Episode 018 — The Digital Broker Podcast

How To Create A Culture That Keeps Employees Engaged


In this episode of “The Digital Broker”, Steve and Ryan discuss what happens once a new employee is brought into the organization and how to keep that employee engaged and fulfilled so they remain happy with the organization.

By listening to this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What it means to have engaged employees
  • What changes are within the industry and the workplace
  • How to build a culture of trust
  • The impact of having engaged and trusting employees on the bottom line
  • How an organization can adapt to changing employee needs
  • What factors need to be considered when effecting change
  • Showing the importance of a position within the organization
  • Disadvantages to an organization that is not engaging with employees
  • Ways to understand if employees are actually engaged


In the last episode, the process of effectively onboarding new employees and ensuring their success was discussed. You can listen to that episode at Hiring and Retaining Quality Employees: How Effective Onboarding Keeps An Insurance Agency Afloat.

In this episode, Steve and Ryan discuss what happens after you found the right employees and how to ensure that they remain part of the team.

The episode addresses why it is important to have employees that are fully engaged and how to build and maintain an organization that fosters engagement and mutual trust.

What exactly does “employee engagement mean? (2:30)

The term “employee engagement” is often a rather nebulous term. One way to describe it might be to view it as a process that will encourage the development of employees who are committed to the goals and mission of the organization, i.e., employees that will stay “until the job is done”. Engaged employees are employees that appreciate the organization because of the culture that exists. Ultimately, the culture aligns with both the employee’s expectations and their desires. This alignment of the desires and expectations of the employee with what the organization actually offers is the basis of ensuring that work is fulfilling to the employee. This engagement is important to employees, especially younger ones. It is often heard that employees don’t simply want something that is “a job” but wants to make a difference and feel a sense of purpose for their role as well as being active in the community. Coupled with this is the realization that ultimately, it is a job and at times, everyone must put their “nose to the grindstone” and get the job done.

Creating a culture of engagement can vary greatly from organization to organization. It really depends on what the organization is willing to do. The impetus behind this is the retention of employees. It can be challenging in an industry such as insurance, where there is a great deal of paperwork, which can have the tendency to wear individuals down. It also needs to be recognized that newer employees are not looking to be the traditional twenty-year employees of yesteryear. Current trends indicate that employees end up staying for eight to ten years. Keeping employees for a decade is often a great success for an organization.

What are some of the changes occurring in the workplace and in management? (5:00)

Some of the outlook and mindset from older agency owners and management was the retention of a more rigid workplace, with the attitude of “that’s how we did it”, creating an environment of at-the-desk “heads-down” work. Science and studies are starting to show that things like short breaks periodically and other short distractions such as game rooms are important and actually increase productivity, encourage better documentation and foster greater attention to detail. This is resulting in a mindset shift in the workplace.

The change in outlook, coupled with the culture of trust can lead to a new culture of self-management. Companies moving forward today are transforming from a metric of “how much did you get done today?” to one of “did you hit the goal that you were supposed to hit today?”

Another important part of the equation and mind shift of management is the importance of effective job descriptions (as discussed in the prior episode). If the employee is fulfilling the duties of the job description, then there is no need to be concerned. In any organization, the metric of management seems to be gauged by the number of employees “in their seats” at their desk – regardless if working or not. Today’s dynamic is different. Rather than locking people out of Facebook, Twitter and other sites as was done a decade ago, a more progressive plan is one that builds a culture of trust. Ultimately, the restrictive approach didn’t matter, because even with social media blocked at the agency level, it was subverted due to cell phone capability.

How does an organization build a culture of trust? (8:00)

It is vital to for an organization to build a culture of trust. Without the trust, you will not be able to get to the next level. There are several steps in a good plan, including:

  • Effective onboarding of new employees
  • Clearly instilling what the expectations are through the creation of strong job descriptions
  • Effective training which establishes what the day looks like
  • Ensuring that the employee knows what success looks like
  • Ensuring that employees are not overloaded with too much work

Relationships are what keeps employees on the job. If the employee is overloaded, they often miss aspects of the culture and the building of relationships – important components of work life that will keep them there.

The relationship between a manager and an employee is often the most important relationship in the workplace. The manager needs to know what drives and moves the employee. If responsible for too many employees, the manager simply becomes a functionary for administrative tasks and doesn’t really build a relationship with the employees.

Is there an impact on the bottom line? (8:00)

Yes, there is a huge one. The most important one is employee retention. An engaged employee is one that buys into the culture, the vision, and understands what success looks like. This employee knows how to move the needle toward the greater good. This is not an employee that will easily leave for an additional $5,000 in annual salary because they feel like they can enact change. In order to accomplish this, the employer must put the effort into the culture. The empowered employee will feel like they are contributing to the greater good and will stay. Loss of employees through turnover is a drain on knowledge. Organizations need to be able to capture and transfer the knowledge of people that leave through attrition or retirement.

