Planning for the Future

Insurance Industry Seeks Talent

New demands and recruiting challenges make some roles hard to fill, but educational efforts are bridging the gap.
By: | November 11, 2014 • 4 min read

Insurance executives frequently cite a lack of new talent and an aging workforce as top concerns for the future of the industry.

That difficulty in recruiting newcomers to the industry was affirmed by a labor market study released by The Jacobson Group and Ward Group earlier this year. The study also found, however, that there was potential for growth as new skill sets become increasingly important.

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Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of companies surveyed said they expect to increase staffing over the next 12 months. That figure is down from January of this year, but still represents the second-highest percentage reported since the survey was first administered in 2009.

Most staffing will be in technology, underwriting and claims roles, according to the survey.

“We know the industry faces a big demographic challenge, which I think will cross a lot of disciplines and positions in the industry.” — Pete Miller, president and CEO, The Institutes

“Traditionally, actuaries and underwriters have been in demand, and I think that continues to be the case,” said Pete Miller, president and CEO of The Institutes.

The survey also targeted technology, actuarial, analytics and executive roles as being the hardest to fill.  According to Greg Jacobson, co-CEO of The Jacobson Group, the issue comes down to simple supply and demand.

“Supply of skills in some of these areas isn’t changing as fast as demand,” he said. “Primary reasons for adding staff are related to ease of doing business and big data. Technology recruiting is suffering from changing technical requirements and increasing demand.”

Companies need to hire for the future, and many experienced people in the field today simply don’t have the knowledge and skill with data and technology to meet the industry’s needs.

“Technology continues to evolve, particularly around data science,” Miller said. “The insurance industry is kind of the original big data industry, and the industry has a big need for people that know how to use rapidly evolving tools to analyze and manipulate data, and how to spot trends.”

The industry will have to attract young, tech-savvy graduates to the industry in order to develop the skill-sets it needs to take advantage of technology’s capabilities.

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“This is a relatively new discipline and the insurance industry is competing with many others for people who have the skills to build analytics capabilities,” Jacobson said. “There’s been a boom in demand given the growth of information and the way it’s used.”

“We know the industry faces a big demographic challenge, which I think will cross a lot of disciplines and positions in the industry,” Miller said.

Recruiting Challenges

The problem in recruiting isn’t lack of opportunity, experts said. Rather, the insurance industry has roles for every interest and college major. It offers chances for advancement, flexibility, and the sense of fulfillment that many young people entering the workforce look for.

“The ability to keep up with the pace of change while maintaining an organizational focus is a new responsibility for execs that has changed over the past 10 years.” — Greg Jacobson, co-CEO, The Jacobson Group

The Institutes conducted surveys to determine what young people think of the industry. The result?

“By and large, they don’t think about the industry, or they have misperceptions,” Miller said. “Part of what we’re trying to do is point out that this is a big industry with a lot of opportunities that is aligned with what a lot of young people want.

“There’s competition from banking and finance and tech companies,” he said, “but regardless of what you’re interested in, there’s a spot for you in this industry. To be able to understand and underwrite risk, you have to understand your customer’s business.”

Raising awareness has become a core mission at The Institutes, born out of the industry’s struggle to market itself effectively to college graduates.

The speed of technological change has posed challenges for some company leaders.

“The ability to keep up with the pace of change while maintaining an organizational focus is a new responsibility for execs that has changed over the past 10 years,” Jacobson said. “It’s hard to get executive teams to focus on what’s going to happen in the future, versus what’s happening today.”

Educational Efforts

Some carriers and brokers have their own internship or training programs for college students, but The Institutes has taken a centralized approach with its MyPath initiative, which aims to raise awareness among young people about the opportunities available and the rewards of working in the insurance industry.

“Our board is made up of senior level people at large P/C organizations, and they really look to us as an educational organization,” Miller said. “They’ve asked us to be a focal point for this effort.”

Created in 2013, MyPath serves as an online resource center for both college students and insurance companies, who can post internship or job opportunities.

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Students can follow a step-by-step questionnaire that guides them to a position in the industry that best suits their skills and interests. It’s also the first significant effort to explain the role of insurance as the bedrock that supports all other industries and the safety net that keeps the economy humming.

Despite all the emphasis on technology and analytics, Miller said it’s important to highlight the human interactions that make a career in insurance rewarding. People skills still matter.

“My experience is younger people are more connected more completely because of technology,” he said. “They want a rewarding career, and they still want to work with people; they just do it differently.”

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]