We sit down with Fran Farrow, HR Consultancy Team Leader at Broker Network, to pick her brains on the pitfalls brokers often fall into, how the successful ones build positive cultures in the office, and the challenges of working in a regulated environment.
HR can seem daunting
We often find that HR is an area that weighs on brokers’ minds. Whilst larger organisations might have HR specialists within the team, more often than not this is a luxury that smaller independent insurance brokers don’t have access to.
Many brokers have got to where they are through their skills in insurance rather than a thorough understanding of HR within a regulated environment. It’s common to find brokers having to leave their comfort zones to recruit for the first time, for instance when a family run business outgrows the family and needs new employees, or has to deal with a difficult employment situation. Also common are new start-ups where the entrepreneurial energy has gone into growing business, with a robust HR infrastructure left on the backburner.
Regardless of whether you are a start-up insurance broker trying to put the right foundations in place or an established organisation looking to keep up with best practice, here are our top five tips to stay on top of your HR:
Don’t rely on off the shelf templates for policies or employment contracts
There is a wealth of content and templates available online for staff contracts and HR procedure. Our advice is not to rely on this. These are often generic and potentially out of date. As an insurance broker, you need to bear in mind that as you operate in a regulated environment, there are far more complexities to employing insurance employees, so general advice that isn’t industry specific can’t be utilised with any confidence.
This is a really important point, and isn’t limited to online HR templates. We have worked with many independent brokers who have used a general HR call centre service for day to day advice who have lacked the industry knowledge required to advise brokers. Whilst you won’t be expected to be an expert in HR and keep yourself updated in the ever changing field of employment law and best practice, you’ll need guidance from someone that is. Broker Network specialises in these areas but our services are only available to our Members: if you need support from outside the Network, make sure anyone you work with knows the insurance industry inside out, is comfortable with legislative regulations, and can simplify all this so you genuinely understand it.
Recruit the right people, and do it efficiently
It can be difficult to find the right people, so you need to know where to look, how to draw in the best candidates, and how to keep the process as cost / time efficient as possible. General recruiters will often struggle to understand the complexities of the roles you are looking to fill. Specialist recruiters can bring more expertise, but using recruiters will always be a costly option which often makes them an expensive luxury, particularly for start-ups.
Produce your own adverts, look into ways you can use your personal or social networks to spread the word, and think carefully about where you will be able to catch the eye of the right applicants. It is definitely worth thinking about seeking professional HR guidance to discuss best practice and who will write your recruitment documentation to save you time plus avoid you falling foul of equality legislation.
Get your rewards / salaries right
The rewards and salaries structures you put in place will have implications across the culture of the company, your business model as a whole, and it could also help draw in the best talent. It can be a powerful way to retain and motivate your employees as well as avoiding any negative publicity, such as the likes seen by the recent gender pay focus in the press.
However, there are strict rules in place regarding bonus and incentive schemes designed to prevent things like conflicts of interest and mis-selling in order to protect consumers. Make sure that whatever schemes and policies you put in place are FCA compliant and promote the right behaviours.
FCA Compliance will be a constant feature in respect of your employment practices from recruitment through to appraisal systems. For instance you will need to ensure adequate background checks, credit checks and references are performed for any new employees. Also, remember that ongoing performance management and training are an FCA requirement to assess and maintain competence levels. You need the necessary processes in place to remain compliant throughout the employee lifecycle and having a HR team who understand the industry and your FCA obligations is key.
Don’t lose sight of non-FCA specific regulations
Non insurance-specific legislation and regulations still apply to you. Stay on top of the basics like well written contracts, holiday entitlements and pension contributions.
Get these right and it can have a really positive impact across the company, but fall foul of these and the consequences can be severe: employment tribunals can be costly, divert resources away from day-to-day business and harm the reputation of the company. You can even be taken to tribunal by applicants during the recruitment process, so you need to be more careful than ever that you meet all best practices right from the start.
Broker Network’s HR Consultancy team specialises in offering HR support to independent insurance brokers. Let us know if you are interested in hearing more about this service, or Members, you can find further information via the Hub