In the rapidly transforming insurance market, a solid talent acquisition and leadership development program can provide a distinctive competitive edge. It’s no secret that the insurance industry faces talent acquisition challenges, especially as baby boomers start to retire and firms look to replenish their workforces.
Insurance has never been portrayed as a sexy industry. In fact, for many, insurance hasn’t been portrayed as an industry option at all. A key challenge for today’s talent executives is to sell the attraction of the insurance industry and to show millennial and generation Z professionals that insurance is a very exciting place to be.
Bruce Baumgarten (pictured) is a nationally-recognized director of talent at CSAA Insurance Group. In this role, Baumgarten examines the entire employee lifecycle at CSAA and is responsible for leading the strategy and design of the company’s talent practices – including talent acquisition, talent management and leadership development.
He told Insurance Business: “About 10-years-ago, the industry was OK because baby boomers were staying in the workforce and insurance organizations had lots of long-tenured employees. What’s happened in the last five-eight years is that baby boomers are retiring now that the economy has picked up, and the industry is in a position where it needs to replace the baby boomers’ knowledge and experience. The question is: how do we attract young talent to what has traditionally been seen as a slow-paced industry?
“What some of the larger insurance companies are starting to do is partner with educational institutions in order to show young people what skills the industry is looking for and expose them to some of the exciting and innovative work we’re doing. At CSAA, we go to a lot of job fairs and offer internships to get people through the front door. What we’ve found is that once you get people through the door, they often want to stay. They start to see that insurance is not just a slow-moving regulation-restricted industry, but is in fact a fast-evolving and innovative sector to work in.”
The challenge is getting people through the door in the first place. In October 2018, the US unemployment rate was 3.7%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and for people with bachelor’s degrees, the rate was even lower at 2.0%. The insurance industry is fighting for talent against non-insurance companies, many of whom have done a better job at maintaining public interest and publicly celebrating innovation.
“One of the foundational things we need to do better is show how innovative insurance companies are being,” Baumgarten commented. “The industry is reinventing itself in terms of how it works and interacts with consumers in a digitally-prominent world. The insurance workforce has changed in tandem and we require lots of different skillsets. These days, you’re not necessarily just an insurance professional. You can work in any field you like, and it just happens to be linked to an insurance organization.”
Another thing Baumgarten focuses on when trying to attract and retain talent is CSAA’s company culture. As insurance organizations and workforces evolve, so will their cultures. According to Baumgarten, insurers need to be “conscious and proactive” about all things company culture, otherwise it will form itself and might take a turn away from what company leaders really want. Modeling a strong company culture can take years and requires active input from employers and employees. Baumgarten added: “That work never stops because the culture is always going to be evolving.”
Employee benefits and perks can also be critical differentiators in the talent chase.
“You can’t just talk about salary anymore,” Baumgarten said. “Today, it’s equally important to talk about total rewards, including benefits and additional perks. For example, at CSAA we have an amazing wellness program and an on-site fitness program where people collect points for going to the gym and doing preventative check-ins with their doctors. They can trade those points for things like Amazon gift cards or Fitbits. By doing that, we’ve seen a reduced expense in healthcare claims, so we’re helping people be healthier (and they’re enjoying it) and we’re actually saving money on the back-end.”