One of the greatest challenges facing insurers today is a shortage of workers, often referred to as the "talent gap." Despite historically low unemployment rates, many insurers are scrambling to fill essential positions. Claims adjusters, underwriters, and sales professionals – the very backbone of the profession – are in short supply and high demand.
While most efforts are focused on recruiting and retention, it is often what happens in-between that makes the difference when it comes to the most critical shortage areas. Solving the talent gap requires a more holistic approach, expanding the focus to include strategies beyond traditional recruitment and retention efforts.
Closing the talent gap requires a three-pronged approach, including recruitment, resource optimization, and retention, with a heavy emphasis on new and innovative solutions. With a little diligence and creative thinking, you can attract, grow, and retain top-notch talent.
Boost recruitment by expanding the search pool
When seeking to fill mid-management or executive level positions, consider broadening your search to attract candidates from outside the industry. Candidates with proven track records and talent from areas such as finance and accounting can have applicable and adaptable experience, and may therefore rate high in the recruitment process.
In key leadership and management positions, applicants can learn the nitty-gritty of the insurance world with time. What is more important for leadership and management is visible commitment, passion, accountability, and integrity.
Reconsider job requirements with an eye toward increasing recruitment
To improve recruitment, consider evaluating your position requirements. For example, do entry-level positions require a four-year degree? Does that requirement serve the purpose of the job?
Similarly, consider paths to promotion. Again, is a college or advanced degree a necessary requirement, particularly when a worker has mastered their current position and is on a natural path to promotion?
Many claims, underwriting, and sales positions require a state-mandated insurance license and continuing education. Perhaps placing more emphasis on licensing and professional designations as opposed to university scholarship will increase the talent pool in high shortage areas.
Optimize existing resources by growing talent in-house
In addition to expanding recruitment efforts, a comprehensive strategy to address the talent shortage must also include a vigorous plan to nurture in-house talent.
Uncovering talent already within your workforce is essential to meet human capital needs. All levels of management should be engaged in identifying talented employees and nurturing such talent through meaningful challenges.
Growing talent in-house solves more than just the talent gap, it's also something workers want. According the Society for Human Resource Management, "Generation Y" workers (or Millennials) crave job qualities beyond salary and benefits – something that may be more difficult to offer – an environment where they can realize their full potential.
Special projects or assignments are particularly helpful in engaging employee interests and nurturing potential. Working with employees to place them in a position where their interest and talents are aligned with their job duties is the key to optimizing your existing human resources. Direct managers and supervisors are the front line in this endeavor and must be committed to the long term success and retention of their team.
Harness the talents of veteran workers
Harnessing veteran workers is another major component of the talent-gap solution. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2004 and 2014 workers aged 55 and older increased by about 41%. That figure is expected to grow another 20% over the next 10 years. In total, the statistics point to a 2025 workforce made up mostly of workers age 55 and older.
An experienced workforce brings a lot to the table for insurers, as they can offer invaluable industry knowledge. Also, a more established employee can mentor and train the newer recruits.
Tapping into the veteran worker talent pool may require flexible work solutions. Long-term employees may be leaning towards retirement and not as interested in a full-time position. In such cases, part-time or shared role arrangements are helpful.
Out-of-the-box solutions for retention
Pouring resources into recruitment and development will not help if you can't retain your current employees. While most retention strategies include annual salary increases, bonuses, and traditional benefits packages, insurers must think differently when it comes to solving the talent shortage.
The conventional retention strategy is complicated by the fact that fresh talent is not always interested in the highest salary or best benefits package. A recent article by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) suggests that younger workers are more interested in company culture, trust, development opportunities, and corporate social responsibility.
To answer the call, go beyond the traditional enticements. Create an environment where workers are connected to the company and have the freedom to work towards their full potential.
Forge a connection based on mutual trust and benefit. Earn commitment from your workers by emphasizing the mission and their role in the mission. USAA does a great job of this, with the mission for workers to “serve those who serve.” It's compelling, straightforward, and permeates the company culture. A guiding-light mission resonates with employees and creates a stronger sense of commitment than the typical job perks.
A three-part solution to the talent gap
Solving the worker shortage requires companies to re-evaluate the traditional hiring methods. A comprehensive approach to the talent gap must contain creative strategies on three fronts – expanding recruitment, growing in-house talent, and improving retention. Identifying your particular talent gaps and implementing customized solutions will help keep your company competitive.
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