Insurance Needs to Redefine Recruitment if It Wants to See New Talent Thrive

Commercial insurance has put forth a concerted effort to cultivate young professional interest in the industry as it faces a looming talent gap.
By: | June 15, 2020

The popularity of commercial insurance careers has been in steady decline for the past few generations. That’s why employee recruitment and retention efforts within the insurance industry are vital components of every business’s success.

As Jon Loftin, president and COO of MJ Insurance explained, the primary driver of the talent gap is the demographic shift that has been underway for several years across all industries, but is more pronounced in the insurance industry.

“The number of retirement-eligible employees currently in the industry and exiting the industry daily, far outweigh the number of individuals interested in entering the industry out of college,” Loftin said. “So, in essence, we have a basic supply and demand issue.”

Studies show that approximately 4% of Millennials and Gen Z have an interest in a career in insurance. This has created a gap north of 400,000 seats that need to be filled.

Brian Tallman, vice president, organizational effectiveness and leadership development at Selective Insurance, said there are also opportunities within the insurance industry for prospective talent in many different disciplines, including HR, IT, finance, marketing and data analytics — not the typical insurance-related careers one might think of.

“However, the awareness of opportunities, or even the appeal to work in an insurance company, is often absent due to lack of information or even misconceptions about the industry,” Tallman said.

“With a large population in the industry preparing for retirement, this opens up an incredible amount of opportunity for new talent to build a career in insurance, develop skills and create new ways to serve consumers.”

Recruitment Efforts 

Brian Tallman, vice president, organizational effectiveness and leadership development, Selective Insurance

There has been a concerted effort to cultivate interest in the commercial insurance industry over the past several years. From basic marketing efforts to enhance awareness of career opportunities to educating younger workers who may have otherwise been unaware about the rewarding careers within the industry, the strategies  are as varied as the companies themselves.

“The level of investment in learning and development has picked up to where we can not only generate interest in our industry, but also develop those entering the business in a way the accelerates their learning curves,” Loftin said.

The level of creativity and collaboration between academia and in the insurance community is what many industry professionals are most encouraged by.

“The awareness of opportunities, or even the appeal to work in an insurance company, is often absent due to lack of information or even misconceptions about the industry.” — Brian Tallman, VP, organizational effectiveness and leadership development, Selective Insurance

Whether it is the apprenticeship programs between carriers and colleges or universities, or internship opportunities for college students to enhance their understanding of the academic principles in an experiential learning environment, insurance entities are striving to resurrect opportunities within the industry.

For example, MJ Insurance offers an MJ student-run insurance company at Butler University, which began almost six years ago. At the time, MJ Insurance co-founded the first ever captive insurance company run exclusively by the students within the Davey Insurance and Risk Management Program in Butler’s Lacy School of Business.

As Loftin explained, this platform has provided the opportunity for numerous students to experience nearly every facet of the industry in a “real” business setting while completing their degree.

“They emerge from the program with more experience than many other existing employees within the industry,” Loftin said.

Selective Insurance has also built deep relationships with key universities across the U.S., in which the company not only participates in career fairs but also provides guest lecture information sessions to educate students about the opportunities in insurance.

“We also partner with local Gamma Iota Sigma [RMI fraternity] chapters, send alumni to participate in various career Q&A sessions at their alma maters, and engage with boards, as well as diversity chapters, at select universities,” Tallman said. “We’ve also developed a strong university ambassador program, where employees and alumni across the company assist in our college recruitment efforts and marketing our programs.”

CSAA Insurance Group partners with various colleges throughout the country, mostly near the company’s major regional facilities. For instance, it has a successful relationship with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for claims and service positions and works closely with the University of California-Berkeley to recruit actuarial students.

Working with these and other colleges, CSAA has also co-developed internship programs that have been successful in providing an opportunity for collegiate candidates to learn about and experience the company while still in school. The goal is to hopefully convert candidates to full-time employment after they graduate.

