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The Coming Talent War Over Millennials and Their Transformational Skills

Posted By Brenda Leadley, Tuesday, November 12, 2019


By as early as 2025, as much as 75 percent of the global workforce could be millennials, and they will bring a whole new set of demands and expectations to the modern workplace. Importantly, they will also bring new digital skills and tech savviness that will be critical to transforming business.

Coming to terms with millennial employees will be one of the great business challenges in the next five years. This is the conclusion reached in the AGCS Trend Compass 2019, a report that identifies the most important technological, business and socio-economic developments of the future.

This is the first generation to have grown up in the digital era, which means they have the digital, solution-oriented, socially active skills considered essential for future business success. For companies, nothing is more important for survival than recruiting and retaining the next wave of talent. It will become an existential challenge to create environments that this generation not only wants to work at but to stay at for a number of years.

The Shrinking Workforce

Many economies have already reached a tipping point with more employees retiring from the labor market than entering. This trend toward an aging workforce is only partially offset by the inflow of millennials. A “war for talent” is emerging, defined by fierce competition to attract new employees with digital competencies in artificial intelligence, data science or “frontier risk management,” such as managing cyber or reputational risk, as most of these jobs did not exist 10 years ago. The AGCS Trend Compass 2019 assesses 25 trends, such as digital platforms, green mobility and machine learning, with the challenge of the millennial workforce identified as one of the socio-economic trends to have immediate impact on companies within the next two to five years.

The millennial workforce was assessed overwhelmingly to have a very high impact on the insurance industry and our clients’ businesses. Companies are already feeling the pinch, but the impact will be fully felt within the next few years and presents a significant risk for future competitiveness. The failure to attract and retain young talent is one of today’s top risks for organizations.

Work, Life and Satisfaction

So, what do millennials want? A 2017 study by Allianz of over 5,000 millennials in five countries, “Millennials: Work, Life and Satisfaction,” revealed that, when asked, the majority showed a longing for more traditional career paths. When it comes to work, they value security and stability over change and flexibility. Only a small minority (about 15 percent) of those surveyed job-hop out of preference. Clearly, millennials have different career aspirations than those often portrayed.

When it comes to what millennials value most in their careers, you can count on a few things, according to Vertafore, an insurance software provider. In “Millennials in Insurance,” a recent white paper, Vertafore described millennials as prizing a work-life balance and wanting a job that provides them with a healthy compensation and allows them to travel and enjoy different experiences. They also want to feel like they’re contributing to their community and to be able to grow in their careers.

Attracting Talent With Agility

The future of insurance depends on millennial employees. Traditional methods of recruitment, retention and up-skilling will need to be overhauled as part of creating a culture that will attract talent. The mindset of recruitment managers also needs to change so that we are not just hiring for like-to-like roles but to build a workforce with the ability to successfully adapt the business in an age of disruption.

Social media recruitment is only part of creating a workplace that will attract and retain millennials. Culture is key. Research shows millennials have a preference for agile environments that respond quickly to changes rather than having a strict process or procedure. This also means limited formalities and a greater sense of autonomy and flexibility in almost every respect, from working conditions and scheduling to work-life balance and remote working opportunities.

Many millennials are likely to leave a company within the next two years if they are unhappy with their development. Offering learning opportunities and mentoring in an agile culture with low levels of hierarchies, where trial-and-error and open communication is encouraged, could prove to be a winning formula to attracting and retaining millennial talent.

Transforming Insurance

Millennials are already disrupting insurance both as employees and as consumers. Millennials don’t want their parents’ insurance policies, and many legacy products are being challenged by their lifestyle.

Insurance is often bought online rather than through agents. Because they tend to rent, they don’t buy home insurance. Only a quarter are married, and if they do marry at all it is at a far later age, so it far harder to sell them life insurance.

Insurers need to change by creating new products that match the interests of millennials that are based on per use and are far more flexible and available for far shorter periods.

