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Should Your Employees Be Specialists or Generalists?

When you’re hiring for insurance jobs, you have a conundrum: if you hire for your new position, how specialized should that position be? Is it better to hire a specialist or a generalist for your insurance jobs? There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.


Hiring a Specialist 

The benefit of hiring a specialist is that you get a depth of experience and knowledge that your new hire brings to the subject. According to Inc, “Conventional wisdom dictates that having a team member who can adapt and fill multiple roles is more desirable than an individual with specialized—read, limited—knowledge and skills.” However, if you’re biased against specialists, you could be wrong. Your agency may actually need a specialist right now.

A specialist can fill your company’s needs and allow you to move forward in a specific area where you’re stuck in your business. For instance, maybe your insurance agency needs to focus on developing marketing materials but you have little to no experience in marketing strategies.

While you may be able to create something to use for marketing purposes, your lack of experience makes it difficult to create effective materials. Alternatively, you could hire a consultant or contractor to assist you with this time-limited work. The skills that a contractor or a specialist employee brings to the work can be very worthwhile. After all, the specialist can work more efficiently on the project and the end result will be more effective marketing materials.


Hiring a Generalist 

Are generalists helpful to your business? Some positions are necessarily generalist positions. For instance, your office administrator will be asked to juggle many different types of work at a time and with great competence. You wouldn’t hire someone who can only manage emails unless you were a much larger insurance company. At a small company, many of the insurance jobs will have an element of generalist to them.

Hiring a generalist allows you to find people who can grow into different positions at the company as well. If you hire someone to assist with many different insurance positions and they show a focused interest and ability to sell auto insurance, then you could consider moving them into a specialist position over time. You can train that individual and note their interests and training needs, allowing them to become the person that your insurance agency needs.

Interestingly, according to The Guardian, “More than half of employees with specialist skills now consider their job to be mostly generalist despite the fact that they were employed for their niche skills.” While pushing specialists to expand their focus can work well in an agency, it can also undermine the specialist skills that you hired for in the first place. Generalists don’t have time to be subject matter experts in all areas. If you really do want a specialist, don’t push that person to do everything if you value the time they spend continuously becoming more aware of the issues in their one area.

Are you looking for new employees for your insurance agency? If so, contact American Agents Alliance today. Our agency hiring services can help you find people who are the right fit for your agency. Contact us to learn more.

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