The HR Perspective on the Broker Channel

With Sarah Gillis, Human Resources Manager, McDougall Insurance

As one of the largest brokerages in Ontario, McDougall does a lot of hiring. So much so, that they have a special team dedicated to training. Sarah Gillis is McDougall’s HR Manager and that unique vantage point provides a window into how hiring and talent management is going in Ontario’s broker channel. 

Talent Abounds

The consensus is that it’s hard to find talent right now. At times it feels like we are all in a battle for the same talent—we might be in conversations with a candidate who’s also in talking to multiple other employers. Though we do notice variations in our applicant pools depending on our hiring location.

Most of our candidates have been individuals looking for a career change. Over the last few years, we have hired many new team members from so many differing industries, including health care, retail and hospitality. These new team members are usually shocked by all the insurance industry has to offer and wish they made the change earlier in their careers. 

Changing Work-Life Needs

Work-life expectations are changing, and companies must be open to changing with it. Over the last year, we’ve certainly experienced an increase in candidates looking for remote or hybrid work. Learning to operate with this new approach has been a recruitment challenge for our team. Being located primarily in rural Ontario, the remote environment did not align with our client’s needs or our collaborative culture. We provide flexibility to our team in other ways, however, it’s not remote or hybrid. This can limit the candidate pool for us. 

In the wake of the pandemic, more candidates are identifying the need to see greater support for employee wellness. Many are leaving jobs that have demanded long days and overtime hours and are seeking a 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday schedule. No one was immune to the burnout produced by the pandemic, and we’ve seen it result in candidates expressing the need to work in an environment that fosters a healthy work-life balance.

Soft Skills Over Everything

Our primary focus is on finding candidates with the right personality and culture match. We’re fortunate to have an excellent training team and a team of experienced brokers who are eager to support the training and development of someone new to the insurance industry. We can teach insurance, but the interpersonal skills and customer service abilities are more challenging.

Empathy is one of the most important qualities we look for throughout our hiring process and is also a quality our most successful hires embody. As brokers, it’s important that we’re able to step into a client’s shoes and to find commonalities with them. This helps build strong, trusting relationships and helps to provide individualized service.

Internal Affairs

Current employees are seeking new challenges within their day-to-day roles, whether that’s through training, education, or specialized projects. Further, employees are seeking career development and planning for their next career steps early into their new role, such as moving into commercial lines from personal lines or into team leads or sales positions. 

We are experiencing an increase in retirements and anticipate that this trend will continue over the next few years. All the more reason to bring in new talent to the industry and ensure we have the chance to transfer all that institutional knowledge!

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