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January 18, 2017

Need for Lifelong Learning in Insurance

Summary:

Here are four ways to foster continuous education, helping your staff be more productive and eager to try new things.

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Lifelong learning has been shown to benefit employees and employers. Insurance pros with a penchant for learning often earn more money and have better long-term career prospects. In exchange, employers get smart, productive workers who are eager to try new things and share their expertise with colleagues. Here are four ways to foster continuous education and lifelong learning among your staff.

For employees, the benefits of lifelong learning are clear and documented – better employment prospects, higher salary and greater job satisfaction. Research shows happier employees are more productive employees, but for employers, the benefits of prioritizing lifelong learning go beyond a bump in efficiency. For lifelong learners, a natural curiosity is second nature. They’re the employees who are most likely to embrace a new technology, get behind a new process and keep the rest of their teams up to date on industry changes. They’re the employees who can change your company culture and invigorate innovation.

A growing need for learning

As the entire insurance industry grapples with the impending talent gap, attracting and retaining employees who know the industry and are eager to keep up with new developments will be more important than ever. In the next two years, more than 25 percent of the industry will reach or be close to retirement age. Without a formal structure for training and passing on institutional knowledge, veteran workers will leave take key information with them for good when they walk out the door for the last time.

See also: Better Way to Think About Leadership  

Fostering on-the-job learning is an important first step in realizing the benefits of an informed, knowledgeable team of employees. The good news is 73 percent of workers consider themselves to be lifelong learners, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Many employees want to learn more, they’re just waiting for a cue from their employers. Here are four ways organizations can encourage employees to become lifelong learners.

1. Support formal learning

On-the-job training cannot be an afterthought. At far too many organizations, a focus on keeping skills sharp and mastering processes stops once employees are officially on the books. Organizations spend a staggering 50 times more on recruitment than they do on training, according to Deloitte. Official training has to be more than a boring PowerPoint presentation everyone suffers through a few times a year.

Industry designations are another effective way of keeping employees up to speed in targeted areas. Employees who receive designations from The Institutes say they are better able to add value to their roles at their organizations. It’s also a built-in opportunity to network and share knowledge with other people pursuing their CPCU, AINS or other designation.

2. Focus on culture

The research from Pew also found that nearly 90 percent of professional learners cite their workplace, dedicated off-site facilities, or conferences as places where they most commonly learn. Growing a culture where learning is encouraged is essential. Staying current on industry developments and seeking out opportunities to attend conferences and learn more about their specialties should be a stated part of everyone’s job.

Supporting a culture of learning doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming commitment. A quick lunch meeting where a few employees recap a webinar they recently took in or share their thoughts on an insurance industry book they just read are great places to start. It can even be as simple as subscribing to a few industry publications and putting them in breakrooms and other common areas.

3. Lead by example

Execs and managers need to practice what they preach when it comes to lifelong learning. This shouldn’t be too difficult – research suggests a willingness to learn is the number one indicator of executive success.

When frontline employees see their bosses and other company leaders taking the time to prioritize learning, it sends a message that growing your knowledge base is valued – and a good way to advance your career. It can be as simple as a manager sending an email encouraging everyone to read a relevant news article that came out recently.

4. Encourage social learning

There are lots of ways to boost employees’ knowledge of industry information and best practices. Designations, webinars, conferences and newsletters are all great ways to continue to learn more about claims, underwriting, customer service or a number of other industry topics throughout your career.

But what about information specific to your organization? That institutional knowledge that is dissipating as insurance vets retire is often the most valuable information to a team. Creating a mentoring program between more experienced workers and fresh faces at your organization is one of the most effective ways to recapture this crucial institutional knowledge.

See also: 2 Heads Are Better Than 1, Right?  

Giving less experienced employees a chance to share his or her skills with a more experienced worker, so-called reverse mentoring, has also been shown to be beneficial to both groups. In addition to actually sharing key info, a mentor program where different co-workers are regularly sitting down to talk about what they’ve learned and how it’s informed how they work is a great way to create that culture of continuous education.

How do you foster lifelong learning at your organization or in your department? Leave your best tip in the comments section below. Or, learn more about the most popular designations from The Institutes and enroll your teams today.

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About the Author

Martin J. Frappolli, CPCU, FIDM, AIC, is one of the senior directors of knowledge resources at The Institutes. He is the editor of the organization’s new “Managing Cyber Risk” textbook.

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