The past two years have been steeped in turbulence, testing the agility of both employees and organizational leaders. From changes in work environments to swings in the labor market and ongoing reshuffling, the industry has evolved to adopt new norms.
How we live and work will continue to shift in 2022. And ironically, one thing that seems consistent is ongoing unpredictability. The ability to embrace change and boldly enter uncharted territory will be key for moving forward. As we approach the new year, there are several areas hiring managers, human resources teams and insurance leaders should consider as they create competitive talent strategies.
The War for Talent Rages On
Within insurance, the unemployment rate rose to an eight-year high of 4.8% in July 2020 and then fell to an unprecedented 0.8% in October 2021. While unemployment greatly fluctuated within this time span, competition for top talent didn’t. Insurance professionals are retiring at accelerated rates, often outpacing the entrance of young professionals into the workforce. At the same time, employee expectations have shifted and individuals are evaluating their personal and professional goals in a new light. The phrase “the war for talent” has been used for the past several years, yet it has never seemed more fitting. Insurers must act quickly and make competitive offers, while also recognizing passive candidates and relocations may be off the table.
Viability of Passive Candidates and Lateral Moves. Savvy companies are fighting to retain their current employees, especially given their high replacement costs. Additionally, recruiting passive candidates has become riskier and less common, as current employers are willing to make hefty counter offers. These professionals will likely only make a change if a potential employer is able to offer something their current employer can’t or won’t, such as flexibility or upward mobility. At the same time, lateral moves are becoming nearly non-existent. Pinpointing candidates’ motivators when they are not actively seeking out a new role or aiming to move up in their careers can be difficult. However, identifying what it would take for them to make a move and effectively meeting those needs is essential for successful recruitment.
Non-Existent Relocation. On a similar note, relocations have also become rare, outside of very senior-level positions. Candidates are hesitant to move for a number of reasons, including not wanting to put their families through additional changes or to avoid jeopardizing their partners’ jobs. Instead, many insurance organizations are capitalizing on a broader talent pool of remote professionals to gain unique skill sets and diverse insights that may not be available within their immediate geographic locations. However, this also creates added considerations for hiring managers. If you are expecting individuals to primarily work from home, but be in the office one day a week, you will still limit your candidate base. Determine whether roles really need to be in the office, or if individuals can come in once a quarter, or as needed, to effectively meet the position’s requirements.
Flexibility and Hybrid Environments Become Non-Negotiable
Whether or not you plan to bring employees back into the office in the new year, determine how you can offer continued flexibility and remote opportunities when possible. Organizations should recognize their employees have adopted a new way of working and molded their lives and daily habits around it. It’s been nearly two years since the onset of the pandemic. Many individuals have grieved the loss of their pre-pandemic routines and moved through the stages of the change curve (which are very similar to those of the grief curve). Going back to the office full time or even most of the time, will be experienced as another notable disruption; it’s no longer a “return to normal.”
Acceptance of Different Work Styles. Insurance organizations have realized they can remain productive, no matter where their employees are based. From what we’re seeing, few insurance companies are mandating employees be back in the office every day. The vast majority plan to allow employees to stay completely remote or come in a couple days per week. All individuals have different work styles and personal preferences. Some may choose to get ahead in their work or spend time with family, rather than commute. Others may crave being in an office environment and feel it’s where they are most efficient.
Strengthening of Connections. Regardless of where employees work on a daily basis, certain areas may be best approached in person, such as conversations around strategy and innovation. Leaders should consider bringing employees in as needed for these meetings and activities, even if they primarily work from home. Additionally, periodic in-person team- and relationship-building events (with sensitivity to individuals’ comfort levels) can help build foundations for strong working relationships that can then be grown through remote interactions.
Flexibility in Working Hours. Today, professional and personal responsibilities are seldom dictated by a traditional 9 to 5 workday and most employees seek continued flexibility. Consider how you can offer employees the opportunity to set their own schedules and have a say in where and when their work is completed.
We’re in an unusual talent environment. Employers must embrace this and adjust how they approach hiring and retention to adapt along with the industry and the needs of its professionals. While all organizations have made changes to their strategies in the past several months, those that continue to fine-tune and evolve while maintaining a candidate- and employee-first focus, will be the ones who ultimately win the war for talent in 2022.
Coons is senior vice president of The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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