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What employers want - what are the skill sets of the future?

What employers want - what are the skill sets of the future? | Insurance Business UK

What employers want - what are the skill sets of the future?

Last week, Graham Stait (pictured), head of claims operations at Allianz Insurance, lent his insights into what it takes to recruit, support and retain great claims staff. As with any discussion around the future of talent in insurance, it’s very much a two-pronged conversation - balancing what people are looking for in a great employer with what a great employer is looking for from its people.

Read more: Recruiting and retaining great staff – what does it take?

Digging into the latter, Stait emphasised how the changing claims environment had precipitated the need for different skills and capabilities than were typically required of those working in this space, and opened up new trajectories for them. He noted that when he first joined Allianz some 14 years ago through a graduate program, claims represented a very linear career path.

“It was a given that you would come in at an entry-level and learn, and then after a certain period of time, you would climb your way up the hierarchy,” he said. “And certain things like professional standards and some of the more foundational learning remain critical to our business but increasingly, we are looking at this [talent piece] strategically and with a view to what’s needed in the future.”

Allianz has recognised the need to develop and bring in skills which are completely different to those required in the past, he said, whether that’s around data and analytics, digitalisation, robotics and automation, or diversity of experience. As a result, the insurer is actively exploring what an increased diversity of skill sets and experiences and background can bring to its claims proposition.  

“I do think that at its heart, claims is around problem-solving,” he said. “So, naturally, we do tend to attract people who are more innovative and creative, more adaptable, and maybe more resilient to change. I think those sorts of tendencies remain critical and fundamental to claims as a profession. But certainly, a lot of our focus in terms of attracting new talent and developing internal talent over the last few years has focused on developing new skills.”

Read more: Allianz Claims announces two key promotions

Leading a team of some 550 claims staff offers Stait a unique insight into the sheer range of personalities that can thrive in the claims environment – and he highlighted how the demand for new skills is bringing even greater diversity to the space. From a cultural perspective, the makeup of the sector has changed, he said, because the nature of hybrid working and how office spaces are now being used has allowed employers to tap into a new pool of talent.

In the post-COVID workplace, the nature of interactions between people has become much more purpose-orientated, he said, which inevitably leads to greater collaboration. And when having collaborative discussions, it helps to have a more diverse array of skill sets, experiences and perspectives – and that’s clear across the board.

“To give some examples,” he said. “If I look at our motor engineers, typically across the market this [area] has been quite homogeneous in terms of its demographic. But we started an apprenticeship two years ago and now have our first female engineer, the first of many. Now, that likely wouldn’t have happened had we not changed our tack and created an apprenticeship entry level. Because traditionally, that’s been a vocation that has probably felt beyond the reach of certain segments.

“Similarly, we’ve done things around return to work for parents who have had extended absences, to support them back into the professional workspace. We’re looking at apprenticeships for entry-level as well. We know that the cost of university or higher education is prohibitive for some, so offering an apprenticeship introduction to insurance – which is fully endorsed and supported and funded with the CII - will give people the opportunity to develop the vocational qualification while entering into the insurance market as well.”

At the core of each of these initiatives is the commitment to thinking more creatively about how to access underrepresented segments of society, he said, and the ambition to gain a greater reach across the breadth of great talent that exists. It’s an organic approach to diversity and inclusion that works to the benefit of Allianz and the talent pool it is accessing – removing barriers to entry and creating new routes into fulfilling careers. 

As somebody who has spent half his life in insurance working in claims, and who recently joined the board of the Society of Claims Professionals (SOCP), Stait has an insider’s perspective on where the sector is heading, and he’s positive about the future of the space and those working within it. It’s a topic he’s passionate about, he said, and he knows that’s a view shared by many across the profession.

“We have many positive and enthusiastic advocates who can really speak positively about careers in insurance, and particularly in claims,” he said. “It will continue to remain a fundamental part of the insurance business. We’ve all seen the stats from [the report by Dell and the IFTF] that 85% of the jobs that exist in 2030 don’t exist today so I think we’ve got to increasingly stop thinking in terms of roles and start thinking in terms of skills.”

Nobody can knowingly and accurately predict specifically what organisations are going to look like in the future or what roles will be required in five-to-10 years, he said. But businesses can make informed decisions about what skills and behaviours will be needed, and do their best to attract the best talent now and equip them with the competencies required to thrive in the workplace of the future.

As somebody passionate about the power of the claims proposition and its role in the insurance ecosystem, Stait has some crucial advice for those on the fence about considering a career in the profession.

“Don’t be fooled by the title,” he said. “It says insurance and it says claims but within our area of the business, we have data scientists, we have programmers and we have claims professionals. We have major loss handlers, we have claims investigators, we have motor engineers, we have Robotics Process Automation and we have change agents. It’s such a diverse part, and claims by its very nature is dynamic and is subject to change. It’s a fantastic opportunity so, don’t be limited and don’t be fooled by that title. There are lots of opportunities to follow in claims.”