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Talent Search The insurance recruitment battle is a chance to give the industry a fresh, new look. By Aubrey Gene

It’s old news at this point, if you’ll pardon the pun: The insurance industry is facing a succession battle, with a record number of employees aging out of the workforce and needing to be replaced. The challenge of filling the gap opens up a number of opportunities beyond hiring younger generations; it’s a chance to change the way people outside insurance view the industry and its labor force. It’s time to shake things up.

“The need to offset the loss of an aging, extremely knowledgeable workforce and bridge the gap are the drivers for change,” says Brenda Leadley, senior vice president and head of human resources America for Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. “We’ve discovered a need to better market our business, specifically highlighting interesting insurance opportunities.”

Marketing is where many are starting when it comes to closing the talent gap. They’re reaching out to millennial and Gen Z students and workers in the myriad career fields whose skill sets are needed within the industry.

“The newest work generation, Generation Z, has job motivation factors — stability, strong income, opportunity to advance in an organization — that align well with what the insurance industry can offer,” explains Ruth Sencio, vice president of global talent at ReSource Pro. “The industry is going to need to learn how to connect with Gen Z and share the opportunities available.”

Traditionally perceived as, well, traditional, insurance needs a revamp to attract younger and more diverse talent into a field many outside the industry don’t realize can be intriguing, fulfilling and fun.

Word of the Day: Stodgy

“It’s an exciting field,” author and consultant Troy Korsgaden tells Danielle Ling in a recent PropertyCasualty360 podcast about the career opportunities that exist in the insurance industry. “The problem is we made it not so exciting. We kind of made it stodgy over the years.”

Michelle Ensor, digital marketing manager at ReSource Pro and a millennial successfully recruited by the insurance industry, agrees: “The insurance industry is not known for its glitz and glamour. People often associate it with old-school, stodgy environments and boring desk work.”

Leadley adds. “Unfortunately, our challenge is the industry itself. Most don’t grow up dreaming of working in the insurance industry, and even fewer have a true understanding of the number of opportunities available.”

Korsgaden believes we’ve done a disservice to our industry by making it not so much fun. Insurance entities that recognize the need to better market the industry as a whole have a competitive edge when it comes to recruitment.

“We can’t let our reputation alone speak for itself,” explains Melissa Jones, vice president of human resources at CSAA Insurance Group. “For us, it’s a different way of thinking about marketing insurance companies that I think is important.”

Ensor says, “Insurance is the polar opposite [of stodgy and boring]. The pace is more akin to finance and tech.”

And those finance and tech associations, insurers are finding, are what will help them stand out in the marketplace. Millennials are familiar with the value of working hard that drove the generations of workers before them. But like their Gen Z counterparts, they also recognize the value in working smart, and the opportunities they’re exploring are those that lean heavily toward the latter value.

“When people graduate from college they aren’t saying ‘I want to go work for an insurance company,’” Jones explains. “So, we’re reframing our recruiting efforts to better mirror the sexy opportunities our potential candidates are seeing in technology.”

Going Big Tech

The U.S. insurance industry employed 2.6 million people in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “This is 115 times the number of people employed at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Yahoo combined,” explains Leadley. “Our competitors are those industries deemed more exciting and forward-thinking.

“We have to teach [younger generations] about the exciting and forward-thinking opportunities available within the insurance industry,” she adds.

There’s no question: It’s vital for insurers to communicate just how varied careers are in the industry, including in the tech and finance spheres. A candidate with little to no knowledge of the industry might perceive insurance to be made up of mostly sales professionals, where many opportunities also lie. However, data and actuarial scientists, software engineers and investment analysts all have spots within the industry, as do human resources, marketing and training professionals.

“If a recent grad is looking at an opportunity to work for a major technology company in the area or work in insurance, more than likely they were going to take the former,” says Jones. “But we’re changing that perception by showing how innovative insurance companies today can offer the same experience a candidate would get with a big tech company.

“Like the tech industry, we have careers in data science, actuarial and innovation,” Jones continues. “We’re working on the impact of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and emerging technologies on insurance. If data scientists knew the amount of data they would have access to within our organization and what they could do with it, they’d be in heaven. We have work to do to help job seekers understand the technological possibilities that come with working in insurance.”

