A Blueprint for Winning the War for Talent

Here are six creative approaches that are enabling insurers to uncover, connect with and hold on to top talent at a time when it's at a premium.

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As focused as the South African insurer Discovery has been on breaking new ground with lifestyle-oriented, incentive-driven products and supporting them with a superior customer experience, company officials came to realize that something had to change for those products to fulfill their promise. 

“Our existing processes generated complexity, high costs, significant inefficiencies and high volumes of mundane administrative tasks. We needed to make a change and transform the services we provide to our people,” Kammy Sing, group head of people operations at Discovery, recounted in a recent blog post.

Mission accomplished. Today, the company, which employs about 12,000 people, reports significant improvements in employee productivity and satisfaction as a result of efforts to enhance the employee experience. And that’s translating into success for products like the behavior-based Vitality Drive automotive offering, according to Discovery. The insurer reports that it has seen a sharp reduction in customer accident frequency with the product, along with claims savings, improved loss ratios and a significant increase in good drivers on the books, all while paying out the equivalent of $70 million in incentives to customers.

The insurance industry’s struggles to attract and retain people to replace an aging, eroding employee base are well-documented. But as companies like Discovery have learned, it takes the right people to sustain innovation, stay relevant and grow the bottom line. Here are six creative approaches that are enabling insurers to uncover, connect with and hold on to top talent: 

1) Position insurance as an “in” career path.

Insurers have a compelling story to tell,” PWC asserts in a 2022 report. “If they open up and start promoting themselves and the industry, they’ll put themselves in a strong position for growth, led and supported by intelligent and capable people.”

The story insurers should be telling is one that resonates with Millennials and Generation Z and rebrands a career in insurance. The goal should be to shift the perception of insurance as a staid, impersonal industry, to one that gives employees an opportunity to be a positive force in peoples’ lives and the community by protecting them from risk and serving them in times of need. Appealing to people's entrepreneurial sensibilities, with pathways for adjusters and independent agents to run their own business, should also be part of that rebranding.

They should promote the opportunity to participate in exciting, higher-risk/higher-reward startup-type opportunities with digital spin-off companies like MassMutual’s Haven Life. How about offering people the chance to build new business ecosystems and lifestyle-oriented products centered on, or involving, insurance? These are the kinds of opportunities that appeal to people who want to ply their skills in the digital economy and, in the process, help to remake an entire industry.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, 2020 was the first time insurance employees included company values among the 10 workplace attributes that they care about most. So, as part of the rebranding, insurers also need to demonstrate and tout their ability to connect people to a higher purpose. 

2) Cast a wider net.

The pandemic has helped usher in an era of recruiting beyond borders, as access to talent is no longer restricted by geographical proximity to a physical office. To take advantage, insurers first need to zero in on the skills they need to recruit to execute their business strategies, then find ways to tap the broader talent pools to which they now have access. 

Besides expanding the scope of their recruiting efforts geographically, companies can use new talent sourcing models to find the right people. Offering the opportunity to work for a multi-company, multi-industry ecosystem with an insurance industry component could be compelling to younger members of the workforce. So could a shared-talent type of model, where someone could have a chance to work for a partnership between an insurer and a fintech company, for example.

Insurers also need to consider new models for attracting and building talent internally. Chubb, for example, launched Chubb Academy to recruit a diverse range of younger talent from across Continental Europe, with no requirement for a university degree or previous insurance industry experience. The program is designed to develop people via a two-year program in property and casualty commercial insurance, with the opportunity to move elsewhere within the company. 

See also: The Staffing Crisis in Insurance

3) Reel them in with a superior recruiting experience.

A highly engaging, transparent and easy-to-navigate recruiting experience is a must for insurers to attract the right talent. Recognizing that hiring processes were lengthy, expensive and risked putting off talented candidates, Discovery reinvented certain key internal and external-facing aspects of the hiring journey with intelligent technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and virtual assistants, which resulted in a 25% reduction in time-to-hire. 

4) Be progressive and flexible with hybrid work.

During the pandemic, according to BCG, 75% of insurance employees worked remotely some or all of the time (well above the 51% cross-industry average); 94% said they prefer to work remotely some or all of the time. Providing employees with flexibility as to when and where they work not only can help insurers attract and retain talent, it can also reduce costs.

5) Provide a superior employee experience.

Providing an empowering and unique employee experience is a must in today’s talent-constrained world. And while robust benefits and flexible work arrangements are a good start, it’s important that insurers build on that by arming employees with the latest digital tools to excel in their interactions with clients, and in their collaboration and communications internally. The opportunity to be hands-on with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies is highly appealing, particularly to younger members of the workforce. 

In the BCG survey, insurance workers ranked good relationships with colleagues as the most important facet of their job. So, if companies are sourcing talent and assembling teams from geographically diverse areas, they must have tools that enable collaboration and communication from anywhere. 

Insurers also can give themselves an edge by providing superior experiences to their external workforce, such as by providing tools that streamline commission processing and licensing for agents. And behind all this, insurers also need to be hyper-focused on the employee experience, using tools to monitor and manage that experience across every level of the organization.

6) Offer opportunities for mobility and upskilling.

People want the ability to build new skills, take on new challenges and find interesting new pathways within a company. To cater to those sensibilities, “prescient companies are creating rotations within and across functions, especially at junior levels, to create more diversity of experience,” PWC observes. “They’re giving individuals exposure to different parts of the business — including leadership — and even arranging temporary gigs outside the company at start-ups (including insurtechs). The end result is a larger pool of internal talent that can be plugged in when and where it’s needed.”

In early 2021, AXA UK launched a data academy to upskill workers across all its insurance divisions, exactly the type of creative approach insurers should be taking to ensure they’re well-positioned from a talent perspective to thrive in a fast-evolving business environment. 

Toni Tomic

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Toni Tomic

Toni Tomic is global head of Insurance Business Solutions SAP SE.

He is responsible for the SAP global industry strategy, solutions, partnerships and go-to-market for the insurance vertical. He is part of SAP’s global financial services and industries leadership team. Tomic leads global and regional teams dedicated to executing on SAP's digital transformation and innovation agenda for insurance, covering current SAP solutions as well as disruptive technologies such as AI/machine learning and blockchain. In addition, he is managing the strategic co-innovation initiatives with SAP’s customers and partners.

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