Employee Retention Has Never Been More Crucial — or More Difficult. Ways the E&S Sector Can Proceed

By: | April 18, 2022

Erich Bublitz is the Senior Vice President of AmTrust’s Excess and Surplus (E&S) division. He leads the AmTrust E&S team in supporting a unified national underwriting appetite focusing on specific industry segments while continuing AmTrust’s dedicated wholesale distribution strategy. AmTrust E&S offers clients a wide range of specialty insurance products through its three primary underwriting platforms: Specialty Primary and Supported Excess, Unsupported Excess, and Contract Binding.

The Great Resignation: For the last 6-8 months, headlines have focused on labor shortages, “Help Wanted” signs and lower unemployment rates.

In 2021, nearly 69 million people quit their jobs, and the majority moved on to new employment. A record 4.5 million workers left their jobs in just November 2021 alone, with restaurant and health care workers leading the wave in resignations.

Today, there is a growing shift in the insurance employment landscape, just like every other industry. While COVID-19 may be partially responsible for a labor shortage, there are other factors in play, making it challenging for some businesses to bring workers back to the job site or the office, including:

  • Older workers retiring
  • Increase in resignations due to being overworked
  • Surge in new businesses
  • Women leaving the workforce
  • Fear of exposure to COVID-19

The insurance industry had suffered a talent shortage even before the pandemic. It only has gotten worse in the past two years as older employees retired and younger generations have not been interested in an insurance career. Employee retention among millennials is low, causing an industry-wide talent gap.

Keys for Retaining Employees

Today, it is a job seeker’s market and the battle for top talent is fierce. The old way (pre-pandemic) that everyone had worked is now outdated.

Insurance companies are rethinking how they hire, train and retain their employees. The pandemic has forced companies to redefine how and where they work, collaborate as a team and create an enduring company culture. Plus, Insurtech technologies have impacted how insurance companies work, requiring an employee-base with more digital experience.

Employee surveys have found that the key to retaining workers is both in the company culture and their specific manager.

Pay is important, but people left jobs in 2021 due to low engagement and employee well-being. Employees are looking for flexibility, recognition, mental health support, diversity and transparency from their company and management team.

Keeping workers satisfied and enjoying coming to work every day can also be vital to retaining a great team.

Recruiting the Right Talent: Look Beyond the Insurance Industry

Hiring boils down to getting the right people in the right positions.

Look outside the insurance world to recruit new candidates. People with differing skillsets bring fresh and innovative ideas and solutions to the complex E&S world.

People with health, law, marketing and IT experience can help enhance the open positions in the insurance sector.

These candidates could bring a knowledge base to the team that you didn’t know you needed. The new employee can be trained and adjust their talents to fit into your team.

E&S Hiring Challenges

The E&S space creates an additional challenge beyond those in the insurance industry at large. As the underwriting tends to be more judgement-based, there aren’t the guide rails that admitted filings provide in the standard market.

So how does E&S find the right talent to support this challenging situation?

It starts with developing a culture that fits the needs of the types of underwriters necessary to meet the challenges. Companies need to have a start-up mindset that brings in people who have an entrepreneurial spirit. There must be a focus on people having ownership not only of their own book of business but in making the enterprise think, act and do differently.

When the E&S market was 2% of the insurance industry, it was easy to focus on hiring only highly-experienced underwriting talent, but now that E&S accounts for a double-digit percentage of the insurance market, it is about hiring the right mindset and training up underwriting experience.

This doesn’t mean we have to limit ourselves to people new to the professional world; we should also focus on people interested in a mid-career change and standard market underwriters in other lines.  It truly must be about mindset and cultural fit over underwriting experience.

But this does mean we have an obligation to create a culture of learning and development.

To take employees who have the right mindset who culturally fit and make them good underwriters, we have to invest in their development. Mentoring, internal training and external certification programs all combine to create the underwriting skill development to bring new people into the E&S industry.

Development programs aren’t just about putting people through classes; it is hands-on direct involvement with each person from more experienced underwriters and managers. If we aren’t willing to invest some experienced underwriters’ time in developing younger underwriters because it takes experienced underwriters off their desk, we will have a significant long-term problem.

Make Your Company Stand Out to Candidates

How can you get the right candidate?

Employees are looking for a cultural alignment, flexible schedules and a robust compensation package. Employers are looking for a new worker who is the right fit. During the labor shortage, there is intense competition for quality talent.

The insurance industry needs to understand how the changing employment market brings new and innovative opportunities for current and prospective employees. Companies that embrace change will welcome new types of employees, including those with transferable skills from other industries.

It’s a pivotal moment for the insurance industry as we continue to adapt to business environments, technological advancements and the way we work and serve our customers in this time of change. &

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