How insurers are winning the battle for talent

The sector made some positive changes during the pandemic

How insurers are winning the battle for talent

Talent recruitment and retention has long been a top priority for insurance organizations. In recent years, the discussion has revolved around the ageing workforce and the need to counteract widespread baby boomer retirements by attracting fresh blood to the industry – most of whom aren’t proactively seeking out careers in insurance.

To a large extent, the ageing workforce still dominates the talent discussion, but there are several other macro societal issues that are complicating talent management within the insurance industry today. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a huge uptick in workers quitting their jobs, changing their careers, and shifting their expectations about what they want from their careers and their employers.

People want fair compensation and benefits, they want flexible working arrangements, and, increasingly, they want to work for employers who are in tune with the major societal impacts of the day, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and the green economy. If insurance employers can deliver that, then they may be able to tip the scales of what’s being called the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle.

Julia Lamm, principal and global workforce strategy leader at PwC US, and co-author of PwC’s Top Insurance Industry Issues in 2022 report, believes that insurers can win the war for talent. She said many insurers are well-positioned to deliver the career prospects, culture, and workplace environments that current and prospective employees are demanding today.

Read next: Great Resignation: Transient labour market causing business concerns

“One way that the insurance industry has been ‘progressive’ in how they’re tackling post-pandemic and the future of work is that the vast majority of insurance organizations have accepted flexible work arrangements [and] hybrid working models,” said Lamm. “Most of my clients in the insurance space have decided to embrace hybrid working. They went through change management over the last two years and were forced to work remotely. They made investments in virtual technology and virtual collaboration tools […] which has been really exciting for the industry.

“I think the opportunity that still remains for insurers is in defining a compelling value proposition for why people should come and work in the insurance space. They need to get a little bit clearer about career paths. We’re seeing insurance companies start to look a little differently at internal rotations and letting people move around within an organization versus the somewhat dated idea where you enter a company at the ground floor, and then you slowly move up and you wait for the person before you to be promoted or retire. Talent doesn’t want that kind of career path.

“Looking internally and around the organization has been a big opportunity for insurers. It does take investment in technology to enable a good internal mobility program, as well as a strong workforce planning process, and a culture where managers aren’t hoarding talent. We are seeing insurance companies take a harder look at workforce planning […] they’re starting to take the first steps.”

Compensation is and always will be an important driver in decision-making about jobs - as Lamm put it: “Comp is King.” While there have been recent studies that have proven younger generations (millennials and Gen Z) are taking jobs because they’re interested in a company’s purpose or altruistic nature, other research has shown that they’re also switching jobs quickly and more often, in pursuit of more compensation.

“Comp is a really important driver, but people are increasingly making decisions about the company they go and work for because of the purpose and what that company stands for. And a lot of insurance companies have pretty phenomenal missions – to take care of people, to help people navigate really hard times […] and to help people have financial security for the future. That’s a really interesting and compelling [value proposition] for insurance,” Lamm told Insurance Business.

Read more: The Great Resignation: Insurers have "a terrific story" to tell

While some of the data is still anecdotal at this point, new research suggests that Gen Z professionals are looking for stability in their early careers. They’re entering the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re onboarding remotely, they’re anxious about the future, and they’re not necessarily getting the in-person training and development that colleagues would have received in the past. But if it’s stability they want, insurers – as long-standing, risk averse organizations – are very well-placed to deliver that, according to Lamm.

“Another thing insurers are doing which is really beneficial for them is really investing in more advanced tools – the digital tools and things that allow you to do more data analytics, [and make use of] artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation,” Lamm added. “Insurers are investing in that, and they’re also making an associated investment in the employee skillset, so they can actually manage those technologies.

“The insurance industry is definitely embracing digital technology, and when we see companies where they’re not investing in new technology, we actually start to see a little bit of people voting with their feet and leaving, because they’re anxious that they won’t have relevant skills for the future. Everyone’s reading about skills, and we all know that it is getting harder and harder to keep up with the pace of change, so people are looking for employers that [embrace and invest in innovation]. I think insurers are well-poised from a talent attraction perspective.”

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