Insurers need to further develop and up-skill their staff for the digital era. However, a large part of the solution will be solved by the talent that is recruited. They will be the ones with the insights, the innovative thinking and, above all, the digital skills that will transform insurance and risk management to ensure it remains relevant for the future.

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Young Insurance Professionals Clamor for Career Tips

Posted By Rosalie Donlon, Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Two weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C. for the Women, Influence & Power in Law conference, put on by our sister publication, Corporate Counsel magazine and the ALM Global Newsroom. I’m pleased to say the information gleaned from the event was valuable and actionable. The conference also provided several opportunities for networking with women from various locations and points in their careers, from new entrants to more senior women at the pinnacle of the profession.

One theme throughout the conference was: “What advice would you give your younger self?” In my case, I’d tell myself to plan my career changes a little better. As a military spouse who moved 10 times in 23 years, I didn’t organize my job searches very well, and at the time, remote work for lawyers wasn’t much of an option. But I did make the most of the travel opportunities available wherever we moved, and I’d certainly do that again!

The discussions that came up last week are reflective of the kinds of discussions we’re seeing on the ALM Young Professionals Network on LinkedIn. According to a recent survey of the group’s members, regardless of background or gender, they’re eager for information about career development, navigating office politics, negotiating skills (especially when it comes to compensation), and understanding the businesses they’re working in or with.

Another topic that came up repeatedly was the lack of “life skills” among many younger lawyers, primarily those who are more accustomed to electronic communication than actual face-to-face conversations. One partner commented that she works with a young associate who sends her emails instead of walking the short distance between their offices to have an in-person discussion. The partner was concerned that the associate was missing the opportunity to develop a better working relationship.

Many women also commented that they were reluctant to bring some younger lawyers into client meetings, substantive case discussions or lunch outside the office, which is a concern.

Our lives are far less formal these days. Children and young adults may not have many opportunities to sit down to dinner with strangers and make polite social conversation. As military brats, my daughters learned early on about occasions to which “you are invited and will attend.” They also learned about interacting with military officers in informal as well as formal settings — a skill you have to develop when your family lives on base, and your father’s commanding officer lives two blocks away. Now, as adults, they find their background to be an asset in their careers. But, one daughter told me that her department has a junior person who is no longer included in social events with clients because she doesn’t have the necessary skills.

Senior professionals can’t assume any more that new employees can be placed into social situations without some coaching. So, how do we do that? Is it a matter of providing etiquette classes, as some companies are doing?

I’ve occasionally mentioned to younger employees before they go to a conference or other event that professional attire is required. I also introduce younger writers to more senior people at events and provide them with a sentence or two that gets a conversation started.

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Younger Workers: Old-School Pay and Perks Not Enough

Posted By Emily He, Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Millennial and Gen-Z employees want to do well by doing good.

When it came to job hunting, people of my parents’ generation—as well as a good chunk of those my own age—saw a competitive salary and medical benefits as the ultimate career package. What else could you possibly want?

But for today’s younger job applicants, the mindset is shifting dramatically. More and more Millennials (those born in the early '80s to mid '90s) or Gen-Z prospects (born after 1996) want to feel a sense of value and meaning in their work.

The desire to succeed not just for oneself but to contribute back to the greater good is the underlying theme of the “purpose economy,” a term coined by entrepreneur and author Aaron Hurst in a book of the same name.

Increasingly, I see this desire for a “purpose career” as a key motivator for the post-baby-boom generations. To learn more about this concept and why younger workers have such shifting workplace priorities, I recently had a chance to talk with John Jersin, vice president of product management for LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions and Careers unit. Here’s what we discussed:

Wanted: A Purpose Career

Given LinkedIn’s expertise on the job market and candidate experience, Jersin had a wealth of data and knowledge to share on this purpose economy evolution, noting he agrees with the theory and sees considerable relevant data on hiring trends to support.

“We see that 64% of Millennials define a good job as one that they’re proud to talk about,” he said in a recent chat. Additionally, 75% of those surveyed said they would work even if they didn’t have to and 40% said they want to “feel passionate” about what they do.

