Unless you've been frozen in carbonite for the past 15 years, you're probably aware that the insurance industry is facing two imminent HR crises:
- A Brain Drain- Twenty-five percent of the industry workforce is expected to retire by 2018, according to Insurance Business America. But wait! It gets better. In addition to filling vacancies caused by attrition, companies will have to recruit workers to staff the 200,000 new jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to create by 2022.
- An Enthusiasm Gap- Even today, the industry is struggling to attract young talent. According to a 2012 study by the Griffith Insurance Education Foundation, only 5% of Millennial students describe themselves as "very interested" in working in the insurance industry. When it comes to considering a career as a claims adjuster, the "Y" in Generation Y stands for "yawn."
Two Problems, One Solution
I believe new and emerging information technologies will play a critical role in overcoming both the Brain Drain and Enthusiasm Gap.
Many young people would rather view an endless loop of piano-playing cat videos on YouTube than work as a claims adjuster. Or so they think...
With the imminent arrival of usage-based insurance, there is a lot of excitement developing in the underwriting sector, and I believe the same level of enthusiasm will also attach to technologies such as cognitive analytic computing. These new technologies are innovative. They're challenging. They're fun.
More important: Technologies like cognitive computing will change the very nature of the claims adjuster's job - from one that requires a fair amount of dull administrative tasks to one that places much more emphasis on analysis, creative problem-solving and people skills.
Skills Will Trump Experience
In the future, we'll see fewer claims adjusters in the workforce, but this smaller pool of talent will be trained in a different ways and in different skillsets than previous generations. Tomorrow's adjuster will not possess - and will not need - the wealth of experience, knowledge and (to some extent) skills as today's adjuster. Instead, new technologies will provide them with the tools to instantaneously obtain that knowledge, experience and skill.
The future adjuster won't be trained in many of the manual and repetitive tasks his predecessor had to learn. Tasks with little or no value will be automated. Rather, the adjuster will have to be tech-savvy. She will have to know how to analyze information because, even with the help of cognitive computing, she'll still need to analyze reams of information - data related to vehicles, collision-avoidance technology and event data recorders.
She will also have to be familiar with product liability issues. When self-driving cars become commonplace, adjusters may not be dealing with losses involving driver fault. Instead, they may encounter instances in which the vehicles malfunctioned - product-liability claims - and will have to know how to process claims with vehicle manufacturers and the suppliers of advanced collision-avoidance systems. Future adjusters will need to tap skills and knowledge that their forbears never dreamed of.
Tech-Savvy and People-Savvy
Future adjusters will have to be much more tech-savvy, even though they'll be responsible for performing fewer tasks. At the same time, they'll need superior people skills to ensure that customer service isn't lost amid increasingly automated processes. Although the industry will automate many tasks, and many customers will be pleased with this development, customers are already demanding higher levels of customer service. The "personal touch" isn't just a side benefit: It's often the main driver behind a consumer's decision to choose one carrier over another.
So adjusters of the future will be people who are very customer-oriented, very tech-savvy, very intelligent and very skilled at interpreting mountains of data. They won't have to perform a lot of clerical and administrative tasks. Automation will virtually eliminate that work. But they will have to know how to optimize new technologies to deliver superior customer service and the best possible outcome to every claim.
We in the claims industry have to find ways to inspire, energize and interest young people in careers as claims adjusters. Currently, this isn't a vocation many Millennials seek. With the help of new and emerging technologies, however, we can be seen as a fun, innovative and inventive sector that adds value to the lives of ordinary people. After all, getting into accidents causes a great deal of stress for most vehicle owners. For that reason, our industry needs adjusters who are adept at a wide variety of claims-processing and customer-service challenges.