“Last year, we also launched a new benefit to encourage employees to both pay off their college debt and save for retirement. Several hundred employees have signed up for the program, 65% of whom are millennials,” said Bruce Baumgarten, senior director of talent, CSAA Insurance Group.

But recruitment can’t stand alone.

As Tallman noted, an organization has to build strong programs to support the recruitment efforts. Selective Insurance has developed robust summer internship programs and early career trainee programs that provide a diverse group of current college students and recent graduates the opportunity to not only learn the actual job functions, but also give them the opportunity to network with professionals across the organization, participate in business-related action-learning projects, learn about various opportunities in the insurance industry, build relationships with others in their internship/trainee classes and find mentors.

Insuring Success

Gone are the days when companies wait for candidates to submit resumes and apply for positions. “Our markets are competitive and so is our desire to employ the best,” said Brenda Leadley, head of HR Americas for Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS).

AGCS has a very aggressive recruiting approach that includes strong employer branding, sourcing, networking, social media, internal recruiting, employee referrals and robust intern and associate programs.

“Our in-house recruiting team has afforded AGCS continued success in hiring the ‘right’ individuals to join the Allianz family,” Leadley said.

In addition, AGCS has made a commitment to the personal career growth of employees, with a 2020 strategy focused on lifelong learning opportunities for its employee base.

Indeed, at CSAA Insurance Group, one of the company’s core beliefs is investing in itself, so the company is also very strategic about pursuing potential employees and focusses closely on the candidate experience.

Baumgarten said, “once you attract talent, you don’t want to lose it due to breakdowns in your recruitment process.” This means making sure communication before, during and after the interview process is thoughtful and appropriate.

“Taking an active role in understanding the candidate experience — and how to improve it — is key to our success,” Baumgarten said. “We also post internal development assignments, which has helped us identify great talent for new roles within the company. For us, career development is not a one-and-done approach; it is a continual, dedicated focus.”

Continuing Efforts

While certain marketing efforts do appear to be working to increase the general awareness of the career paths within the insurance industry, experts agree there is a long way to go.

According to Loftin, the supply and demand dynamic is still out of equilibrium. What isn’t working are those efforts that are intended to “lure” candidates into the industry and then turn them loose to learn on their own.

“If you aren’t committed to a robust learning and development program that facilitates the expeditious learning and application of their knowledge, the recruiting efforts will be wasted,” Loftin says. “The learning and development platforms have improved and more resources are coming online, but there is still far too few committed to doing this.”

Tallman also said the industry could benefit from more early-career intervention, not just at the college and university level, but even down to the high school level, where a greater emphasis within the curriculum is made on the importance and purpose of the insurance industry.

“As such, the focus should be on the skills and competencies needed to develop a career in a number of disciplines, but more so than that, an emphasis on purpose — how insurance provides a benefit for society — is critical,” Tallman said. “We need to partner on ways to promote the industry as a whole and raise awareness while at the same time build skills and capabilities to develop talent for the future.”

Seth Cummings, managing partner, insurance and risk management practice at Kaye/Bassman International Corp., said using top performers as mentors and frontline trainers also has been a successful strategy for building with young talent.

“Those firms that have been most successful at implementing this strategy have figured out a way to reward participating top performers for their efforts while eliminating their inherent fear of training an internal competitor,” Cummings said. “In my opinion, those that have attempted to outsource this type of training have done so at their peril.”

According Amy Steadman, CPO, ABD Insurance & Financial Services, companies that belong to associations that have collaborations and broader efforts with shared resources are more likely to truly reap the rewards of branding the industry.

“Industry internships and training programs are a viable growth opportunity,” Steadman said. “By collaborating and sharing resources, we not only touch more candidates, but we can demonstrate greater appeal with the variety of our industry.” &

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Maura Keller is a writer, editor and published book author with more than 20 years of experience. She has written about business, design, marketing, health care, and a wealth of other topics for dozens of regional and national publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

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