“Many young people aren’t aware that we need engineers, investigators, and economists, in addition to underwriters, who can understand the risks associated with space travel or are able to calculate the value of an athlete’s arm,” adds Leadley.

“There are so many roles in our industry,” Kitty Ambers, chief growth officer at AVYST, adds. “There are jobs that can maximize the experience and talent of most anyone if they’ll just give a career in insurance a chance.”

“There are jobs that can maximize anyone’s experience and talent, if they’ll just give insurance a chance.” —Kitty Ambers, Chief Growth Officer, AVYST

Fantastic Youths and Where to Find Them

The obvious starting point for finding millennial and Gen Z talent is the matriculant level. “Organizations need to be more proactive in sharing jobs and career paths available to generate interest and interacting with students both at the high school and college level,” explains Carolyn Collier, lead talent acquisition and engagement specialist at ReSource Pro.

Technology, married with customer service, is shaping the kinds of recruits the insurance industry should be looking for. Collier points out: “Customers are no longer comparing the service they receive from insurance organizations to other insurance organizations, but to the customer service giants such as Amazon, Google or Zappos.”

Aside from reaching out to students on the high school and college level who are often working part-time in customer-centric roles, Ambers finds there are a wealth of valuable and skilled recruits already in varied fields.

“Exceptional waiters — the ones who truly care about the details and the outcome of your dining experience — can make terrific customer service staff,” she gives as an example. “Retired engineers make great inspectors and loss control personnel. Pilots tend to be exceptional operations managers because they are keen on standardized checklists for ensuring consistency.”

There is also a wealth of talented veterans insurers can pull from, bringing a wide range of experiences, knowledge and skills.

“I am also totally supportive of initiatives to hire veterans,” says Ambers. “Our veterans have proven through years of service that they are trainable and able to take direction while working in fast-paced, sometimes stressful situations. We need those traits in all areas of our industry.”

“Something that really stood out to me was how [ReSource Pro was] able to see past the fact that I didn’t have former industry experience,” Ensor shares about her own recruitment experience. “They recognized that I could bring insight and new ideas to the table and really embraced that.”

“The skills needed in all segments of our industry are so varied that I truly believe anyone who is willing to be a lifelong learner can be successful in the insurance industry,” Ambers adds.

What Candidates Want

The talent insurers are starting to look for goes beyond traditional education and skill sets, however. Insurers want candidates who are confident in their abilities and have strong expectations for the organizations they work for.

“We are now seeking to create and grow diverse candidate pools that include the strong insurance candidate as well as those that fall outside the insurance norm,” says Leadley. “That includes candidates with entrepreneurial spirit and strong analytical and interpersonal skills who are seeking opportunities and careers, not just jobs.

“This generation is seeking opportunity, growth, stability, and benefits,” Leadley continues. “Their needs are shaping our processes and programs.”

Learning opportunities and the ability to perform more than a job function are attractive to younger generations who are used to constantly juggling multiple activities throughout their day-to-day lives. Ensor credits a straight-forward job listing that outlined self-advancement as part of what attracted her to a career in insurance.

“[ReSource Pro] listed the main functions of the role and made it clear that the position could be tailored to my specific skill sets. Amazing! No one likes to be trapped in a box.”

Formalized programs around assessing development areas and leveraging strengths will not only attract younger employees, but help retain them as well, says Sencio. “This allows people to stay engaged with the organization longer. You have to provide meaningful development opportunities to the employees so they can see tangible growth in the coming years. The momentum that you build will support longevity.”

And in the end, creating this type of environment will be beneficial for an organization at its core. The only way to keep up with a constantly changing technological and educational landscape is by fostering an environment in which your talent can grow and learn for their own personal development and for their function within an organization as a whole.

“Not only are insurance companies looking for fresh, new ideas to connect with their audiences, it’s vital they have people who truly understand our rapidly changing world,” explains Ensor. “When doing my research, I quickly realized that there was an incredible opportunity to ‘make my mark’ as a younger person in the industry.”

