Insurance staffing crisis: How to turn it around

“We’ve got to find a way to be able to communicate that it is a wonderful profession and it can be a great career.”

Insurance staffing crisis: How to turn it around

Insurance News

By Sam Boyer

Experienced staff retiring, transient millennials, a boring external perception: the insurance industry faces a number of challenges attracting and retaining talent.

Insurance Business spoke with two insurance executives about employment at both the young and older ends of the employee spectrum.

Terri Browne, chief people officer at Sedgwick, said the industry has a challenge ahead to re-imagine itself in a more positive light if it wants to attract and retain talent.

“It’s not a very sexy job. We’ve got to find a way to be able to communicate that it is a wonderful profession and it can be a great career,” she said.

Younger jobseekers want “a sense of purpose” in the jobs they seek – which the insurance industry can offer, Browne said. But the grand sense of what insurance offers as a service can seem a far cry from a young worker’s day-to-day tasks.

So while the moral values can interest young jobseekers, “the problem is the reality of the job,” she said. “I mean, people don’t typically go to college to handle claims, right?”

The continuing emergence of insurtech, though, could help invigorate the whole industry.

“Where I think we will start to see a change is in the area of technology as we continue to innovate,” she noted. “I think for the younger individuals, just knowing that there’s a lot of technology innovation going on within the industry, I think that could potentially help with the attraction issue – as well as the [other things they’re seeking, such as] inclusion, giving back, social responsibility, those kinds of things.”

There are challenges beyond millennials too. While they are a current sticking point for recruiters, other demographics pose their own problems, Browne said

“As an organization, we’re not just focussing in on millennials, we’re focussing in on the challenges of attracting all individuals to the industry,” she explained.

With all the talk about securing millennials, generally, the other end of the workforce is actually being overlooked, said Mark Berven, president and COO of Nationwide Insurance.

There’s a need to also retain Baby Boomers.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about the demographic shift that’s happening, with the retirement of Boomers. Everyday there’s 10,000 turning 65 in America,” he said.

“When you think about it, if there’s going to be almost half a million – 400,000 – open jobs over the next couple of years in the industry because of that retirement dynamic, you see multiple things happening. First, from a Boomer perspective … they’re kind of more of those specialized and technical skilled jobs with a lot of needed expertise. As an employer, whether you’re an agent on the distribution side or a carrier, how do you create flexibility to continue to utilize all that subject-matter expertise that those folks have?”

Berven said that as well as attracting younger employees, insurance companies need to look at retaining their aging workforce through part-time positions or remotely, to allow “that group of folks to continue to engage in the business … because there won’t be enough expertise coming in at any one time to replace the expertise that that Boomer generation has.”

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