Hugh J Boswell were proud to be one of the first employers in Norfolk to recruit Apprentices in Retail Financial Services. Our idea for an ‘Apprentice’ had not arisen on the back of the popular Lord Sugar ‘Apprentice’ programme with the famous ‘you’re fired’ ending and whilst it is fortunate that real life does not mimic television shows, what we didn’t realise was that the recruiting young people interested in a career in general insurance would have its challenges.
In the early days, the vision was to ‘grow our own’ workforce in advance of the need to recruit new people. Our business has continued to grow year on year and it doesn’t get any easier to recruit qualified and experienced individuals. By taking a school or college leaver and developing them into competent and innovative professional we would have the right people ready to fill those gaps when they arose.
We investigated the options for recruiting apprentices but they were fairly limited at that time. This was long before the government were supporting and backing employers to take on apprentices. We tried different methods of recruiting and whilst we did find individuals, some of whom were very talented and skilful, the recruitment process was fairly tedious. We had lots of young people applying for the Apprenticeship but many of them ‘just wanted a job’ and others had no interest in general insurance. Where an individual stood out as exceptional they had often been snapped up before we got the chance to interview. The time and effort that went into filtering the candidates and selecting the person who would ‘fit’ our business was extremely time consuming.
Despite the difficulties, our vision had not changed and we continue to recruit with some notable success however, it was clear something had to change for us to achieve the success we desired.
One of our success stories is with a young lady who joined us as an Apprentice and achieved a position of Senior Account Handler in 5 years. She has also completed professional qualifications, Certificate in Insurance, Diploma in Insurance and is on target to achieve Advanced Diploma in Insurance by the end of 2016. The Advanced Diploma is deemed to be a degree level qualification and some recruits find the ability to achieve a higher level qualification without the need to go to university very appealing. In some instances being able to earn while you learn rather than racking up substantial student loan debts is the perfect option.
In January 2015, our Managing Director met with our HR Manager and the Compliance & Training Manager to discuss the promotion of our business to both new recruits, in particular Apprentices together with promotion of our existing staff. In order to keep everyone with the desire moving up the ladder and to drive our vision forward we decided to go back to the drawing board and consider our options again. Throughout 2015, we met with Chris Perry, Managing Director at Swarm on several occasions to see how we could work together to recruit the ‘right people’ as Apprentices into our business whilst also developing our existing staff so that vacancies would be available once the apprenticeships were complete. By the end of September, we had an action plan and a vacancy advert was ready to go. On this occasion, the recruitment process was critiqued to our requirements with Swarm vetting and pre-interviewing candidates to ensure they were truly interested in a career in general insurance. Four potential candidates were recommended for interview and Hugh J Boswell decided to meet with two of them. Both candidates had potential but we selected the one that we felt was a ‘better fit’ with the people, the culture and core values of our business. This candidate started working with us in November 2015 and is progressing very well.
The end of 2015 saw Hugh J Boswell achieve Chartered Insurance Broker Status which demonstrates our professionalism and commitment to the industry. In order to be awarded Chartered status we must demonstrate that we work to a code of ethics and that we offer high quality training and development opportunities to our staff. I am pleased to confirm that Hugh J Boswell were awarded Chartered status and that we will continue to innovate with new development ideas.
There is no doubt that using Swarm’s method of recruitment has worked well for Hugh J Boswell and the selection of potential candidates with the pre-interviews has been successful. Our new recruit is absolutely committed to achieving his Apprenticeship, working towards professional qualifications and continuing his career at Hugh J Boswell. In addition to this our recruit is attending the Swarm Enterprise training days, which are aimed at planning, prioritising, teamwork, organisation, behaviour and innovating. These are valuable skills to understand and achieve and enable apprentices to recognise the commitment and sacrifice that firms make in order to provide them with a training programme and embed them within to the working environment. What I should point out is that Apprentices are not necessarily young people leaving education and we are open to taking on an Apprentice of any age should them demonstrate aspirations for a career in our industry. The task of recruiting the right people with the ambition to pursue their goals and have a willingness to achieve is not as easy as you might think with the current state of unemployment. General insurance may not immediately appeal and some might be under the illusion that it is not interesting career path. Whilst I might personally be bias (after nearly 28 years!) I have always found the industry and its ever changing environment stimulating. There certainly isn’t time to get bored. Attracting the ‘right people’ to work with us, will never be completely straight forward but we know those people are out there and are always willing to talk to people interesting in working with us.
On a final point, we recruited a second apprentice who started working with us in January 2016 and arranged for one of our past Apprentices to attend the Swarm Enterprise training days as part of his development. Our vision of seeing staff climbing the ladder and achieving promotions is looking much more realistic than ever before.