Hiring in the Specialty Insurance Field? People with Dyslexia Can Be an Asset

By: | November 10, 2022

Steve Gransbury is the head of specialty and residential insurance for QBE North America. He oversees the ongoing development and execution of the go-to-market strategy while driving underwriting excellence, strong portfolio management, selective distribution, innovation and a differentiated and specialized customer experience. Steve is a seasoned insurance executive and, prior to joining QBE, he cofounded SLG Benefits & Insurance LLC, a managing general underwriting and program management company, and the captive insurance company Stratus Reinsurance Inc.

October was Dyslexia Awareness Month, an annual observance of the 15% or so of the population with dyslexia, which affects learning skills involved in reading, writing and spelling.

Reflecting upon last month’s awareness content, it seems more understanding is needed to underscore the important capabilities a learner with dyslexia can bring to the workforce.

Dyslexia may affect the ability to manipulate the sounds of language, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. However, it’s best thought of as a continuum with soft characteristic margins, not a distinct category with rigid diagnostic edges.

Everyone with dyslexia is distinct. Dyslexic professionals are as different from one another as are any neurotypical workers.

Numerous scientific studies suggest that dyslexic people have greater long-term memories, creative capabilities and critical thinking skills as compared to non-dyslexic individuals. Their other traits on par with or better than non-dyslexics’ include empathy, sensitivity and awareness of other people’s emotions.

Altogether, these varied qualities are associated with exceptional problem-solving, teamwork and leadership — skills in high demand in the specialty insurance market.

Specialty insurance calls for the development of products covering unique and often complex business risks. The industry is constantly looking for new ways to manage risk. In turn, this necessitates the hiring of people who think differently about problems and patterns, taking current solutions apart in controlled experiments for innovative reassembly, and collaborating in agile ways of working to accelerate the pace of differentiation and development.

These pivotal competencies demand people with proficiencies in diagnostics, critical thinking, creativity and communications skills — key features of individuals who have dyslexia and can help offset a growing shortage in talent in specialty insurance and assist the innovations needed as carriers and brokers digitally transform their enterprises.

Today, workers with dyslexia may not face some of the same reading and writing process challenges as prior generations did. According to a study by audit and advisory firm Ernst & Young (EY), automation and tools like spellcheck, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software have leveled the playing field. That’s good news for many businesses, according to the study, entitled The Value of Dyslexia.

Much-needed skills like analysis, critical thinking, leadership, initiative and creativity “closely match the strengths of dyslexic thinking, providing an opportunity for organizations to bridge the skills gap of the future,” another EY study on the subject stated.

Other research on dyslexic thinking has arrived at similar conclusions. In the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers at the University of Cambridge found that people with dyslexia have enhanced capabilities in areas like “discovery, invention and creativity,” citing other findings that dyslexics have “superior talents … relating to art, architecture, engineering and athletics.”

People with dyslexia also appear to have superior puzzle-solving skills, helping them to connect abstract ideas in atypical ways, rather than in a straight line. Other strengths include long-term memory and storytelling. Dyslexics typically recall facts not as random data but as stories. Added to another superpower — emotional intelligence — dyslexics have what it takes to be compelling teammates and leaders.

The specialty insurance market would benefit from hiring people with dyslexia. Tasks involving the analysis of complex risks, quantifying and underwriting these exposures, evaluating policyholder claims, and communicating with colleagues and customers correspond to their strengths. People with dyslexia fit the bill.

As we conclude Dyslexia Awareness Month 2022, now may be a good time to broadly reassess recruitment objectives, raising awareness of specialty insurance as a career and considering the value delivered by people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. &

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