Why Culture Matters

In today’s tight labor market, employees are opting for a better culture over more pay. Can your agency deliver?

There is little chance that anyone in the insurance industry hasn’t gotten the memo—hiring, which was already challenging for the last decade, has become even more so in 2022. Blame an ongoing pandemic and a collective desire from employees for a more rewarding work experience for the shift, but make no mistake. A shift has indeed occurred.

It is evident in the number of employees who joined The Great Resignation, which emerged in 2021 and as millions of workers in the US were quitting their jobs each month. A PwC Pulse Survey for 2021 found that 65 percent of employees were looking for a new job, and 88 percent of employers were seeing higher turnover than usual.1

It is also evident in the current number of job openings—Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that there were 280,000 job openings in finance and insurance in September 2022.2 That number shows a decrease in job openings in the sector overall but reveals an industry still struggling to attract and retain talent.

It’s a struggle that continues in 2022. A GreatInsuranceJobs.com survey asked 59 companies about the jobs picture at their organizations. A total of 12,524 job openings were reported with another 18,543 predicted by the end of 2022.3

There is good news, however. The unemployment rate in the insurance industry is 1.7 percent—the lowest since 2006, according to GreatInsuranceJobs.com data. The reasons point directly to a company’s culture. MetLife’s 2022 US Employee Benefits Trends study shows that employees are 1.8 times more likely to stay in a job that offers them flexibility and more work-life balance.4

What Employees Want
In fact, when asked in a Unum survey what mattered most to them, employees listed their top three job criteria as generous paid time off; flexible and remote work options; and, paid family leave.5 While pay is an important factor, it is not the top priority.

Also, workers want to feel connected to their workplace. The MetLife study found that employees are looking for purposeful work, career development and training, wellness programs, and a supportive work culture.

What they don’t want is to punch a clock: Many employees are also opting for outcome-based work models over the traditional presence- or output-based models. An outcome-based work environment focuses on results rather than hours present. For example, an employee may do their best work between the hours of 7:00 am and 10:00 am or 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm when distractions are minimal. Forcing the employee to work nine-to-five could be hampering their productivity and performance levels.

In fact, companies that make that shift away from a presence-based model to one that allows them the flexibility to work their best hours have seen a significant increase in worker productivity. A 2021 Gartner Digital Worker Experience Survey reveals that 43 percent of respondents said they were more productive when allowed to work flexible hours.6

That flexibility is also key to retaining employees. Those employees who are offered flexible work schedules, whether in-office or partially remote, are reporting an easier time balancing personal and professional priorities (55.8 percent), less stress (44.4 percent) and more productivity (39.4 percent), according to the latest World of Work survey conducted by Workable.7 Employers agree: 64 percent of global business leaders report that flexible work arrangements have positively impacted productivity according to a Condeco report.8

Measuring Cultural Health
Is your culture one that appeals to employees and job seekers? There are plenty of measures available that can give you insight into your agency’s cultural health. Look for the following indicators:

A clear purpose
Do your employees tend to work in silos or are they all working toward a common goal? Do they feel like they’re part of the solution, or are they performing tasks without understanding how they interconnect with the larger objective?

Mutual respect among all employees
A healthy culture needs to support all team members, not just management. Do you trust your employees to get the job done or is your management team micromanaging? Some great ways to show respect feeds right back into the wish list of today’s employee: Flexible work schedules, remote/hybrid work options, career development, and a focus on employee wellness.

Tools, training, and development
Do your employees have the right tools to get the job done? Are you making sure to continue training and career development to help your employees shine? Do you invest in employee advancement?

Motivated employees
Are your employees problem-solvers? Do they proactively look for solutions or regularly team with other employees to solve issues? Or do they wait for someone to tell them what to do? Do they feel able to bring issues to management? Is there a process for collaborating with colleagues and managers to overcome obstacles?

Supportive and caring managers
Do your managers have regularly scheduled check-in meetings with each of their employees to discuss how they are doing? Do they spend enough time making sure everyone is properly trained so that they can have great results? Do you train your managers on how to be supportive and inspire their team?

