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Next Wave
Why Recruitment and Retention Are Still Difficult, and How We Can Overcome These Challenges

Insurance organizations can address the talent gap by changing their approach to doing business and improving opportunities for employees.
  • Carly Burnham
  • February 2021
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Talent—finding it and keeping it—has long been a challenge within the insurance industry, and that's not expected to change this year. Granted, since 2017 when Tony Canas and I published Insuring Tomorrow, we've seen some changes designed to address the issue. Some organizations are experimenting with apprenticeships, and some have added benefits that are particularly appealing to millennials and incoming generations. For example, student loan repayment, remote work and flexible schedules are increasingly becoming available throughout the industry. So why is it still so difficult to find talent? And what can we do about it? Here are three of the more common barriers for insurance industry recruiters and some ways to overcome them.

1. Opportunities in adjacent industries.

Risk management in general continues to be an important function in the industries that insurers support. This provides insurance-related opportunities in areas such as finance and real estate. Insurtech in particular is creating numerous interesting opportunities for those of us with insurance experience. These organizations often are run by tech entrepreneurs, but they need insurance expertise to find ways to serve our markets. Competing with these different industries is a challenge, but if we can identify the reason people want to make a move, we could perhaps stem the exodus. When an employee leaves for one of these new opportunities, it is likely because they didn't see a future within the insurance company. Many of our organizations could improve by painting a long-term vision of how employees can advance or further specialize in order to continue growing as they would like within their professional lives.

2. Continued specialization in insurance roles.

Insurers continue making their roles more and more specific. While this is efficient and financially prudent, it does mean that high-potential employees can get bored quickly. That said, it is a trend playing out in many industries. So leaving insurance will not necessarily improve the situation for many people. To stop talent from even contemplating a move, insurance companies could offer more rotation programs and stretch projects that influence the greater organization. This would help retain employees who want to make a bigger impact.

3. Low awareness of insurance as a long-term career.

Many organizations are looking to automate functions within their processes. While this is an efficient plan and one that will lead to employees being able to work at their highest level of expertise, it does mean that entry-level roles are different than they once were. Current leaders within carriers are still sharing stories about having started in a processing role or a mailroom and working their way up. Their stories are meant to be inspirational but often sound out of touch to employees who cannot see that path in today's world. We must tell stories that are relevant to how our workforce is managed today. And we must build talent management systems that allow our employees to see their future and the future of those they may refer to our companies.

The new year will continue to pose challenges in recruitment of new talent, and retention will remain the fight that it has been. But as our needs continue to heat up, our employees remain our biggest resource. We must adapt to the world that potential talent inhabits, recognize employees as a key constituency within our businesses and take meaningful and novel steps to make sure they know they are valued.


Best’s Review contributor Carly Burnham, CPCU, MBA, has been in the insurance industry since 2004. She blogs at InsNerds.com and can be reached at bestreviewcomment@ambest.com.


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