Early talent training for the insurance industry is a topic that makes some L&D practitioners’ panic. But it needn’t be this way. Although early talent training requires some forethought, it’s work that will help you get the most out of your new hires and help them grow into your organization’s future leaders. We’ve been creating early talent training solutions for the insurance industry for over twenty years, and this guide gives you all the must-know information you’ll need to get started with developing your early talent training.
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Why early talent training in the insurance industry is important
Early talent employees are the foundation of many organizations, especially those in the insurance industry. Young employees enter the workforce fresh out of school or college, with enthusiasm, new ideas, and high ambitions. They are the future of business; they will challenge your ways of working and they’ll instigate innovation. But they’re coming into the working world with high demands, not least when it comes to training and development. Coupling these demands with The Great Resignation and the Skills Gap Crisis, now is truly the time to prioritize your early talent training.
Like many other industries, the insurance space has been through a turbulent time since March 2020. In fact, the pandemic accelerated employee demands in our industry. Insurance carriers and brokers now need to become more intentional about upskilling their employees, to develop the workforce they need both now and in the future.
It’s not enough to simply churn out training content and expect your new employees to engage with it. You must provide learning experiences to attract your people and engage them. And the first step to getting this right is creating compelling, engaging and best-in-class onboarding training. This is the first impression your people will get of your organization, and it’s their opportunity to choose to become engaged with your business, or not. When they’ve chosen to become engaged and enthusiastic about their role, they’ll want their training opportunities to not only continue, but to grow. In fact, nearly half of American workers say opportunities to learn is one of the most important factors for them to remain at a company. So, it is paramount to your business’ future success that you get early talent training right.
The different early talent roles
Early talent training in the insurance industry is truly unique. This is because your new hires will need training on both business skills, and the complex world of insurance. For example, these new hires bring only a few years of professional experience, so they’ll likely need training on soft skills to help them navigate the workplace, as well as industry and organization specific topics. Depending on their role, they might only need to have a high-level understanding of insurance terms and practices. If they’re in a customer facing role, they might need an in-depth working knowledge of the how and why of your offering.
High-level industry knowledge
There are specific roles within your business that may only need a high-level understanding of what you offer to the insurance industry. For example, new hires in finance, operations, or HR, might not need to know the granular detail about the insurance offering you provide. But they will need a top-level understanding of your offering, and they’ll likely need training on business skills relevant to your organization.
In-depth understanding about your offering
There are also some new hires that’ll need an in-depth understanding of your offering. For example, your sales, customer service and marketing teams will need to truly understand what you’re offering your customers, to fulfill their role adequately. And they’ll need to understand what makes your offering unique and different to those of your competitors. This is not information that they can learn before joining your organization, so it’s paramount this is included in your new hire syllabus.
Confident application of your offering
Lastly, you’ll have employees who need all of the above, and then some. They’ll need to understand the industry, your offering, where it sits in the market and how your offering meets your client’s needs. These employees, such as insurance agents and underwriters, will need a unique training offering that allows them to not only acquire the knowledge and skills required to succeed in your organization, but also to be confident in applying their newly acquired knowledge. What’s more, if you work in a niche area of insurance, you’ll also want to ensure your new hires have competencies in these areas too, such as Property & Casualty insurance training or Commercial Insurance Training.
Identifying the skills new talent needs
Identifying the skills each new hire needs might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. The easiest – and most effective – way to identify the skills your new hire needs is through skills mapping. A skills map is a matrix which allows you to identify the competencies needed, and your team’s level of accomplishment against each skill. Although it’s often considered on an individual basis, skills mapping can be used more holistically to understand the skills needed throughout your learner cohort. This is achieved through identifying the skills and competencies you’d train employees on and mapping them against the teams that requires these skills. You will then have a clear visualization of which skills are role agnostic and need to be included across the board in your new hire training, and which are more bespoke for a specific team.