I attribute part of this mind shift to the way children have been raised over the past few decades. Many parents tell their kids to pursue their dreams and that they can be whatever they want to be. It’s no longer: “Get a job so you can pay your bills.” The message is now something more like: “Find a situation that fulfills you and makes you feel like a productive member of society.”

Jersin and I both agree that one very real effect of that self-empowerment movement is that younger workers aren’t afraid to ask their managers, maybe even their managers’ managers, for what they want. And what they want may very well be to combat global warming, clean up the oceans, or save endangered species, making room for dedicated sustainability and social impact teams within organizations.

Another profound generational change that we discussed is that Millennials and Gen-Zs know that they’re not going to stick with the same job or company for 30 or even 10 years. That’s a far cry from the early baby boomers, who may themselves have been raised by Great Depression-era parents and who aspired to a 40- or 50-year stint at a company like Procter & Gamble or Ford.

For that reason, post Baby-Boomer generations want to be able to learn new skills continually so they can take on new challenges over time.

Balancing Purposeful Skills and Technical Prowess

This desire to continuously learn new skills has never been more important than it is in today’s society. The question is, though, what skills do we need to learn?

We live in a tech-obsessed era, so most people focus on the need to build data analysis, computer language, and other technical skills. But when asked if I should advise my children to prioritize tech or “soft” interpersonal skills, Jersin didn’t hesitate: “Both,” he said.

While companies undoubtedly need data jockeys and programming wizzes along with human AI experts, managers in HR and other departments also must build strong personal connections with job candidates and team members to recruit and retain the best.

According to LinkedIn’s data, a whopping 90% of companies surveyed said soft skills are at least as important as tech skills, which is why employee training — whether company sponsored or through personal development — should span from presentation skills and personal networking, to more computer-oriented coursework.

What it Means for HR and the Future of Work

The rise of the ‘Purpose Economy’ is only just getting started. As more Millennials become managers and Generation-Z enters the workforce, these meaningful motivators will become more front and center. Companies must respond to these intertwined aspirations for a “purpose-based career” and continual education if they want to hire the best and brightest.

At the corporate level, some companies are already tailoring new socially-conscious messaging to woo customers as well as employees. Look at what Patagonia has done first with its eco-conscious mission statement and its recent decision to stop selling bulk goods to firms with “poor” social values.

Some companies are expanding their efforts to match employee charitable contributions or granting more time off for them to work with philanthropies. Flexibility in time as well as workspaces is very important to this cohort of young workers.

And, companies must make it easy for employees to learn new skills by producing online courses internally, or subsidizing the cost of outside classes.

Thirty or forty years ago, college grads probably thought their degree conferred the skills they needed to sustain a life-long career. That has not been the case for a while, but now with new job entrants anticipating 10 or 15 career changes over a lifetime, continuing education is essential to attract ambitious applicants.

That constant retooling could be provided at the government, academic, industry or personal level, but right now the bulk of the work falls to each individual and employers: The latter needs to step up.

While training gives employees the skills they need to grow their career, potentially with another company, it also promotes internal mobility by empowering star employees to grow and develop while staying at the same company.

There’s No Time to Waste

The growing demand for value-based jobs is relatively new but companies who haven’t already prepared themselves, in terms of strengthening their education efforts, and identifying and promoting their own core values, should act quickly.

This massive change is happening far faster than many companies realize, Jersin said. There has long been a notion that some companies are more mission-driven than others, but, in his view, every company’s going to need to embrace purpose as a business imperative if it wants to compete for the best talent and have a lasting future.

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10 Tips for New Agents

Posted By Kendall McEachern, Wednesday, July 31, 2019


The insurance industry is ever-changing. With the average age of insurance agents being around 60 years old, it is important for our industry to recruit new talent. Whether you are a recent licensed agent or agency owner who is working to groom our industry’s next generation of agents, follow these ten tips to guarantee success for those who are new in our profession.