“Talent is all relative,” says Ambers. “Recognize it all and how it fits in your firm’s culture, is what I recommend. This can be challenging, however, if a firm hasn’t spent the time needed to create an innovative culture where new ideas and skill sets are embraced.”

The Proof Is in the Culture

An innovative culture is one of the top factors that will attract and retain young talent, as evidenced by Ensor’s own experience.

“I was attracted to the culture,” Ensor says of what drew her to ReSource Pro. “[They have] cool offices, awesome benefits including a great health and wellness program, and snacks — let’s be real, this is super important.”

And the organization’s own commitment to that culture was a huge draw alone.

“ReSource Pro is incredibly invested in finding the right fit — both in capability and culture — and that was apparent from the get-go,” she explains. “The interviews felt more like conversations. This put me at ease and allowed me to talk about my experience more openly, while actually learning about the company.”

Benefits are also incredibly important, Ensor stresses, and companies need to go beyond the traditional health insurance and 401(k) offerings.

“Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely grateful for those things, but the bar has been raised. Many companies are now offering gym reimbursements, monthly team outings, flexible hours, catered meals, and personal growth stipends.

“Outside of pay, culture is by far the most important thing to me and all my friends,” Ensor explains. “Think about it. You’re at work, what? 40–70 hours a week on average? Who wants to spend all that time feeling stifled and uninspired?”

Diversifying Talent

Although the major driver of diversity is addressing the talent age gap, younger generations are seeking workplaces that embrace and welcome all forms of diversity and are inclusive of all types of people. That kind of diversity ranges from race, religion and gender to thought, perspective and dress.

“Candidates are more focused on diversity today than ever before,” says Collier. “When they’re considering new employment opportunities, they’re looking at the diversity of the organization they’re considering joining. So, if an organization doesn’t have a diverse workforce in place, they’re at a recruitment disadvantage.”

“The definition of diversity and the way organizations think of diversity is continuing to expand beyond traditional identity groups like race, religion, gender, culture and age to include invisible diversity traits such as diversity of thought, perspectives and life experiences,” adds Sencio. “More organizations are recognizing that in order to foster high-performing teams, they have to ensure there is diversity of thought and leadership styles working on accomplishing business objectives.”

The companies that are proactively working to attract, hire, engage and retain a more diverse workforce will have an edge in hiring to fill newly vacated roles.

“Diversity and fostering an inclusive workforce are critical to maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace,” says Jones. “At CSAA, employees can join regional diversity councils or employee resource groups to help empower our workforce.”

Hiring managers are increasingly receiving training to help them look for the right candidates amid the wide assortment of individuals their job postings bring in.

“For all manager and above positions, we require a diverse slate of candidates,” Jones explains. “This is not intended to put an added burden on the hiring managers, but because we want to make sure we look at a broad base of talent for any opportunity and, in the end, select the best person to fill the role.”

Cultivating a diverse workforce doesn’t end at the hiring stage, however. Organizations also need toprovide continual training to help maintain a welcoming and inclusive environment at every level.

“The most welcoming work environments are those that engage employees from all levels of the business in culture building,” says Ambers.

Continuing development opportunities in diversity are an important step for organizations to foster the type of inclusive workplace that will attract young talent.

“We provide training on implicit bias across our organization,” says Jones. “We also introduced the concept of intersectionality in our inclusion and belonging training and communications to help all employees better understand that what makes up a whole person is much deeper than what you can see on the surface.

“Because there is so little education on this topic, we feel an obligation to provide this type of education in the workplace, especially given that one of our core values is to be inclusive.”

“Make sure the work culture is welcoming to all,” advises Ensor. “Younger generations take pride in being dedicated, innovative and imaginative — and I’d be willing to bet most companies take pride in the same attributes.

“Treating everyone with respect and showing that you believe they can do the job they were hired to do can make all the difference,” she continues. “Recognize that what motivates your over-50-year-old employee with three kids may not be the same thing that drives your 25-year-old employee with two cats.

“Lastly, acknowledging that employees can still give 110% while wearing jeans and sneakers can’t hurt.”

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