It can be difficult to think about the future when the demands of the day are so pressing. The pandemic and events of 2020 have caused seismic shifts in society, affecting everyday patterns, lifestyles and business operations. Adapting strategies and plans to the pandemic’s evolving realities has been at the top of many insurers’ priority lists. Yet, in the midst of this turmoil, many P&C companies have been engaging in long-term strategic planning exercises. And some of the emerging themes are surprising.
SMA has conducted a number of scenario-planning workshops with insurers and MGAs – starting before the pandemic but continuing through 2020 and into 2021. These sessions, envisioning scenarios for 2030 and their implications for the company, are sometimes conducted at a company-wide level, sometimes for a single line of business and at other times for a specific area like distribution. These sessions are always educational and enlightening, revealing strategic options and exposing company gaps. The most surprising aspect of scenario planning is often how this type of thinking can actually drive near-term operational priorities. One of the most interesting themes that typically emerges revolves around people – especially the workforce.
Many dimensions can be explored when contemplating longer-term strategies to compete in the world of 2030 ... or 2025 … or 2022, for that matter. Business models, products, distribution, underwriting, claims, participating in new ecosystems, combatting new competitors and many other areas can be considered. There are important developments and strategic options for all of these areas. However, we have observed that, in virtually every session, the evolving workforce becomes a central theme – even for those that did not explicitly intend to take the workforce into consideration.
Often, projections on AI and connected-world technologies dominate the conversations. The potential for insurers to gain access to real-time data about every physical thing they insure is compelling – and leads to a vision of how the industry can leverage expertise on risk to help customers significantly reduce accidents and incidents while responding rapidly with new capabilities when something bad does occur. This creates a ripple effect in actuarial, underwriting, policy service, claims – and essentially every other area of the business. Yet, in the midst of exploring the opportunities and gaps related to advanced technologies, the role of industry professionals and the evolving workforce rises as a critical success factor.
Strategies related to the future workforce take on several dimensions.
Central to the roles of agents, underwriters, adjusters and other industry professionals is interaction with technology. Higher levels of automation and AI tools for insight shift the roles of these individuals in significant ways, even generating the need for brand new roles.
Before the pandemic, the industry was already in the early stages of a wave of retiring seasoned professionals. The pandemic has changed the retirement trajectory, and more are seeking early retirement. The rise of the millennial generation continues and must be a significant factor in workforce planning.
The rapid shift to work-from-home has forever altered work patterns and employee desires. P&C insurers did remarkably well in adapting, practically overnight, to a remote workforce. While some are eager to be back in the office, there are just as many or more who are now expecting the flexibility of choosing to work either at home or in the office.
See also: Insurtech 2021: Reset vs. Resume
Recruiting, Training, Retaining
The combination of role evolution, retirements and worksite flexibility change the game for the HR community. There is a growing recognition that the competition for talent will be different because location becomes less of a concern for many companies that are adapting to remote workers. In addition, the skills needed in a digital/AI world will be different than those required today. This is not to discount the value of deep insurance expertise – that will be more valued than ever. It is also important to value personal relationships and attributes such as empathy in the claims arena. But the big picture is that the way that employees will be recruited, trained and retained will be quite different – and organizations need to be starting on that journey today.
Companies are finding that these types of scenario-planning approaches can be a great way to spur innovation and get individuals out of old patterns of thinking. In addition to the workforce discussions, there are always very important implications and ideas related to many other dimensions of the business. Often, the most valuable outcome is to bring together individuals from across the business to build new internal relationships and share ideas across silos. The mix of people involved can be intended to advance cultural change but can also result in the sharing of practical ideas that improve the business in the short term.