At Farmers Insurance Group, district managers are responsible for
increasing the volume of policies and premiums through the
recruitment and development of new agents and increasing the
productivity of existing agents (14,000 nationwide). The
development of successful district managers is critical to the
This growth was challenged by an underwriting downturn in the late
1990s and early 2000s. From 2000 to 2004, Farmer's Insurance
experienced premium and policy growth rates that failed to meet
targets, largely driven by premium growth rates that were
unacceptable within the districts. During this same time,
appointment of new agents had also fallen short of goal. Another
disturbing trend was the attrition rate for district managers; by
2004, nearly 40 percent of the company's district managers had less
than five years of tenure.
To combat these negative trends, Farmers Insurance built a
centralized university program to shift district managers to a
culture of long-term agent performance, both in the number of new
agents appointed and in overall agent productivity. Its framework
is the district manager Success Model, which outlines desired
daily, weekly, monthly behaviors, and knowledge, and the supporting
skills needed to drive a result.
The model drives the curriculum, which was delivered in a
three-and-a-half-day classroom session that included case studies,
individual and group exercises, skills practices, videos, guest
speakers, and games.
The first session was held in spring 2005 and the final sessions
were held in late 2006. There continue to be classes for newly
appointed district managers as needed. Because of the success of
this program, Farmers Insurance has built a second program for the
same audience to drive business results in the small business
The University for District Managers is in Agoura Hills,
California. Approximately 550 district managers from across the
country have attended the university. On average each district
manager supervises between 25 and 30 agents, who generate an
average of $40 million in gross premiums.
Three management-level employees and one director, led by the vice
president of marketing operations, developed the curriculum by
researching, cataloging, and validating the desired behaviors that
would lead to tangible achievement and then identifying the skills
needed to stimulate a change in behavior.
Successful district managers, outside experts, and other companies
with top sales management results were contacted to determine best
practices and identify six core learning objectives: sales,
coaching, leadership, recruiting, fundamentals, and running a
Two facilitators were selected to deliver the program, based upon
their proven history of leveraging learning environments to achieve
results. Both have extensive experience in district management.
The primary focus of the district manager program was to increase
premiums from new policies, which is influenced by the performance
levels of new agents and existing agents. For the average district,
adding four high performing new agents and improving the
performance of four existing agents could lead to double-digit
To measure what is expected from the university, the four levels of
Kirkpatrick's Evaluation Model are measured monthly. Results are
published on a monthly scorecard and distributed to both the senior
and field management teams.
Level 1 reaction data was captured in the final evaluation survey
of each class and is based on a scale of one to five with five
being the highest. District managers were asked to rate how they
feel about the delivery of key curriculum elements such as
leadership, coaching, recruiting, sales skills, and business
management. Attendees rated their experience a 4.6 out of five.
In the Level 2 evaluation, increases in the core competencies were
measured using an effectiveness grid. Participants were asked to
rate their expertise and knowledge before and after university
attendance. Results showed a strong skill increase (68 percent
versus a goal of 50 percent.)
Level 3 behavioral changes were measured by surveying whether
attendees were actively engaging in the daily, weekly, and monthly
tasks identified in the Success Model designed to deliver business
results. To allow time for learning objectives and new skills to
become established, the surveys are conducted three months after
university attendance. Results showed an 84 percent behavior change
rate versus a 70 percent goal.
The ultimate goal of the university is to train district managers
to produce desired business results. The university's effectiveness
in achieving this goal was measured using a productivity metric.
Participating district managers averaged 31.6 property and casualty
policies sold monthly per agent since attending the university,
compared to 23.8 for managers who did not attend.