How does an organization adapt to changing needs and expectations of employees? (10:30)

Engagement and understanding of what an employee wants from a job have changed and is different than it has been in the past. Some things that companies offer include benefits such as employee reimbursement of tuition costs. These benefits might or might not be unlimited and might include longevity requirements. Another option is a paid sabbatical – lasting as long as a month. This serves as a long-term incentive to stay with the organization.

This sort of benefit recognizes that a lot of people want to “do things” these days rather than simply “buy things”. Offering benefits such as a sabbatical helps the organization as well. It encourages cross training because of the need to cover for an individual who will be gone for that month. The cross-training effectively becomes more robust and the organization is better suited to handle losses and absences.

Another option is expanded paid time off (PTO). Many organizations are offering PTO with no set amount. This is another example of fostering the culture of trust. It is expected that people will take the appropriate time off but will get done what needs to get done while planning ahead for others to fill in during their absence. Younger employees especially respond to this type of benefit with engagement and enthusiasm. The outcome is that employees pitch in and will work extra hours and weekends when necessary because they know they will have time off.

What are some of the factors that organizations need to consider as they begin to affect change in the culture? (10:30)

Some of the factors that agencies need to start thinking about include:

  • Are we hiring the right people that we can trust will get the job done?
  • Are we providing them the right tools and incentives – which can include the items discussed above, including game rooms, sabbaticals, and other motivational tools

This isn’t about getting more things done, but about getting the right things done. It’s about getting rid of the tasks that don’t need to be done. Some of this includes increasing the use of technology and outsourcing as necessary. The message sent is that we need our employees to do the important work.

How can an organization show the impact and importance of a role? (14:00)

There are easy ways to show the purpose and importance of the work being done. One example is taking new hires out to see claims resolutions or a loss recovery. These kinds of visits show the tangible impact of someone’s work. It shows how the paperwork actually is important and contributes to the greater good. Client visits show the ability of people to survive an accident or how they begin to recover from an unexpected death.

New employees, especially millennials and younger, like to look at their job as providing a valuable service and contributing to the public good. The good done by the insurance industry is often not readily shown – to the public or to employees. It is important to show to employees that their work contributes to good. Allowing employees out into the field allows them to see their purpose and their impact.

It is also important to take account managers out and introduce them to the client. By getting everyone to know each other, it introduces the team and also indicates that the account manager has become the first point of contact through the transfer of the relationship. In addition, it shows that the account manager understands the importance of his or her role.

What are the disadvantages of NOT engaging? (17:20)

As expected, a big disadvantage of not engaging with the employee is the turnover, however, bad communication is also a major negative byproduct. Communication is important from a number of standpoints including:

  • How do we communicate?
  • What do we communicate?
  • Have we communicated effectively?

This is where a culture of trust is important. Without trust, the communication can be taken negatively. If trust exists and the employee is engaged, it is easier to communicate. In addition, engaged employees will participate more and take the time to complete the tasks. Unengaged employees will find negatives more often than they find positive. A hyper-engaged organization is likely far more effective than a non-engaged organization of twice the size.

How can we tell if employees are actually engaged? (19:35)

It can often be difficult to see or assess if employees are actually engaged. While not “scientific”, a lot of times it can be assessed simply by smiles. If the employees are smiling and happy – if they are having a positive effect on the organization’s culture and getting things done – it’s likely they are engaged. These might not always be the most adept employees, but they are often the most engaged and productive. From a more scientific and technological standpoint, surveys can be used to assess engagement.

Some things such as culture, cannot be created through metrics. It is always more refreshing to work with people that are “up” and happy than people that are negative. The insurance industry presents a problem in this regard because skeptics are necessary for roles to protect the clients. The industry is by very nature, one that is risk-averse. In many ways, culture can be a mismatch between what we want and what we actually need.

What are there some examples of an employee becoming unengaged and leaving the organization? (23:05)

A specific example includes an employee that had been with an organization for about two years. The individual had worked with a few teams. It seemed on the surface as if they were progressing because they were moving from team to team. In the employee’s mind, they were moving laterally – movement without progression. In management’s mind, there was progression, because the employee was seeing different aspects of the organization.

It is important to have a discussion within each organization to determine what to do and to ensure that current and new employees are engaged. In addition, the reader may wish to check out other Digital Broker episodes on Data and Analytics and on Outsourcing Agency Operations.

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