Best's Review



Next Wave
New Expectations

Today’s businesses understand that younger employees want to be valued at their jobs. It’s time the insurance industry follows suit.
  • Carly Burnham
  • October 2018
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Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham

Today's professionals expect to be challenged and treated as individuals or they will not stay in one role for 30 years at a single company.

We've all heard of the following C-suite quandary—the CFO asks “What happens if we invest in our people and they leave us?” while the CEO replies “What happens if we don't and they stay?” It's an oversimplified one-liner, to be sure, and it's almost a cliché at this point—probably almost as overused as “Our people are our biggest asset.” It's reflected in the insurance industry in many ways:

Measuring time instead of productivity.

Although we are a knowledge industry, we cling to the idea that our people's success only can be measured by how much time they spend at their desks or by how quickly they can get through a phone call. Paying such close attention to these metrics promotes the idea that an employee is just a cog in the machine.

Believing that your own organization has all the training an employee might want.

One of the easiest ways to tell if a company values its workforce is if it invests in training that expands an employee's skill set in ways that are meaningful outside of the employer's four walls. Allowing your employees to grow their understanding of the broader market makes them more knowledgeable workers, who can bring a diverse set of ideas to the table.

Being afraid of your employees' side gigs.

Either for economic reasons or reasons more related to personal fulfillment, many people are not satisfied with just putting their time in at the office. Managers must make peace with side gigs, be they for visibility or profit. Millennials, in particular, want to feel like the work they are doing is significant.

Maintaining you have the best benefits without understanding what your employees want.

One of the things that sets insurers apart from other employers is that they offer extremely generous benefits packages including pensions and plenty of vacation time to encourage a healthy work-life balance. However, if you ask today's entry-level employees for input on the benefits they want, the resounding answers are student loan repayment assistance and the ability to work remotely on a flexible schedule.

Continuing to promote your top performers to people-leading roles.

We've all been in departments that are led by technical experts. They were the best individual contributors, so the company rewarded them with promotions. The skills to perform their work well, however, don't include coaching, inspiring, or, in some cases, even building strong interpersonal relationships. Promoting in this manner sends the message to your team that bottom line numbers are more important than developing individual contributors. It also tells your top performers that even if they love their work, the only opportunity to advance is to take on a role that isn't best-suited to them. Their technical prowess will be rewarded with a move to a role they may not want.

If insurance is to be an industry of choice for the workforce of the future, we must take some cues from other industries and adopt practices that truly value people. Having a family atmosphere or a comfortable, cushy culture will not be enough. Today's professionals expect to be challenged and treated as individuals or they will not stay in one role for 30 years at a single company. We must adapt our practices to show we recognize these expectations.

Carly Burnham, CPCU, MBA, has been in the insurance industry since 2004. She blogs at and can be reached at

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