Is employee development the key to unlocking stronger retention?

Head lifts lid on workforce retention initiatives

Is employee development the key to unlocking stronger retention?

Diversity & Inclusion

By Gia Snape

Employee development strategies can increase retention in addition showing the unique value proposition of insurance companies amid a competitive talent market.

Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality (AGCS) knows the long- and short-term benefits of developing its employees in strengthening its succession plan and boosting attrition rates. The organization has ramped up its development programmes since the pandemic.

“One of our cultural values is personal growth, and for the last two to three years we’ve had a very heavy focus on it,” said Brenda Leadley (pictured), North American head of HR at AGCS.

“This focus is supported by personal development plans with objectives and actions.

“We have beefed up our technical academies for our sales and underwriting team members, as well as our Allianz University.”

Compensation and benefits packages might attract talent at the hiring stage. But keeping talent in the organization presents a different challenge altogether.

“Sure, there's always a retention bonus – but it's not sustainable, and it's not a good long-term solution,” Leadley said.

Retention remains a major pain point for business leaders, who are grappling with unprecedented employee turnover in the wake of the pandemic.

Linkedin’s 2023 workplace learning report found 93% of organizations are concerned about retention. At the same time, providing more learning opportunities is the top way companies are working to improve retention.

How do organizations include learning at every stage of employee development?

AGCS has learning and development programs in place for different stages of an employee’s career, as well as job swap and job shadowing schemes to encourage internal movement.

“You need keep the level of learning up every year. We have a ‘navigator’ for individuals who are being promoted to managerial position, and a ‘discovery’ program for those rising to role,” Leadley said.

A newly launched program called “GLUE” allows underwriters to spend 30 to 60 days at another AGCS site for 30 to 60 days. It has an early careers program for interns and associate graduates and a global mentoring pool for mentoring around technical skills or soft skills.

For Leadley, opportunities to network and see various functions and aspects of the business are especially attractive to the younger generations.

“We try to do a 50-50 split between program work and learning on the job, we work hard to make participants feel like they’re part of a cohort, and that this is their network,” she said.

“As they build their careers, these are the people that they’re going to encounter in the future, either with us or working for a broker or at a large corporation as a risk manager. For younger people, being able to build this network as they build their career is appealing.”

Continuous learning and development are central to a robust succession plan, according to Leadley.

“I think companies need to be open with people about whether they're on a succession plan,” she said. “We want managers to have those conversations with employees so they can together on [the employee’s] development to get them to that next stage.”

How can organizations reach diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) goals?

Promoting diversity in the workforce is another pathway to stronger retention, according to Linkedin’s 2023 report. 41% of organizations actively leverage DE&I programs to foster inclusiveness and boost employee retention.

For its part, AGCS has also embraced diversity and inclusion as one of its cultural values. “We beefed up our budgets for what we’re doing in the regions and globally,” Leadley told Insurance Business.

“We’ve always talked about diversity, but events like the murder of George Floyd have propelled that focus into much more prominence.

“Employees have increased their expectations of what we should do [for diversity and equity].”

AGCS’ diversity council holds active and regular monthly activities to spotlight the organization’s different communities. For Leadley, frank and open conversations about creating more diverse and inclusive spaces is a step towards greater acceptance and puts the commitment in front of manager’s hiring priorities.

“You need to be creative and have the focus and desire for more diverse candidates,” she said. “We've partnered with organizations for women and African Americans in insurance, for example, and we’re also looking to do more hiring among older candidates.”

What is your organization doing to promote employee development and retention? Leave your comments below.

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