06 Mar ICNE Announces a New Innovative Insurance Trainee Program and Five New Hires from the Class of 2018
Agawam, MA – ICNE, Insurance Center of New England, welcomes five new employees to their growing personal lines team. Dave Santos, Michellene Cyr, Alison Slezek, Colleen Dawley, and Shyla Stange were all appointed for their diverse skills and talents and hired through a historic and innovative new insurance trainee program developed by Kristina LaPlante, Vice President of Personal Lines.
LaPlante has had great success bringing in individuals with little to no insurance experience in the past. Over the last seven years, she’s been responsible for hiring and training ten personal lines employees. Historically, she has onboarded new staff members on an individual basis, however, in 2018, she decided to recruit and hire five employees, with no previous experience, which was a first for the independent insurance agency.
To help streamline the process, she developed ICNE’s very first in-house “Personal Insurance Trainee Program.” This intensive three-month course ran in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agent’s (MAIA) Personal Lines Licensing Class, and was taught by LaPlante, Personal Lines Manager, Amber Baird and Personal Lines Manager, Tia Vaillancourt. The program first launched in September 2018, and the trainees were taught the fundamentals of personal insurance policies, coverage types, and ICNE’s internal policies and procedures. Once the foundation was laid, LaPlante and the Personal Lines management team helped the trainees prepare for the Insurance Licensing exam.
From the start, LaPlante made the conscious decision to cover the cost of the insurance exam as a part of the trainee’s overall compensation package. If they passed the exam, they would be offered a full-time, permanent position at the agency. A second and final opportunity to retake the exam would be granted; however, the candidate would be responsible for covering the cost of the additional exam out of pocket.
“What makes our company successful is that we continue to think outside the box. The insurance industry as a whole is facing a looming talent crisis, so that coupled with our rapid growth posed a very big problem for us in terms of staffing. Therefore, it was imperative for us to develop this new trainee program,” said LaPlante when asked about the origin.
When hiring trainees for this year’s inaugural class, LaPlante was looking for employees with specific personality traits and skills versus experience and accolades. Instead of focusing on the candidate’s previous work history, or more specifically, whether or not they had experience working in insurance, LaPlante actively recruited candidates who could think quick on their feet, multi-task, had an innate desire to learn, were open to change, and valued the customer experience.
Coincidently, three of the five new staff members had previously worked in the service industry as bartenders and restaurant servers, proved to LaPlante early on that the skills they acquired were transferable to a new career in insurance. Some of their more notable proficiencies included: outgoing personalities, superior communication skills, reliability, ability to work well in a team, and tact and diplomacy for dealing with difficult situations.
Hired for his salesmanship, ability to multi-task, managerial and problem-solving skills, Dave Santos is ICNE’s newest Personal Lines Risk Manager and Licensed Insurance Broker. After spending many years in the service industry, Santos was able to transfer many of his acquired skills to his new career in insurance and risk management.
Alison Slezek brings an outgoing personality, excellent communication skills, and a high level of dependability to the ICNE personal lines team. As a seasoned bartender, who was looking to start a challenging new career, she was a natural fit for her new role as a Personal Lines Account Manager.
Hired for her attention to detail, can-do attitude and desire to learn, Shyla Stange made the transition from an experienced bartender and local business owner to Personal Lines Account Manager look easy.
Michellene Cyr and Colleen Dawley both came to ICNE after having worked in a more traditional office setting, which LaPlante viewed as a nice to have, not a need to have when interviewing candidates for the Class of 2018.
Cyr, before making the switch to insurance, worked as a compliance banker where some of her day-to-day responsibilities included risk assessment, conflict management, data analysis, and problem-solving, all of which translated well to her new role as a Personal Lines Account Manager.
Dawley brings a positive attitude, as well as communication and interpersonal skills to the ICNE office. After spending several years as an office manager, her ability to listen, respond, and problem solve made her the perfect candidate for the Personal Lines Account Manager role.
Together, Santos, Slezek, Stange, Cyr, and Dawley coined themselves the “HO-05 team” which pays homage to their graduating class, as well as to a premium personal lines insurance policy that they learned about during the program. An HO-05 policy typically provides broader protection and higher coverage limits than that of a standard homeowners policy, or HO-03 policy.
When asked about the team name, LaPlante shared that, “they came up with the name entirely on their own. It’s quite fitting though; they are a united front and rally behind their ability to provide superior support and service to their clients.”
LaPlante considered the new trainee initiative a huge success and believes it is something that both she and ICNE’s President and CEO, Bill Trudeau, would plan to do again in the future.
“Our employees are the heart and soul of our business, and we have always made a point to prioritize them. The success of this new hire trainee program relied on our ability to see beyond a candidate’s resume and tap into who they are as people,” said Trudeau. “Insurance can be taught, but ambition, independence, creativity, compassion, and organizational and communication skills cannot. We welcome our newest additions to the ICNE family with open arms and look forward to a long and successful future together.”
Santos, Cyr, Slezek, and Dawley all join the ICNE team in Agawam, Massachusetts, and Stange will work directly with the team in Gardner, Massachusetts.
About ICNE, Insurance Center of New England
ICNE, Insurance Center of New England, is one of the largest, privately-owned and independent insurance agencies in the region, with three offices in Agawam and Gardner. When clients choose to work with ICNE, they quickly understand that they are not just hiring an insurance agency, but a team of knowledgeable insurance professionals who will get to know them personally. Because of their partnerships with a wide variety of top-quality insurance carriers from around the country, ICNE has the ability to match their clients’ coverage needs with the optimal protection for their auto, home or business.