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September 6, 2016

The Most Stressful Job in Insurance

Summary:

HR is a profession living in the 1980s but trying to operate in a a business environment of the 2020s, or thereabouts.

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So we all feel we have a tough deal. Creating a product, reducing claims ratios, improving profitability – and even being the captain of the ship when all around us the waters are turbulent, and storms are on the horizon.

But I wanted to share with you what I think is one of the most stressful jobs in insurance. And that is in the HR (human resources) department. Okay, so you are thinking that HR is a comfortable, backroom activity away from the heat of the insurance battle. But that’s not the case.

The insurance battle — if not much of the war — relates to cost-cutting. And that means losing people. Often good people, because they are expensive. These industry experts are often let go quickly, with little warning and with poor compensation despite years of service.

See also: 8 Things to Know About Insurance  

Why should this create stress in the HR department? First, let’s get over the notion that HR is the employee’s friend. I remember when HR was the “trusted adviser” to the employee as well as representing the employer’s interest – but now HR is firmly there to implement employment processes within the terms of employment law. Many senior professions entered HR because of their soft skills, but now they are “the hatchet men” who have to implement major change. No wonder they feel uncomfortable.

(We won’t touch on why it seems to be the guys in HR who get the top jobs, and not the women. That’s a different blog entirely. Think “glass” and “ceiling.”)

Then there is the issue of social media. Many conversations within businesses are meant to take place in an environment of confidentiality, but disgruntled employees are sharing information — often under an alias — about their severance terms and conditions. In many cases, the HR department has little insight into what is being said about their performance and behavior; if they did, they would be horrified.

See also: The Human Resources View Of Health Care Benefits Needs To Change  

The reality is that HR is a profession living in the 1980s but trying to operate in a a business environment of the 2020s, or thereabouts. No wonder HR professionals feel disillusioned and under stress. Big stress.

HR needs to adapt rapidly. HR professionals need to be able to manage social media analytics, especially sentiment analysis, and to be able to manage employees in same way that the marketing department seek to understand their customers. Until that happens, these key professionals will feel like victims of change rather than being the effective implementors.

(Even as victims, of course, at least they’ll keep their jobs. After all, doesn’t someone have to turn off the lights at the end of the day?)

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About the Author

Tony Boobier is a former worldwide insurance executive at IBM focusing on analytics and is now operating as an independent writer and consultant. He entered the insurance industry 30 years ago. After working for carriers and intermediaries in customer-facing operational roles, he crossed over to the world of technology in 2006.

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