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How to Create Effective Development Plans for Life Underwriters

How to Create Effective Development Plans for Underwriters

Each person has their own quirks, the little things that help make them who they are today. When it comes to training, mentoring, and learning, it’s important to be conscious of the fact that we are not all cut from the same cloth. We all come to the table with different personal and professional experiences, expertise, adaptive learning techniques, and career paths – and definitely different personality traits. For this reason, we must be cognizant of these differences, embrace them, and ensure that we tweak our training sessions and/or development plans to encompass the position(s) of the audience.

The learning environment is also an important factor to consider. We’ve all had to make adjustments to work settings due to the pandemic, but it doesn’t mean that the need for training has dropped off.

To set yourself up for success when designing and delivering development plans or training sessions, I’ve outlined five key elements to consider below.

Getting Started: Back to Basics

Before you start to design or develop your training program, you need to know your purpose and audience. If there is a new system, a process or procedural change, or a new product being developed, the purpose is easy to identify. You already know the learning gap and what the objectives will be.

But what if this isn’t the case? How do you assess if there is a training gap within your underwriting team?

Along with ever-changing medical advances, the role of an underwriter is growing in complexity and specialization, and with the addition of artificial intelligence (AI), the world of insurance is moving at a quicker pace. Beyond these industry-wide shifts, do you know where your underwriters are lacking in knowledge? What career path they would like to follow? Are they interested in project work, client visits, volunteering for a committee, or becoming a mentor or a formal trainer? Are there areas of expertise that they need or want to focus on?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s time to grab a cup of coffee and have a chat.

Discovering the Learning Opportunities

Pinpointing the learning gap for the individuals on your team is the starting point for developing a training plan. There are various ways to gather the required information. You could utilize an online assessment tool, build surveys or questionnaires, audit results, or just have a conversation with each member of your business unit.

Ask your team what topic they would like to learn more about. All learning doesn’t need to be formal, in the classroom setting, or time consuming. It could be as simple as preparing a lunch and learn, case study or case clinic, webinar (for remote employees), or a simple online training course that the team can complete at their leisure. Should you decide on a self-directed learning format, adding a deadline can create a sense of urgency and help keep your team accountable.

Designing the Experience

Once you have secured the topic or area of development, the next step is getting to know your audience. Assuming the audience is a group of underwriters, you’ll need to know their experience level, areas of expertise, and number of years in the industry to make the experience as effective and enjoyable as possible. This will all help you determine the best way to deliver the information to the group.

Is the training in person or remote due to group gathering limitations? How many people will attend? Is it a classroom setting or a more informal setting? All of these factors will impact the effectiveness of the training and the ability of attendees to learn. Be mindful of how you can design the learning experience to minimize distractions and help keep participants’ energy and motivation high throughout the program.

Preparation and Delivery

These guiding principles and tips can help you deliver a great session. Use them as you begin development and as a reminder, check back before delivery.

To start, establish a list of clear objectives and refer to them often as you prepare the subject matter. This will help keep you on the right track and help you achieve your training goals.

As you develop the program, organize your training materials in a logical order. Cover and explain the basics. Make sure your audience understands them before moving on to more detailed and technical information. Set priorities and allocate less time to less important details. Spend most of your training time on the absolute need-to-know material. Customize your material to your audience, experience level, and knowledge gap.

Be prepared. Practice going through the material out loud, have someone listen and provide their feedback, and make any adjustments necessary in order to facilitate an infallible presentation or training session.

It may sound obvious but having an agenda with time limits and sticking to it can make a big difference. This will help you stay on track, ensure you cover everything you want to, and stay mindful of your trainees’ time. Time is precious and people would much rather be done earlier than expected and have a few minutes back in their day.

As you approach the start time for the learning experience, prepare your space and ensure all training materials required are complete and accurate. Any media that you need (i.e. laptop, projector and screen) should be set up and working properly.

On the day of the training, try these tips to keep your audience engaged:

  • Start with an ice breaker. This could be sharing a fun personal fact or completing a simple problem-solving activity in small groups.
  • Reveal what the take-away from the session will be, emphasize key words, and incorporate pauses. This will allow the information communicated to sink in.
  • Be engaging. Utilize eye contact and try adding some humor or personal experiences and anecdotes in the content. We all love stories and they can be a useful mnemonic strategy.
  • Be enthusiastic about your topic. Show your passion and enthusiasm. If you are not engaged and enthused about the topic, how to do you expect your audience to be? Remember you are the subject matter expert – have fun.

Post-training Session

After the training session, it may be beneficial to send out a quick survey to get feedback and gauge how the audience found the experience. There is always room for improvement. Reach out and provoke honest feedback.

What better way of knowing how to improve than to ask those that participated? As a mentor, trainer and forever student, constructive criticism should be welcomed with open arms.

Remember: Be yourself; show your passion and enthusiasm; be prepared; have fun; and learn from the experience.

No matter the subject matter or objectives, the experience will be a bi-directional learning opportunity. Make the most of it and enjoy the process!

If you are looking for a training program to supplement your organization’s resources, contact us about RGAX Underwriting Training Programs.

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Written by: Karen McLeod

Karen McLeod is the Director of Underwriting Services at RGAX. She is responsible for managing a team of life underwriters and providing superior service to current and prospective clients. In addition to fifteen years’ experience in the insurance industry, she has extensive experience in life, critical illness, and disability insurance and in structured settlements, life valuations, and providing invaluable coaching to underwriters of all levels. Karen holds FALU and FLMI designations and is currently the Assistant Director for the CIU’s program committee.

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