The Talent Crisis -- and Opportunity

Two-thirds of U.S. employees are looking for a new job, creating vulnerabilities for insurers -- but also a rare opportunity to lure talent to the industry.

A recent survey by PwC found that nearly two-thirds of employees in the U.S., including executives, are looking for a new job. That number is stunning.

It suggests that insurers need to play some serious defense, to keep employees happy and on board and to keep competitors from poaching talent. But it also illuminates an opportunity to play offense. If lots of employees are looking for a new position, then, by all means, let's go get the best we can.

As someone who chose to get involved with insurance eight years ago because of what I saw as a huge opportunity for digital innovation, I've always been struck by the industry's inferiority complex. People talk about how they fell into insurance, rather than choosing it. Many talk about the industry as slow-moving and boring.

In fact, it seems to me that insurance combines a noble purpose with a great opportunity -- a chance to use digital technology to "put a dent in the universe," as Steve Jobs once memorably put it. As we've seen over the past several years, insurers are not just using technology to be more efficient but to make life easier for customers, whether buying a policy, requesting information or service or filing a claim. And we're barely past the starting line. In time, I believe, the industry will be able to focus on preventing losses, rather than (the already important role of ) making people whole following losses. I also think insurance can play a key role in mitigating climate change by translating future risks into dollars-and-cents calculations today that will steer clients in the right direction.

So, why not take advantage of people's current itch to reconsider their career choices? Why not make a pitch for people to enter the insurance field, where they can play a role in reinventing a multitrillion-dollar industry that provides the bedrock for all others by handling their risks?

As I said, we'll all have to play defense, too. The PwC survey of 1,007 U.S. based employees and 752 executives found that many were in search of better salaries and benefits -- benefits being a blind spot for many executives, who underestimated their importance to employees. The key ones cited in the report are: expanded flexibility, career growth, well-being and upskilling.

I'd underline the role of expanded flexibility, at least over the next year or so. I think many people will be swayed by what the work environment will be like once the pandemic finally recedes far enough for the vast majority of offices to reopen -- with, I imagine, at least some flexibility to work remotely being a key desire.

And these concerns aren't idle. Not only did 64% of those surveyed in August say they were looking for employment, up from 36% in May, but nine out of 10 executives said they were seeing abnormally high turnover in their organizations.

But I think insurance is already making bigger strides than most industries to become a more attractive place to work, in particular by continuously automating more and more of the entering (and reentering and checking and fixing and...) of the information that insurers require. And the trend is accelerating. So much more of the mundane work processing documents will be taken over by computers, freeing us humans to tackle far-more-fulfilling problems.

As an ITL thought leader wrote not long ago, it's one thing to pitch prospects on a career of checking the fine print in a legal contract. It's a whole other thing to tell them that we'll equip them with the most advanced tools available to reinvent one of the world's core industries.

Now is a great time to make that pitch.



Paul Carroll

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Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership.

He is also co-author of A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the Future We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050 and Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993.

Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.