Chemistry in the Insurance Agency Workplace

12thNov. × ’13

Chemistry in the band and in the insurance agency“When we kicked Topper out of the band for being unhealthy, we spoiled the chemistry of the band.” – Clash frontman Joe Strummer on the ripple effect of firing drummer Topper Headon.

All too often, we hire to fill a job opening with a focus only on the skills and experience necessary to fulfill job duties.  Sometimes, if we have had our corn flakes as part of our balanced breakfast, we might feel a little visionary and look to the long-term developmental potential of a candidate.  But each addition or reduction in head count also profoundly impacts team and insurance agency performance.

I was reminded of this recently during a fascinating presentation by LifeCourse Associates‘ Warren Wright.  The presentation, ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout Those Generations’, was part of the excellent agenda at the Aartrijk hosted Brand Camp 2013.  As the title suggests, Brand Campers were treated to an overview of generational attitudes and expectations.  During 2011-2012, LifeCourse conducted a study on generations* within independent insurance agencies sponsored by Assurex Global.  The findings are sobering.  For instance:

  • Full time employees who perceive that generational differences ‘sometimes/often pose challenges’:  72% within insurance agencies as compared to 54% across all industries.
  • Favorable perception of the insurance industry by generation:  Boomers – 43%, Gen X – 31%, Millenials – 24%.
  • 19% of Millenials see Boomers with a ‘very favorable view’, while only 5% of Boomers can say the same about Millenials.
  • 72% of Millenials would like hands-on supervisory guidance; only 44% of Boomers and Gen X-ers want that kind of intervention.

There’s more, so much more that I stopped taking notes in the midst of the presentation.  And upon reflection my mind has wandered back to a book I read years ago called Feed Your Eagles (Building and Maintaining a Top Flight Sales Force).  That book made the first real impression on me about the importance of sales team composition and chemistry, but from a different angle, suggesting that employers and managers needed to pay attention to the mix of producers and employees age groups.  The book leaned heavily on studies and publications from the mid-70’s that, for the first time, suggested there is an adult life cycle, much like the child development life cycle we are all familiar with (the terrible two’s, know-it-all teens, e.g.).

“Adults hope that life begins at 40–but the great anxiety is that it ends there.” – Daniel Levinson

A sales team composed of twenty somethings – invincible, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound and quickly recover from hang-overs – is going to function and perform quite differently than a predominance of ultra-serious thirty somethings, who just have to make their mark on the world right now and become vice president of something no later than the third quarter of this year.  Just to round out a few decades (and over simplify):  40-somethings are more likely to be dealing with their mid-life crises while 50-somethings just have to have someone to mentor.  And what would the ideal mix of these age groupings look like?  You would want a 50-something or two to mentor all the groups, a few twenty-somethings for the sheer energy, sprinkle in some 40’s for experience and 30-ish employees to get the work done.  But wait, there’s more…

We can’t overlook that whole Venus and Mars thing.  I don’t think any of us, man or woman, needs to be told that the sexes approach business and relationships entirely differently and have to be managed accordingly.  Nobody ever said people  management was going to easy and now we have this generational cold cup of coffee staring us down on top of the life cycles and sexes.  But the first step in any 12 step program is recognizing and admitting you have a problem.  And if we can just start there, I think there is hope for independent insurance agencies to ace chemistry class.


*LifeCourse’s Generation Definitions by Year of Birth

  • Boomers – b. 1946 – 1960 (This definition of the Boomer generation moves me closer to the Gen X cut-off and makes me feel younger.  Thank you, LifeCourse!)
  • Gen X – b. 1961 – 1981
  • Millenials – b. 1982 – 2004




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