1. Dress for success
First impressions matter, and in the insurance business, you are selling trust. By dressing for success, your clients will likely take you more seriously and have more confidence in you. Dress for the job you want, not always the job you have.

2. Find a mentor
A mentorship program can be beneficial to both a new and veteran agent. New agents are able to learn the industry, viable sales techniques and more from a veteran leader, while gaining valuable leadership skills and building confidence. With technology shaping our industry, new agents can influence veterans of the business to adapt while embracing this shift.

3. Use your resources
What resources does your agency have available? What are your differentiators? Perhaps you work alongside niche producers you can bring in on accounts to better serve your clients. Do you have a fellow agent who is experienced on reading policies and doing coverage reviews? Do you have a risk management, marketing or other essential departments you can tap into?

4. Build a rapport
Building a rapport with your clients and prospects is critical in this business. Get to know your clients on both a professional and personal level. Set yourself apart from your competitors by remembering the little things, relating to them and reaching out throughout the year … not just when it’s renewal time. Just as equally important — build a rapport with your peers. This will aid in building trust with your co-workers, and the rewards will pay off when they want to refer business, bring a producer in on an account or more.

5. Market yourself
The insurance industry is extremely competitive. Other agents often have access to the same products and services you do, so be sure to set yourself apart. Brand yourself. How you carry yourself, speak, your demeanor, punctuality and more help build your brand. Additionally, with resources like LinkedIn, differentiate yourself by utilizing your resources and posting educational content. You will be viewed as a true insurance professional and also be at the forefront of your client’s mind by creating multiple touchpoints throughout the year. Don’t forget, too, a handwritten note still goes a long way.

6. Transparency is key
There is nothing more persuasive than transparency. Be sure to be clear, concise and transparent when providing a quote, going over coverages, reviewing potential risks and more. Clients need be presented all the information so they can make an informed decision. It is critical to be transparent with your employer and peers, as well, in order to effectively achieve your short- and long-term career goals.

7. Don’t talk the talk
As a new agent, don’t be so quick to exhibit your new found knowledge of the industry by using insurance jargon and lingo. You may come across as too eager, and often times, potential clients may not fully understand what you are trying to convey or sell to them. By avoiding the terminology, you are more likely to relate to your clients as you work to find them the best possible solution for their insurance needs.

8. Listen
Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Listen to your clients. Know when to speak — and when to listen. You may discover additional opportunities for account rounding or more! Also, listen to those who have been in the business and learn from their experience.

9. Dial for dollars
Set aside an hour each week to “dial for dollars“ and increase your prospect list. In order to make your time effective, take a few minutes beforehand to strategize. Develop a call list and briefly research those companies/clients you will be reaching out to. This will allow your full hour to be spent actually prospecting rather than wasting your time looking up who to call, phone numbers and more.

10. The price of success is hard work 
It takes an average of eight attempts to reach a prospect. It can take weeks, months and even years to land an account. Don’t give up. Continue to brush up on your industry knowledge, new products and services. This is a tough business, but with hard work … it is very rewarding.

As Greg Reid said, “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”

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So You Want to Attract Millennials?

Posted By Kristen Nease, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Three Crucial Hiring Questions


You see it every day: Another baby boomer coworker packing up their belongings and setting out on the road to retire. Trying to fill these positions can be a challenge. So here are three short, simple questions to evaluate whether your agency is as appealing to millennials as avocado toast.

No. 1: How do you announce job openings, and where do most of your recruits come from?

For potential candidates who may not know about your company, LinkedIn and online job postings are valuable methods to reach the right audience. These platforms are effective at communicating current openings, however Vertafore’s fifth-annual “Millennials in Insurance” report surveyed 1,252 professionals and found that referrals and word-of-mouth from friends and family speak volumes when reaching the right audience. In fact, 36% of millennials were recruited through employee referrals. Take advantage of the 87% who would recommend a career in insurance to friends and offer new-hire or referral incentives to further motivate employees to tap into their networks.

While word-of-mouth is a key component to recruiting millennial talent, local validation is also an important consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked. Do some research, then apply to local ‘Top Workplaces’ awards to validate your company’s presence in the community and give your employees something to brag about.

