April 6, 2023
A Checklist to Successfully Hire Remote Account Managers
by Mary Newgard
Buffer has been studying remote workers for several years. Their 2022 State of Remote Work report surveyed over 2,000 people in 16 countries with three-quarters at firms with less than 500 employees. Consistent with their 2021 findings, the most recent study showed “97% of respondents would recommend remote work to others, 97% want to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, and 49% prefer fully remote as compared to only 16% that want office-occasional structures.”
Avoid the Traps Other Agencies Fall Into
We all read this and think that insurance organizations must offer remote opportunities to attract and retain top talent. However, in 2022 my team saw a concerning number of insurance professionals, especially account managers, seek new employment because their remote situation was not good. The overwhelming majority said their agency did not have a communication, integration, or management plan in place for remote employees.
How do so many agencies end up with frustrated remote employees? It’s because they hired out of desperation. Up until 2020 the average account manager search took approximately 60 days to hire. From 2021 onward the average fill time increased to nearly 120 days. When jobs are open for twice as long, customers become angry and service teams overworked, not to mention the increased competition and poaching from outside companies. I understand why agencies made hiring adjustments. That said, remote is only a temporary solution if you can’t retain hires at the same rate as in-office employees.
A Checklist for Recruiting Work-From-Home Account Managers
I don’t advocate for across-the-board decisions to allow all positions to work remotely. There is a time and place for account manager positions to be treated differently. This checklist should help you determine if hiring remote, on a particular search, is right for you.
Can We Train On Our Agency Management System?
Some agencies say “yes” with the qualifier that candidates must have experience working on the same system- Epic, AMS360, Sagitta, TAM. For roles like tech, assistant, and CSR that require a lot of training, in-office is probably best.
Will We Treat Them the Same as In-Office Employees?
If you won’t pay for transportation and lodging so remote workers can attend culture events (holiday parties, training, annual meetings, client visits, and team building events), then say “no.”
Do We Consider Remote Work a Special Perk?
A “yes” answer invites an attitude of suspicion, as if the person is not afforded similar workplace flexibility with hours, PTO, and so forth. Some agencies install software to monitor computer login and keystrokes. Do not go remote if you’re teetering on this cliff.
Can the Producer Adapt?
If “yes,” then hire remote account managers because the producer is fully comfortable not seeing his or her client service team in-person. If “no,” do not hire remote account managers no matter how badly the producer needs the role filled.
Can the Manager Adapt?
Account manager retention starts on day one. Regular check-ins and performance reviews are critical and should happen more frequently than with office staff. Hire remote if the supervisor commits to a communication plan.
A lot of insurance agencies told me their turnover was twice as high in 2021 and 2022, as much as 15% for regional brokers. I personally saw the highest number of terminations and resignations for new hires in 2022 than any year in my career. Don’t hire remote if you cannot onboard and train virtually.