I consider myself lucky to have the opportunities and challenges that I have faced over the past 14 years working within the insurance industry. Like most insurance professionals the industry was not something that I thought of or even considered coming out of college. Given that fact, I’ve pondered how can the insurance industry proactively attract the top talent for the next generation? Historically and today, the industry has not done extremely well. I recently read an article that ranked the insurance industry 98 out of 100 in terms of the oldest average workforce. In addition, as we have conducted research on other insurance strategies, attended conferences, and spoken with our existing insurance clients, the need to attract and retain top talent is a driving consideration for most senior leaders at carriers and brokers. The existing employee base is trending towards retirement therefore legacy planning and sourcing the leaders of the future are critical to ensure long-term viability. A recent survey in Insurance Journal Magazine, indicated that 62% of carriers were looking to grow and hire significantly in 2014. With the increased focus the industry must place on recruiting top talent, a few of my recommendations for them are listed below:
1. Focusing on the Blocking and Tackling of Recruiting the Next Generation
In February 2012, The Institutes and The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation conducted a survey focused on the Millennial Generation. The results indicated that this generation of employees was motivated by career advancement opportunities, professional development and training, the ability to impact people’s lives and have a positive impact on society. The insurance industry has an impact on people’s lives, the community and society every day with many types of interactions. Focusing recruiting messaging on these facts and doing a better job communicating how candidates can make a difference will resonate extremely well with the next generation. These candidates are also goal orientated, have high expectations of themselves and their employers and desire to have immediate responsibilities. Carriers and brokers should consider implementing strategies that have a dedicated focus on career advancement, enhanced training and development plans, along with re-thinking some of the traditional roles and responsibilities of the positions entry level candidates fill. With this approach, carriers and brokers can show a value proposition to potential candidates increasing the likelihood that they will choose to work in insurance.
2. Tools and Technology
Manual processes, legacy systems, and chasing paper forms does not appeal to the generation of the future (or this one for that matter), who have almost exclusively grown up with smart phones, tablets, video games, and computers. So imagine their reaction when they come into an insurance company for an underwriting interview. Picture this: a candidate sits down and precedes to see paper forms stacked on the desk, multiple screens with the six different systems it takes to complete one application, and finally a green screen which is the key system for entering in most of the customer and policy data. It would be amazing if they just didn’t just walk out immediately at that point.Over the past 10 years, I have seen most carriers and brokers develop new user interfaces for agents and clients. However, the investment in new systems and improved technology for internal employees has not been trending down the same path. With the amount of new technology being developed for the industry, investments in better automated tools and platforms, automation of forms and electronic signatures and mobile applications and social media, will become a basic expectation of the next generation of employees. If talent acquisition is a critical strategy for the organization and a critical leadership concern then the investments in internal technology is imperative to compete.
3. Focus on the “Cool Stuff”
Most college graduates coming straight into the industry will likely find themselves working in Underwriting, Claims, Operations or Sales and Marketing. Each of these business areas offers great careers, interesting work, and the ability to impact the overall organization. Claims as an example, could focus on the fact that you might be responsible for assessing boats and yachts all day, motorcycles, damaged autos or homes damaged by catastrophes while conveying the importance and impact it has on the lives of their clients. Carriers could interview candidates at claim testing facilities to show them a home destroyed by wind, a smashed car, etc. and how they would be responsible assessing the damages and helping clients put their lives back together. Sales and Marketing can focus on the amount of advertising and branding that the industry focuses on an annual basis. Showing potential candidates that the industry utilizes every form of marketing medium from television, sporting events, online, print, radio, etc. and conveying the message that the candidate might have an opportunity to influence content, design, and media communications will resonate with the next generation of employees. These are just a few examples that changes carriers and brokers can implement in their interviewing processes that will help capture the attention of the next generation and make the industry look “cool”.
4. Leadership Training Programs
For top tier graduates and MBA students the ability to enter an Executive Leadership Training Program or Organizational Rotation Program is a talent initiative carriers and brokers should develop. The ability to receive training and spend time in each business area of the organization creates professionals who have a broad scope and comprehensive understanding of the business. The ability to obtain an appreciation for the processes, procedures and an understanding of all business areas makes more informed and stronger leaders. Carriers and brokers can also consider including testing, final deliverables, or other qualifications requirements to ensure only the best candidates pass through the program. With a properly designed program graduates should be able to step into entry level management roles leading small teams or projects while continuing to grow their skill sets. Having options such as these becomes attractive for students who are talented, want to lead, and become the future key decision makers for the organization.
On my first day of business school, my professor asked “what’s the most valuable resource for every company?” Most first day graduate students said money, but the professor shook his head and said no, not money, people. Almost 15 years later I can remember that quote almost verbatim. People make the company; most of us who have spent time leading clearly understand that. Since the insurance industry knows this, they must start making the investments in creating an environment of innovation, creativity, and technology if they truly want to recruit the best talent available in the next generation.