No. 2: Do you encourage and empower the use of technology in business?

Insurance is known as a traditional industry. But in recent years, there’s been an influx of InsurTechs, acquisitions and solutions that enforce technology’s place in the insurance landscape. Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation and tend to rely on technology and social networks not only to make their work more efficient, but to better communicate and build relationships with their peers, customers and clients. Our research indicates that most millennials believe technology has made a positive impact on their company over the last 12 months. Sixty-one percent of them state that technology has increased overall efficiency, enabling them to strengthen customer relationships.

Social media in particular has emerged as a powerful means of connecting with customers. Roughly three out of five millennials use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like to strengthen customer support and retention. Fifty-five percent use social media’s wide reach to increase brand awareness, and 49% focus on generating new business leads. Encourage the use of these channels in the workplace, and have an active presence online to communicate with both prospective employees and customers.

No. 3: Is your employee value proposition compelling?

To ensure you’re attracting top-tier talent, it’s important to take the pulse of both industry competitors and companies in your community to know where you stand. Benchmarking is a healthy practice that should be done regularly to ensure your salaries match industry standards and competitors. Vertafore’s survey found that 59% of millennials make between $30,000 and $60,000 per year across varying levels of seniority and positions. If you use a recruiter, utilize their expertise and recommendation as they will be familiar with the market in your region.

While monetary compensation is important, it isn’t everything. Nearly 65% of millennials value a healthy work-life balance, which can include flexible schedules and the ability to work from home or remotely. Millennials are known for valuing experiences over money, so it’s important to accommodate these values when attracting the most competitive candidates.

Outside of work-life balance, more than half of millenials look for the ability to grow in their career (61%) and seek professional development (58%) when evaluating a job opportunity.

Millennials also are known as the job-hopping generation, though millennials in the insurance industry have broken this mold. Over three quarters (76%) of millennials surveyed have been in the insurance industry for three years or more, and 72% plan to work in insurance as long as possible. Reward longevity and seniority by supplying added benefits and compensation through bonuses and work-from-home privileges. Ask what’s important to your employees, and consider how you can meet their needs to reward their hard work and loyalty.

The insurance industry has made great strides to attract and foster a millennial workforce. But there is still work to be done to ensure the employment gap is filled. Companies that adapt to meet the priorities of the millennial generation will undoubtedly reap the rewards of a loyal, high-achieving workforce. By catering to these individuals, the industry will be able to capitalize on fresh talent and new perspectives to transform the future of insurance.

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A Five-Step Staffing Plan for Agency Growth

Posted By Troy Korsgaden, Wednesday, July 31, 2019


When I started my insurance agency, I worked by myself for years, with no staff. It wasn’t until I hired my first staff person that my business started to grow — and it grew by leaps and bounds.

As you begin 2019 and plan beyond, take a hard look at your business. Are you spending time on what you do best — spending time in front of customers and prospects?

Or are you doing support work that someone else could and should be doing? Imagine how much your agency firm or practice could grow if you had staff members helping you manage all aspects of your business every day.

Let’s look at five main steps of a staffing plan.

No. 1: Determine how many staff members you need, and in what roles.

 Many agents hesitate to hire staff members because they think they can’t afford to pay someone a salary. Think of it as an investment in your business. Time is finite. You can’t work many more hours than you’re currently working, most likely. The only way to increase your productivity is to add to your staff. Crunch the numbers to figure out that sweet spot between the amount of money a salary will cost you and the amount of revenue you could generate if you have an additional full-time support person.

No. 2: Create positions before you fill them.

Start working on the big picture. Write down all the tasks you need to delegate so you can spend your time in front of clients and prospects. Write a job description for each position you want to fill. Then, when you have the money to invest, you can hire someone because you’ve done all the preparation work.

Don’t switch people around to fill positions they don’t fit into well. You might specialize in life insurance, but you also help people with auto and home insurance. You might be a home specialist, but you help people with life. You might be an auto person, but you help people with life.

