The insurance talent shortage is no longer an elephant in the room. It’s an elephant crashing through every room in every insurance company, blasting a trumpet warning of “DANGER!” If the industry does not figure out a solution to this problem, the future could be very grim indeed.
The insurance industry has always had talent challenges, and my bet is that it always will. In the not-so-distant past, it was easy to brush off the problem. There was a strong contingency of industry stalwarts who had worked their way up the career ladder, building an immense catalogue of intellectual capital.
NEWS FLASH! They’re all retiring now.
There are many different phrases tied to the talent shortage – the majority of them coined during the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered one of the greatest social re-sets of the past century. Terms like ‘the great resignation’, ‘the great reshuffle’, ‘the war for talent’ all spring to mind, but one that I can across most recently (and one which is perhaps most apt at this time) is ‘the great retirement’.
Apparently, people delayed their retirements during the pandemic. While stuck at home due to government restrictions, many chose to continue working in order to maintain some stability, but now that the world has opened up again, travel has resumed, and we’ve reached some semblance of normality, the insurance retirements are coming thick and fast.
This is problematic because that immense catalogue of intellectual capital, which I referred to earlier, is under threat. There’s very little time to transfer all of that knowledge, and as the average age of the industry gets younger, it may take some time to re-build that catalogue – or even better, to shape a new one.
Read more: How insurance can win the talent war
Here, I must pause and reflect. I’ve been using the word ‘problem’ and phrases like ‘talent shortage’ and ‘war on talent’ – all of which have very negative connotations. But this doesn’t need to be a negative issue.
In fact, I would hazard a guess that insurance companies that bite the negative connotations and moan and groan about talent challenges are the ones that are struggling the most with talent attraction. Who’d want to work for a company that laments about “the good ol’ days” and complains that no one today wants to work in insurance? I know I wouldn’t.
This talent challenge should be seen as a great opportunity for the insurance industry. SHOUT ABOUT HOW GREAT THIS INDUSTRY IS! This is an industry focused on building more resilient communities around the world. It is an industry that helps us sleep peacefully at night. And importantly, insurance underpins literally everything – businesses, properties, valued possessions, etc. – and it makes the world tick. That’s a value proposition that many people will get behind, if it is communicated properly.
Insurance is an industry where talented individuals can build a career – and there’s room for everyone. If you’re a numbers whizz, you might like actuarial work. If you’re a people person, you might like broking, management, or customer-service roles. If you’re a problem-solver, you might like underwriting. If you’re a hands-on, boots on the ground worker, you might like claims adjusting. And if you’re into technology and innovation, you might like all of the above.
There’s no fixed definition for an ‘insurance worker’. It could be anyone – and I think that’s what the industry needs to do better at portraying. We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion (D&I) in terms of things like gender and race, but what about D&I in terms of skill sets and education? I think that needs to be added into the D&I conversation.
A young person might not have the financial means to complete higher education, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to learn the skillsets and knowledge needed to succeed in an insurance career. Companies simply need to dedicated time, effort, and money (all easier said than done, I know) to nurture young talent. And actually, as a bonus, when people feel like they’ve had support with their career development, they’re more likely to be loyal to that company and stay with them long-term – thus helping with the industry’s talent retention issues.
I’m aware of loads of insurance companies who are doing great things in the talent attraction and retention arena – and all I can say is: “Keep up the good work”. From job fairs at high schools to internship opportunities and innovation challenges, the avenues into the industry are growing every day. But this has to be a group effort.
This is the most important time – possibly in the history of the industry – to solve the talent attraction and retention challenge. Only together, as an entire industry, can we tame the elephant in the room.