Recruiting and retention are not two separate functions, but rather an integrated process. The message prospective agents receive before signing their contract needs to match the reality they experience once they join the company. If it does, retention rates will be high. This is especially true when it comes to women agents, many of whom are very interested in building long-term relationships–with companies and clients alike.

A Recruiting Message that Resonates

In a 2006 survey of New York Life’s women agents, we learned a number of surprising facts. One in particular stood out: The majority of women who joined the company (66%) were not looking to become agents when a recruiter contacted them.

A major insight revealed by the study was that despite our high-tech world, recruiting remains a low-tech, high-touch process. It still needs that personal touch and relies primarily on managers committed to making the phone calls, developing the sources and gathering referrals to present a career to prospective agents.

Our recruiters create trust when they tell the “New York Life story.” This story is so effective that it appeals to many prospects who had not initially expressed interest in the company or the career. In fact, they were quite unaware of how well this career can suit their personal and professional career wishes. In today’s world, where impersonal Blackberry-to-Blackberry communication often substitutes for face-to-face dialogue, the survey results reaffirmed our career agency system, with its emphasis on personal relationships, remains as vibrant and irreplaceable today as it was 50 years ago.

Even with the success of our high-touch recruiting, we realized that we had to supplement the recruiters’ efforts, making it easier for women to find out about the career, the company, its training and support. Part of our strategy was to launch a new recruiting site in October 2006.

We incorporated the knowledge from our survey. The site also includes information on expectations, training, support; and it enables prospective agents to apply online. Using a variety of web tools, we were able to actually view the areas most visited by women and analyze what is most important to them. That information, combined with our other learnings, continues to direct ongoing site development.

A Career Helping Others Attracts

The survey of New York Life women agents also provided insights into what persuades women–many of whom were not even seeking new careers–to say “yes” to the job of selling life insurance and other financial products for New York Life and its subsidiaries.

Three findings stood out:

? 75% of women agents indicated the opportunity to help people was the primary attraction.

? 70% said the career provides the independence they were seeking, but didn’t know where to find.

? 69% responded they were attracted by the opportunity to set their own hours, which is especially appealing to agents with families.

It became obvious that successful women agents really loved their jobs and were the best spokespeople to use in recruiting, so we incorporated a section where women can learn about a New York Life career from other successful women agents and managers, in both print and video. We used the website and other communications to provide their stories as part of our recruitment effort and communicated the key messages across the company to all our managers to ensure a consistent approach.

All Walks of Life

We also realized we don’t need to limit our recruiting to a select number of profiles. The survey revealed that agents come from a variety of professions including nursing, teaching, the military, social work, and banking among others. While the largest group of new recruits (12%) comprises agents looking for a new company, no other background was dominant.

From a high of 8% percent to a low of 1%, the range included students, professionals (e.g., lawyers), managers, educators, sales, clerical people and marketing professionals. Perhaps most telling, 30% indicated “other,” meaning that people from diverse backgrounds have the skills and temperament to become an agent. We revalidated that it was the person who had the drive, the passion, and the communication skills that was important.

With so many backgrounds to choose from, we realized we did not have to focus our recruiting efforts on a narrow band of prospects, but instead could target specific professions with our recruiting messages. For example, we recently completed an integrated communications campaign to real estate agents who may be considering a more stable sales career.

In short, New York Life’s recruiting message of a career that provides the ability to help someone, plus flexibility, independence and unlimited income potential–when combined with the company’s financial strength, history, and training–is a message that resonates with women.

Training and Development

The survey findings indicate that women agents feel New York Life’s recruiting message matches the reality they experience once they join the company. For the vast majority of all of our agents, that reality is delivered through NYLIC University, New York Life’s ongoing multi-channel learning development school, which offers continuing education programs for agents and managers throughout their careers. NYLIC University offers continuing education through a variety of methods, from seminars to virtual learning, including e-learning, online, CD-ROM courses, national training and traditional classroom instruction.

Agents are also taught to create their own marketing programs for the markets they serve. For example, client seminars are available on helping women take financial control of their lives and raising financially independent children. Agents are also supported by a team of professionals with experience in advanced topics, such as estate planning and business succession planning as well as how to address issues faced by women of all ages and lifestyles.

Many women want to know that there are opportunities for them in management. And seeing the success of other women in these roles provides real motivation for them.

Correlation to Retention

Because new agents’ experience closely matches the recruiting story, we expect our retention rates will continue to improve. Equally important, 97% of our survey responders claim they would recommend New York Life to work for to a friend or relative.

More and more women are finding their way to a career in insurance and financial services. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006, women made up 34.4% of personal financial advisors, and the employment outlook for this field is expected to grow faster than average — up to 26% — which greatly outpaces the average employment growth rate of 1.8%.

The most successful recruiters will ensure their promises match agents’ reality. These companies will show that now may be the best time to be a woman in the insurance industry, making a difference in other people’s lives and creating a better one for themselves and their families.