the number of touchpoints through automation and mass personalization.
As the average age of working professionals drops, staff and clients will come to prefer this type of interaction —and be more versed in it.
The insurance industry can further benefit from taking more pages out of the book of leading tech companies by embracing a more efficient and resilient decentralized model of work. Without being tied to a physical location, firms will have the triple benefit of cost savings, efficiency gains and the ability to access talent from anywhere in the world. For brokers, they benefit from a boost in quality of life, higher retention and job satisfaction.
Coming out of this pandemic, brokerages can choose to downsize offices to just serve walk-in clients. Some firms are allowing employees the option of working from home. Some can choose to receive a monthly allowance for home office upgrades or rent a co-working space closer to home. This is a trend that could grow throughout the industry.
The question then becomes: How to get ahead in this brave new world? A broker’s focus should be on processes over technology. Put it this way: A bad golfer who buys new golf clubs is still a bad golfer.
Successful remote work depends on two keys — communication and coordination.
When it comes to communication, focus on using the right medium for the right ideas. Complex ideas are best communicated over video where facial expressions and other social cues can be picked up. Small, non-urgent requests are best made over email or some other messaging system like Slack. Also, communicating frequently with colleagues will help prevent roadblocks and build trust.
It can be hard to keep everyone synchronized while working remotely. Formal processes are important, such as setting clear performance metrics, keeping documents up to date and scheduling team lunches. One-on-one video calls at least once a week with a different person in the organization can be helpful, too. These will simulate some of the informal conversations you might have by the watercooler in the office and help build teamwork and solid company culture.
Never let a good crisis go to waste, as the saying goes. Continuing to use those tools that have made brokers stronger and more efficient can’t be left behind.
Nick Novinger is regional manager (Quebec) at Canadian Insurance Brokers Inc. His website is www.novingerinsurance.com.
Feature image by iStock.com/LeoPatrizi