Canadian Underwriter

Kristin Coulombe: Attracting and retaining top talent

July 18, 2018   by Greg Dalgetty

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Working at an insurance brokerage may not be top of mind for many students— but Kristin Coulombe is determined to change that.

“It’s quite a challenge to shout from the rooftops how amazing this industry actually is,” says the director of human resources for Jones DesLauriers Insurance Management Inc. (JDIMI). “People don’t really know that until they’re in it, or if they know someone else who’s in it.”

Since joining the JDIMI team in 2012, Coulombe has been involved in reaching out to local colleges and universities to hire students on a part-time basis for summer and winter opportunities.

“We like bringing in students to train them and get them to learn about insurance,” she says. “We do that knowing that they’re going back to school.”

So far, the strategy has been paying off.

“We have great stories in-house about individuals who have worked with us for three years part-time while they were getting their insurance education, and we pretty much guaranteed them a full-time job when they graduated,” Coulombe notes. “We have a few people like that. It saves a tremendous amount on training, development, time and cost for us to be able to do that. Plus, we’re giving back to the community—giving back to the schools.”

Retention strategies

But cultivating young talent is only part of the battle—retaining high-performing employees is also high on Coulombe’s list of priorities.

“It’s a very competitive marketplace, and in order to attract and retain, we know that we need to create different opportunities and different levels in our structure in order to support the growth and development people aspire to,” Coulombe says. “We’ve added a bit more hierarchy in our organization so that we have more leadership versus a flat structure, just for greater development opportunities and bandwidth as we grow.”

Coulombe’s HR initiatives have received the full support of JDIMI president Shawn DeSantis, who joined the company a year after Coulombe.

“He’s a huge advocate of the HR function, which is great,” Coulombe says. “Together, he and I have really transformed what the strategy is and what it will be going forward.”

Vision and values

Another one of Coulombe’s accomplishments at JDIMI has been helping the company establish a vision and values.

“We had the entire executive team come together and think long and hard about what we want our employee and customer experience to be like,” she says. “It was a great exercise to go through and learn about their business, their view of it and how we’ve been able to instill that in our business on a go-forward basis.”

While customer satisfaction is always a concern, JDIMI also makes employee satisfaction a point of emphasis.

“When our employees are here, it’s not just about the job that they’re doing every day,” Coulombe says. “It’s about their life and what they want to get out of this opportunity personally and professionally.”

Cultivating culture

A clear company culture is key to an engaged workforce.

Fortunately, Coulombe has had an ally in DeSantis in establishing a strong culture at JDIMI.

“He really believes, as do I, that your culture is what drives performance,” she says. “If people are happier at work, you will see greater levels of performance.”

So—what it JDIMI’s company culture?

“I would say the culture is very entrepreneurial. Our culture is one where we focus on the client experience— going above and beyond all the time, every time…

“We’re an aggressive sales organization, and that does shine through in our culture as well. We are competitive and we like to win. And we’re also very social.”

But, much like the weather, culture can change when you least expect it. Much of JDIMI’s growth in recent years has come from acquisitions, which means maintaining a consistent company culture can be a challenge.

“Culture is something that’s always evolving. When you’re in a growth mode, like we are, and constantly acquiring businesses, sometimes your culture can change and shift,” Coulombe notes. “If you don’t constantly pay attention to that, it can get away from you.”

But, to date, JDIMI has successfully retained the culture it strives for.

“Our brokers are so professional. I look at an insurance brokerage just as I would look at a professional accountant or a professional lawyer. They’re intelligent, professional individuals helping other professionals mitigate their risk. And it’s something to be proud of.”

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the December 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.