In the battle for talent, here are five things that matter more than money

Written by: Oliver Connor, Owner Connor Insurance Agency

If you’re an independent agency, or any small business for that matter, it can feel daunting to keep up with larger corporations in the battle for talent. Our industry is already facing a shortage of skilled professionals and losing more experienced workers to retirement each year. Combine that with an estimated 1.7% unemployment rate within the industry, and you’ve got a very tight labor market. 

Traditionally, if you want to compete for talent, you can offer higher salaries. But money doesn’t grow on trees and you can’t always just pay more to outbid your competition. So, what can you do? 

Luckily, there are things in life that (some) people value more than money. Based on my experience as a small agency owner, here are five things that I believe you can offer to help give you an edge over other employers that have deeper pockets. 

Work/life balance

We like to say that providing work/life balance “doesn’t cost you anything.” And that’s true, in most cases. It’s one of the biggest draws to working at my agency, according to our small staff. 

We know it’s not traditional, but we keep hearing about the advantages of a compressed work week and only working four days, and we really think we’re on to something there. We try to close up shop around 1 pm on Fridays and even let departments rotate taking Friday off. You’d be surprised at the extra effort people will put in the rest of the week to make sure they’re in good shape to take advantage of these perks. 

We know it’s not the right policy for everyone, but it works well here, and our customer base has adjusted just fine. Ultimately, the business is doing great—no loss of productivity—and it gives our staff a significantly better work/life balance than they’d get at other places. 


When you think about why people complain about their jobs, or even quit, it’s often because they don’t feel like the work works with their life. Things like terrible commutes or rigid schedules are major problems. As mentioned above, creating a balanced culture is important. And it’s equally important to allow flexibility so that people can deal with the unexpected things they face each day. 

At our agency, everyone works on a laptop and our central applications, such as our agency management system AMS360 are all cloud-based with multi-factor authentication to provide mobility and security. This gives everyone the option to work from anywhere they choose, as needed. We are proud of the fact that everyone chooses to be in the office most days, which means we are achieving the type of work environment we set out to. But we’re still flexible when things happen, and my employees love that flexibility and know they won’t find it everywhere. 

Compassionate colleagues

Most companies like to say their employees are like family, but how many really try to keep that feeling alive through all the ups and downs of life and business? 

Connor Insurance Agency is literally a family business (started by my father) but, as we’ve grown, we’ve hired on people beyond the Connor family. Still, that family feeling and knowing that the team has your back, is one of the things that money can’t buy. We make a point to keep each other included in what’s happening in life outside work. Whether that’s celebrating birthdays and babies or helping each other deal with loss.

You must hire people that really care, both about the business and about other people. When you combine that with the trust built through other parts of our culture, the results are amazing and you end up with a team that really does feel like family. 

A sense of purpose

It’s a sad but true fact of life that service professions don’t always pay what they should. Teachers and nurses are prime examples of vital roles that are often monetarily undervalued. Yet, we know that people keep doing them because they have a drive to make a difference and help people. The same can be true in our industry. And, don’t get us wrong, we think everyone from teachers and nurses to insurance professionals should be paid what they’re worth and then some! But, it’s not always possible—particularly if you’re a small company that’s running lean. 

The good news is, when someone can clearly see how their job helps others, that adds an element of pride and satisfaction that doesn’t come with a dollar sign attached. Employees who work directly with clients may have an easier time seeing how their job impacts people but those on the back-end of the business are also vital to providing peace of mind and protection to our clients. 

As a business owner, or as anyone in a leadership role, you can help your employees love what they do by constantly tying their jobs back to the end goal of helping people. Never forget that what we do in our industry literally powers the world and enables others to live their lives and run their own businesses. 

A path for growth

Nothing will kill employee morale quicker than a dead-end job. All the money in the world won’t generally satisfy someone who doesn’t feel valuable and fulfilled. On the other hand, you can make up for not being able to throw all the money in the world at someone if you can create a true career development experience. 

Whenever new employees start here, we make sure they understand my philosophy. This is their career and our job isn’t to lord over them but to help them get to where they want to be. One of the great things about being a small independent agency is that we have the ability to make changes to roles and give people new opportunities that might not be possible at a larger company. Here, there’s no red tape stopping someone from taking on a new challenge or learning new skills. And, if we hire someone and realize they’re in the wrong position, we don’t have to lobby the HR department to fix it. This is something we believe gives us a huge advantage. 

And, while the whole “We can’t give you more money, but you’ll get great experience” line can feel insincere if there’s not a level of trust between the company and the employee, it can actually end up working in the employee’s favor. Often times, the payoff will come later when they move to the next step of their career with more breadth and depth of experience than they would have gotten elsewhere. 

These five things come from our experience running a small agency and your mileage may vary when it comes to the specifics. But the point is that money isn’t the only thing people value and if you’re trying to woo talented employees that you don’t think you can “afford,” don’t be afraid to talk up some of the unique things that your staff love most about your company. You never know when one of your unique features might be what it takes to seal the deal at a price you can handle.