Strong company values
A company’s value system helps build a foundation for a healthy work culture. However, it has to be more than stated; it has to be embraced and practiced. Does every member of your staff—from management to admins—espouse the company’s values and act with those values at the forefront of each decision?

A healthy communication process
A company that communicates with every member of their team has more motivated, satisfied employees. Employees want to feel part of the process. They want to feel valued enough to be part of the larger corporate conversation.

Building a Better Culture
Even if you think your agency has a good culture that will attract future employees and help you retain current staff, you must always focus on it and not take your culture for granted. To maintain, improve or create a great culture, you need to always focus on four building blocks.

Focus on communication
The healthiest work culture is one in which every employee feels connected to the organization, its goals, and its management team. In fact, your managers should be spearheading daily communication with all employees. Establish daily one-on-one conversations, weekly team meetings, and monthly individual employee check-ins. Use those times to listen to issues, connect employees with resources or other team members, set employee goals, and talk about whatever is on the employee’s mind. The more open your communication, the better supported your team feels.

Invest in your team
That means invest in the IT or infrastructure or staffing support necessary to help them be more productive. Likewise, you should be investing in career development, training, and mentoring for your employees. The payoff: A more productive employee who can perform at a higher skill level.

Adopt flexible work models
Establish and promote both types of flexible work—remote/hybrid schedules and flexible hours worked. Shift your operations to an outcome-based model where employee productivity is measured by benchmarks met and goals achieved, not by hours clocked.

Learn to trust
Trust your employees to get the job done. Let them work the hours they need to in order to do so. Encourage them to work their best hours in their most favorable location. In an outcome-based model, you can still measure their performance—maybe easier than in a nine-to-five setting. Setting benchmarks gives you the chance to see progress along the way. If an employee is struggling, you can identify it quickly and get them the training or extra help they need to meet their goals.

Also, trust your employees enough to let them take time off when they need it. A healthy work-life balance is one that gives them the flexibility to address both work and personal life without feeling the pressure to be on the job all the time.

The Desirable Culture
No matter how you approach building a stronger, more attractive work culture, remember to fully embrace the changes. A strong culture is one you build with intention and nurture for the long term.

Employees have any number of choices in where they work. In a time where worker shortages are hampering business as usual, putting effort into building a more inclusive, employee-focused culture could be the game changer for your agency.


  1. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/pulse-survey/future-of-work.html.
  2. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.t01.htm.
  3. http://images.greatinsurancejobs.com/images/(GIJ)2022_Insurance_Industry_Employment_Report_Final.pdfutm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Employment+Outlook&utm_campaign=Employment+Outlook.
  4. https://www.metlife.com/employee-benefit-trends/2022-employee-benefit-trends/?cid=c1b9c&utm_id=c1b9c&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=g_ebts_2q22_MetLife&utm_content=all_taken+from+adwords&utm_term=General&promoid=c1b9c&&msclkid=b7fd7c12f07d1b8626131f7fee6b4fa1&gclid=b7fd7c12f07d1b8626131f7fee6b4fa1&gclsrc=3p.ds.
  5. https://www.unum.com/about/newsroom/2020/december/work-perks.
  6. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/digital-workers-say-flexibility-is-key-to-theirproductivity#:~:text=Flexible%20work%20hours%20is%20key,them%20to%20be%20more%20productive.
  7. https://resources.workable.com/stories-and-insights/flexible-work-us#:~:text=The%20most%20popular%20benefit%20is%20that%20%E2%80%9Cit%E2%80%99s%20easier,are%20also%20popular%20benefits%20of%20flexible%20work%20schedules.
  8. https://www.condecosoftware.com/modern-workplace/research/modern-workplace-research-2018/.

Sharon Emek, Ph.D., CIC, is founder and CEO of Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE). WAHVE (www.wahve.com) is an innovative contract talent solution that matches retiring, experienced insurance, accounting and human resource career professionals with a company’s talent needs. WAHVE bridges the gap between an employer’s need for highly skilled professional talent and seasoned professionals desiring to extend their career working from home. From screening to placement, WAHVE is a comprehensive solution to qualifying, hiring, and managing experienced remote talent.

Emek can be reached at WAHVE, 1180 N Town Center Drive #100, Las Vegas, NV 89144.