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How This Agency President Stifled Turnover by Creating a Flexible Culture

Posted on June 07, 2016 by Guy Weismantel

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Reducing employee turnover is important.

So important in fact, that we are continuing our focus on the topic this week by drilling a bit deeper with President and Agency Principal of Harbor/Brenn Agencies, Ashley Browers-Whitney. 

The Harbor/Brenn Agencies pay a lot of attention to their company culture. On a management level, they spend a lot of time and effort on keeping staff engaged. The result? “We have a very low turnover,” says Ashley Brower-Whitney. “Our staff tend to retire out of here rather than leaving for other agencies.” 

Brower-Whitney attributes a lot of this employee loyalty to the conscious efforts Harbor/Brenn has taken to create a flexible, engaging work environment. 

“You have to take care of your people,” she says. “There are a number of ways to create a positive work environment that encourages engagement and accountability that are not salary driven.” For example, she provides her staff with flexible work schedules, mobile technology, the opportunity to train or attend courses, and community involvement opportunities.

Ashley Brower-Whitney's company culture

Related: 3 Key Findings Connect Agency Technology to Improved Employee Morale 

“We encourage, promote, and allow time for our workers to get involved in the community, whether it’s being part of a Rotary group or a young professionals’ organization locally,” Brower-Whitney says. Sometimes these volunteer activities take them out of the office during business hours, but Brower-Whitney ultimately feels it’s worth it. “You can’t just say you want your staff to be more involved in the community, you actually have to give them some time off to do it,” she says. “It’s worth it in the long run. It gives them a sense of importance as people and a purpose that translates into higher engagement and greater job satisfaction.” 

Making a cultural shift is obviously easier when you have the right tools in place. Digital technology gives agents the flexibility to work at the office, check in from the road, and catch up with whatever needs to be done from wherever they are. “I will say that the flexibility has increased significantly over the last five or six years,” says Brower-Whitney. “I have customer service reps who are parents. Today they can work from home two days a week, and get calls transferred to them just as if they were sitting in the office. The client gets the same experience and our CSRs gets more flexibility in their lives.” 

Watch: Interview with Ashley on how she manages her digital workforce:

Related: How to Take Your Agency's Company Culture from Stagnant to Stellar 

Digital technology and robust management systems give today’s independent agency plenty of tools for creating a truly mobile office, but Brower-Whitney thinks the most important part of creating a positive work culture comes from a new way of thinking, not new technology. 

“Listen, mobile technology is great, but that’s only part of the solution,” she says. “For example, we let people bring dogs to the office. I honestly think that’s the main reason why my most recent hire joined our team. Stuff like that really makes a difference, but it sometimes requires a deliberate change towards a more flexible mindset.”

You can learn more about improving company culture in our new free e-book, "Managing your agency workforce in the digital era: Strategies and solutions for maximizing employee performance and engagement." 

Wondering just how engaged your staff is? Take our interactive quiz to find out. 

Take the quiz

Mr. Weismantel is the Vice President of Marketing at Vertafore. With 20 years of marketing and financial leadership in companies such as Microsoft, Business Objects, Baxter HealthCare, Caremark International, and Expedia, Guy’s career has focused on bringing differentiated products to market and providing the “compelling reason to purchase” for customers and prospects alike.

Guy has a Bachelors Degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame, and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.




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