Choosing the Right Delivery Method
The next step to creating effective early talent training is choosing the right delivery method. With so many modalities to choose from, this can sometimes lead to L&D feeling a little overwhelmed, and often results in opting for face-to-face training or eLearning, because that’s the easiest route to take. But early talent entering our organization this year and beyond are digital natives, and they have high expectations, so we must consider this when choosing our learning delivery methods.
Instructor-led training (both virtual and face-to-face!)
Instructor-led training (ILT) is the most traditional method of learning and is likely the one that your organization is most comfortable with using. An experienced professional that either works at your company or a trusted training provider, stands in front of a classroom and teaches – controlling the pace, knowledge and application throughout. And there are pros and cons to this approach.
On the plus side, ILT:
- Provides immediate feedback and clarification to learners. If they don’t quite understand something, the expert is there to give guidance.
- Allows new hires to network with one another and build relationships amongst the team.
- Learning can be personalized if needed. For example, if a specific question comes up, the trainer can handle that in the moment of need.
However, ILT can have its drawbacks including:
- Travel costs and expenses are much higher with face-to-face ILT.
- Instructor biases can seep through training, and there is no way of controlling this.
- It takes your new hires away from the day job and requires their full attention for a day or so.
eLearning and mobile learning
eLearning adoption has continued to increase in recent years, with the market poised to grow by $11.57bn between now and 2026. It is not surprising, ongoing advancements to eLearning is making the delivery method more accessible and mobile than ever before. However, despite market growth, eLearning does have some advantages and disadvantages for early talent training:
Advantages of eLearning include:
- Accessible to all your employees, regardless of location, at any time. It does not encroach on your new hire’s day job and allows them to learn at their own pace.
- eLearning is both time and cost effective. In contrast to ILT, the cost of creating an eLearning program ends when it’s developed and launched on your learning platform. Aside from your learning platform fees, it is the same cost despite how many people access the course.
- Your courses act as a job aids post-learning, allowing your new hires to dip back into courses when they need clarification on their understanding.
Cons of eLearning include:
- It lacks social interaction. In an increasingly remote world, we should be championing opportunities for our people to come together and collaborate with one another (whether that’s face-to-face or virtually).
- Learners must be self-motivated to learn. They must carve out time in their work schedule to complete eLearning – a discipline not all new hires will have!
- Passive course completion is common. Learners often click through the content quickly until they get to a quiz or an interaction, rather than actively engaging with the content. Active learning is proven to provide better knowledge and skill acquisition.
Blended learning is becoming increasingly popular in a post-pandemic world. Organizations are combining digital formats, such as eLearning, with self-directed study, and instructor-led training to create a learning solution that covers all formats and needs. But like all methods of learning, even blended learning has its pros and cons.
Notably, the advantages of blended learning are:
- You can leverage the benefits of all formats of learning. You can allow learners to learn at their own pace with online learning in some instances, and then you can also control the learning experience with ILT for more complex topics that might need a hands-on approach.
- Your new hires can prepare before class. Often in a blended learning format, trainers will implement a practice called ‘flipped classroom’. This means that resources will be given to learners before the learning intervention. This means learners can digest this content at their own pace, and the face-to-face interaction is saved for more practical tasks.
- It can boost retention! Many studies on blended learning show an uplift in knowledge retention. Which of course, is a win for trainers and organizations alike.
However, the drawbacks of blended learning should also be considered:
- It requires a good tech infrastructure to really work. Early talent now expects seamless experiences throughout their lives, and their blended learning opportunities are no different. So, if you’re going to embark on a blended learning program, you need the right tech to sit behind it.
- You need to encourage learner adoption of self-directed learning, or it’ll not work. Blended learning programs rely on learners learning away from an instructor-led environment, which may not come easily to some of your new hires.
- Sometimes blended learning can lead to learners feeling overwhelmed, due to the increased cognitive load. It’s important that learning is spaced out adequately and you are not putting too much pressure on learners throughout the program.
