A well-trained, motivated workforce is good for everyone – but job cuts threaten to create a skills gap in the industry

There’s no doubt that today, more than ever, consumers want value for money.

That means that when they look for insurance, they expect to deal with someone knowledgeable, well-versed in the latest products and au fait in client interaction.

However, difficult economic times have meant that many insurers have been forced to shed personnel, resulting in an exodus of experienced, qualified staff from the industry.

If this trend continues, it could lead to the loss of key technical skills that I believe make up the very core of this vast and complex industry.

As such, it is paramount that insurance brokers offer a high standard of service and provide clients with highly qualified and experienced staff.

Higos has always promoted the importance of staff training and we place a heavy emphasis on career development to set our staff apart from our competitors’ – an approach that would be beneficial to all in the industry.

But good training demands more than just lip service; it should be a comprehensive mixture of both formal training and ‘on the job’ experience.

Our approach is to insist that all new trainees begin working towards their CII exams, following the completion of a comprehensive three-week induction course. Far from being met with resistance, we have found the opposite.

When presented with the opportunity to enhance their prospects within the company and grasp a greater understanding of the insurance industry, trainees are keen to become involved and we have enjoyed a higher than industry average pass rate of 90% in the examinations.

Regardless of whether a company is small or large, training courses, examinations and CII manuals are a worthwhile investment as they bear fruit in driving the business forward.

The emphasis on customer-facing skills must also not be underestimated; job cuts and the rise in overseas call centres can often be detrimental to the quality of service offered and it’s well known that customers place a great deal of importance on customer service.

We have found that the more time and effort that is invested in our trainees, the more they invest in their career and ultimately, the better job they do for the company.

A strong training programme fuels self-motivation and builds the desire to undertake personal and professional development.

What’s more, this ‘go-getting’ culture we have fostered has had a huge positive impact on the business as a whole, allowing us to pursue an aggressive expansion plan and build up new business.

It is vital that all brokers look to adopt this attitude. So often – and especially in times of economic difficult – staff training can fall by the wayside in favour of other areas, but this would be a grave mistake to make.

By investing in staff, brokers will be repaid with enthusiasm, appreciation, respect and passion – all invaluable.

I fear that not taking this side of the business development seriously will inevitably stoke a rise in consolidation in the market as companies suffer a chronic lack of staff succession planning.

Ian Gosden is managing director of Higos Insurance Services.