Top talent seeking innovative insurance firms with strong culture

Chief HR officer shares some insight on the industry’s 'talent issue'

Top talent seeking innovative insurance firms with strong culture

Insurance News

By Bethan Moorcraft

If the last few weeks are anything to go by, the insurance industry does have the ability to move quickly. As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 forces employees to work remotely, insurance companies have had to adopt digital strategies almost overnight. And contrary to popular belief, which has always cast shade on the industry’s ability to enact change, things seem to be running smoothly so far.

For most insurers, going digital doesn’t require any revolutionary changes. In recent years, the industry has made huge investments in its future as a leading innovator of practical advancements in artificial intelligence, big data, telematics, and other emerging technologies. Where the industry hasn’t performed so well is in communicating these changes to the wider world. Despite insurance being a real treasure chest of innovation and opportunity, the industry still bares the unfortunate stigma of being unexciting and overly cautious.

The first thing the industry must do if it wants to attract the talent it needs in order to survive and thrive is change that dialogue, according to Melissa Jones (pictured), EVP and chief human resources officer at CSAA Insurance Group, an AAA insurer. It’s time to shout from the rooftops about the excellent work insurance companies are doing with technology, innovation, and transforming the customer experience. Only then will prospective job candidates realize there’s just about something for everyone in the insurance industry.

“Insurers are highly focused on innovation. There’s not a day that goes by where you don’t hear about industry disruption,” said Jones. “Innovation is a huge focus for CSAA [and so is] digitizing our customer experience. In fact, I would call us as much a technology company as we are an insurance company right now. Companies like Amazon have set the bar for what customers expect from their service providers, so if we want to remain relevant and competitive, we have to focus on enhancing and digitizing our platforms.

“We market to technology talent by asking them to help us transform our customer experience. I think the benefit that an insurance company has [over a technology start-up], especially CSAA being over 100-years-old, is the stability, the foundation, and the investment that we make in employees and development. There are things we can sell and market as an employer that you won’t get in a start-up. We have leadership development programs, we invest in our community, and we invest in our employees, so if you’re interested in a company that has that type of history and that type of development opportunity, insurance is an attractive option.”

Another hallmark or pillar that prospective candidates look for, especially the younger generations coming out of college, is culture. People want to work for forward-thinking, innovative companies that also “invest in culture, focus on their communities, and have a higher purpose,” according to Jones. Under her HR leadership, CSAA has invested heavily in a number of cultural initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining the best talent. The firm has focused on key pillars such as: inclusion and belonging, wellness (physical, mental and financial), volunteerism, and professional development.

“We work on inclusion and belonging all the way from recruitment through the entire employment experience,” Jones told Insurance Business. “Across the company, coast-to-coast, we have regional diversity councils that are doing inclusion and belonging work in each region. We also have employee resource groups, which everyone is invited to join, even if they don’t identify as a member of those particular groups. For example, we have a Black Employee Association, an Asian Pacific Islander Connection, SOMOS – which focuses on the Hispanic community, the Near Eastern Appreciation team, pride teams, a women’s professional network, a caregivers’ network, and a military appreciation group. In total, we have 17 employee groups (including the regional diversity councils and the resource groups), which all employees are welcome to join.

“In addition, our CEO is a signatory for CEO Action for Diversity in the Workplace, and we were the first company on the west coast to have the unconscious bias bus tour visit our headquarters. It was an amazing immersive experience where you can experience the impact of unconscious bias in everyday life, and then, at the end of the tour, we asked our folks who went through it - both employees and community members that we work with - to take a pledge in mitigating unconscious bias in everyday life.”

Innovation and culture are just two core elements that insurance employers need to think about in their efforts to attract and retain top talent. Other things to consider are leadership development (people want to work for a company that will invest in them); attractive employee benefits (CSAA, for example, provides a 6% match on 401K, also allowing employees to defer 4% of that to pay off student loan debt); and workplace programs (like flexible working arrangements, on-site fitness classes, and so on). 

“I would reinforce that employers really need to focus on culture and making their culture an attraction and retention element for prospective candidates and obviously their employees as well,” Jones added. “It’s a huge focus for us at CSAA, and I think it’s important for any insurer to really focus on that element in attracting talent.” 

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