Is Education the Key to Unlocking the Next Generation of Talent?

By | August 22, 2016

The insurance talent crisis is here. Thanks to an aging workforce, an impending wave of retirements and an increasingly shallow talent pool, the industry is now coming face-to-face with a growing labor gap. The past 10 years have seen the number of insurance professionals ages 55 and older increase by 74 percent. Today, the total number of industry employees ages 55 and older is nearly 30 percent higher than the rest of the economy. As a result, nearly half of all insurance employees will be retired or on the verge of retirement within 15 years.

A lack of incumbent young talent is compounding the growing skills gap. Only 27 percent of insurance employees are under the age of 35. The industry has an acute need for a major influx of talented young professionals to help fill the gap of near-term retirees. Experts predict the industry needs to add 400,000 open positions by 2020 to remain fully staffed.

The millennial generation is the logical source for qualified, bright talent to fill the growing demand. Already 77 million strong, and accounting for more than 25 percent of the total U.S. workforce, millennials are poised to offset the talent gap within insurance. Unfortunately, graduates from risk and insurance programs currently meet only 10 percent to 15 percent of this growing need. In fact, the reality is that less than 5 percent of millennials are interested in working in insurance.

With an industry career rarely top of mind among today’s graduates, what can insurance organizations do to engage this potential generation of professionals?

Education is key to informing today's young professionals of the wide range of unique and exciting job opportunities available within the insurance industry.

Building Awareness Through Education

To successfully weather the impending exodus of institutional knowledge and skills from the industry, insurance organizations must focus on nurturing their young professionals and recruiting the next generation of talent. However, a career in insurance is not one that most young people actively seek.

According to a survey by The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and The Institutes, less than one in 10 young professionals are interested in working in the insurance industry. They believe insurance is “boring” and “uninteresting,” and they do not want a career selling insurance.

Large group of business people. Over white backgroundToday’s millennials are unaware of the multitude of career opportunities within the industry. Just 2 percent of graduates surveyed reported that they are familiar with the insurance industry. Many millennials mistakenly view an insurance career as limited to working as an agent or in claims, because they have not been exposed to the wealth of other job opportunities available.

They are not aware that their degrees in computer science, marketing or business administration are transferable to a number of exciting and available positions within the industry. Within insurance, these young professionals can work in product analysis, information technology, underwriting, customer service and more.

Nowhere is this lack of understanding regarding the insurance career path more clear than when one delves into millennial job “wants.” More than 60 percent of millennials report that they personally would like a job that includes analyzing risk and recommending solutions — a main component of many industry roles — yet they are not interested in working in insurance before or immediately after graduation.

Education is key to informing today’s young professionals of the wide range of unique and exciting job opportunities available within the insurance industry. Insurance offers great opportunities to work in corporate communications, marketing, finance, data analytics, information technology and more. Today’s young professionals just don’t know that. It is the industry’s responsibility to educate the next generation on how their degrees and interests can translate into a successful and fulfilling insurance career.

Fostering Employee Ambassadorship

Millennials place a large amount of emphasis on the opinions and experiences of their professional and personal networks. There is instant credibility given to suggestions and reviews from members of their peer groups. As a result, insurance firms looking to attract this next generation should embrace the power of “word-of-mouth” and consider implementing an employee ambassadorship program.

Millennial professionals are more likely to connect with your organization’s young employees who are more closely aligned with their outlook and worldview. Insurance firms should encourage their millennial employees to share their experiences and provide endorsements of both their organization and the industry as a whole. These firsthand accounts help to lend credibility and combat negative perceptions among potential candidates. This can be as simple as sharing their story in marketing videos or providing quotes for recruitment collateral. Ensure that recent graduates are included in recruitment events and allowed to engage with students. Make sure to provide “real-life” testaments to what it means to work at your organization. The voices of your current millennial professionals are invaluable in reaching the next generation and must not be overlooked.

Already, a number of industry organizations have joined together through the Insurance Careers Movement (ICM) to build a network of millennial champions. ICM is leading the charge to engage millennial professionals and encourage them to share their experiences, participate in social media and educate their peers on the opportunities the industry has to offer.

The war for talent is raging. As the recruitment climate within the industry continues to become more and more challenging, the stakes for engaging the next generation will only increase. Insurance organizations must look at ways to educate and engage millennial professionals to bring them into the industry fold.

About David Coons

Coons is senior vice president of The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578. Email: More from David Coons

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Insurance Journal West August 22, 2016
August 22, 2016
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