Three Steps to Developing Early Talent Insurance Training
We’ve been training early talent for over twenty years. We study the trends and adapt our approach for today’s learner. We have our development process down to a fine art. Here are our three steps to getting started with early talent training and development in the insurance sector:
Step 1: Start by Questioning the Brief
Before you jump straight into design and solution mode, you need to build an understanding of the scope of the brief. Interrogating the brief in this way will help you to align it to the curriculum design – leading to better impact overall.
The questions you should ask before getting started are:
1. What roles will the early talent be assuming? Client Service, Marketing, Production, Operations, etc. The answer may be a blend of all the above, and that’s absolutely fine. But it’s important to know who your target audience are before you start designing.
2. Will all your new hires start on the same date or staggering dates? This will impact both your learning delivery method and your launch date. (If you have lots of new hires starting over the space of three months, you might opt for a more digital approach rather than running multiple face-to-face sessions).
3. What content currently exists within the firm? What resources are available to leverage? Is there anything externally that can aid the design and development process?
A case study example
S&S Insurance has a cohort of new starters joining their organization on the same date. Therefore, they’ve created a program to target the entire cohort, starting with a face-to-face session on day one. In preparation for their new starts, S&S have looked at the different roles, and identified common knowledge and skills areas that overlap. These universal requirements will be trained first, such as insurance basics, insurance coverages, and business skills – to the entire cohort. Then new hires will follow spin off training related to their specialties, with each group having a self-directed ‘recipe’ to follow for their new hire training.
Step Two: Identify the Major Building Blocks
The next step is to sit down and identify the major knowledge and skills categories. Within these, list the essential information team members will need to know right away. Of course, there is likely to be a lot of information in each category, but what content is going to pique their interest and create confidence and curiosity immediately?
It’s important here to resist the tendency to jump in deep into coverage immediately. Instead, think about how you can help your new hires build functional performance right away. For example:
- Ensure they have an initial understanding of how the business works, e.g., your company overview, who’s who, contacts and coaches, etc.
- Provide immediate overviews of essential systems to function from day one – e.g., email, intranet, shared drives, etc.
- Avoid passive observation such as putting the new hire in a chair next to an experienced individual to observe. Get the new employee involved right away – early talent likes to have responsibilities from day one! Even if the responsibility or process will not be something they will always do, get them plugged into the business.
With all subject areas, identify the key knowledge and skills that the individuals will need to know and map out the plan and the curricula. What timeframe do you have? 6 months? 12 months? 18 months? Whatever the answer, start with a plan. This will not be a rigid structure, it will be adjusted and adapted over time based on needs, content, and progress. You should always start with a plan.
Step Three: Create Your Curriculum Blueprint
Your blueprint is your curriculum map of the program. It allows you to see exactly what you will create in one, holistic view. Make sure you integrate a wide variety of learning opportunities and interactions in your blueprint, and leverage technology and personal connections as much as possible.
After you have identified and created your content categories, your next step is to identify your learning interactions. It is important to utilize a variety of interactions within your program, as content and activities will resonate differently with each of your new hires. The best way to achieve the greatest impact is to mindfully design your learning program. Now is not the time to push difficult information, your early talent training must focus on the learner and provide an experience they want to repeat time and time again.
It’s also a great idea to apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to your learning experience design, aiming for the higher levels for your early interactions with new hires. Make sure you build in activities that help employees practice to achieve desired outcomes.
We recommend considering your first early talent training program as a pilot. Sure, it is a real program, and your new hires need adequate training; but it’s always smart to expect that you will have changes in future programs. The reality is that you may adjust the program as the first cohort is in progress. And trust us, this is more than acceptable, as long as it’s for the purpose of achieving better results!
Developing Your First Early Talent Training Program for the Insurance Industry
If this is your first time creating early talent training for the insurance industry, you might feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of content and pre-planning you need to do before you get to the development stage. Here at NLP, we’ve been creating early talent training programs for the insurance sector for over twenty years, and we’re more than happy to help you kick-start your early talent training. To learn more about our bespoke learning solutions, click here. Or if you’d rather book a no-obligation chat, we’d love to hear from you! Call us on (855) 726-7315 or click here.