Here is the key to paying for your staff members’ salaries: life is the fuel that gets us more staff.  All staff members are paid for their first six months, by Agency life insurance commissions. After six months, if they’re not paying for themselves, they don’t belong in the building. Does that mean they don’t make us money in their first two or three months? Of course they make money, but for you to be a profit center, there has to be consistency.

No. 3: Set up a review program with your employees.

Set specific goals for each staff person, and for the agency team as a whole, in terms of production and customer satisfaction. Ask your staff members what types of resources and technology they need to accomplish those goals. Stay in front of this; don’t wait for them to come to you three, four or five months later and say, “I needed this four months ago.” Constantly review the ideal resources with them.

I recommend meeting with your staff members twice a day, if they will be meeting with clients: once in the morning to discuss what their game plan is and once in the evening to review the day.

In our office, the office manager meets with our staff team members every day. They write out a pre-plan, discuss what they’re going to talk about and role-play the situation — whatever the discussion with a client might be. The staff member might need to present life insurance to a new client or gather details for a claim. These meetings with the staff are brief, no longer than 15 minutes each.

I think it’s best to hold meetings like this on Tuesdays, not on Mondays. Mondays can be super busy because people are thinking over the weekend about calling your agency on Mondays for whatever reason. Meet with staff members every day if they will be meeting with clients.

At the end of the day, we discuss the client meetings — how the conversations went, and if the client didn’t make it to the appointment, why not? We don’t wait until the next day to “rewind the tapes.”

The purpose of these meetings is to improve our staff members’ skills every day. We want to improve their scripting, the way they deliver those scripts so they sound conversational instead of stiff and the way they respond to questions.

No. 4: Require employees to maintain current calendars and client files.

In our business, it’s critical for everyone in your office to have a daily plan, and that comes in the form of a calendar. Everyone in the office keeps a calendar to keep track of all the people they’re going to see, call and follow up with. Every reminder is on their calendars.

Underneath the calendar should be working files. They contain clients’ information — which coverage clients do and do not have and what we will be presenting to them.

No. 5: Mechanize everything. 

Technology effectiveness will help make each one of your new hires a profit center.

Everything related to sales and service in your agency needs to be completely mechanized. You can keep a paper copy, too, but everything has to be transferred/scanned into the computer. If it’s not in the computer, then it never happened — you won’t have vital details recorded about client interactions. Also, it needs to be in the computer so everyone else in the office can tell, at a glance, the status on any service issue, sale, claim, update or meeting.

Computer access gives you the 360-degree view of every client. Everyone in the office needs to know details such as the name the client likes to be called. You can never say a person’s name enough.

Hiring your first or additional staff member will give you an incredible boost in your ability to build your agency the way you’ve always dreamed.

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Insurance Jobs & Recruits: Learning to See Things Differently

Posted By Rosalie Donlon, Wednesday, July 31, 2019


It’s May, the month when many are making plans to attend college commencements.

Those graduates are taking their new diplomas with them in search of careers — or at least gainful employment. I’d like to see them consider insurance, but I know it has the reputation of being stodgy.

It’s a challenge to us all to explain to new grads that “nothing happens without insurance.” Think of the expansion of the drone industry or autonomous vehicles, for example.

What does ‘diversity’ mean?

As the insurance industry competes for new graduates, I’d like to urge hiring managers to look outside the traditional sources for finding new employees. You hear a lot about “diversity” in business media as well as the popular press, but what does it really mean? The May cover story for National Underwriter Property & Casualty magazine, “Talent Search,” takes an in-depth look at where innovative companies are looking for employees and what skills they value.

One recent insurance company executive I interviewed noted that there are many different kinds of diversity to consider. In addition to looking past race, gender, ethnicity or religion, he believes it’s important to find diversity of thought. All too often employers recruit from colleges or geographies that they’re comfortable with. But everyone who graduated from the same college within the same few years is likely to have studied with the same professors and were subject to the same influences.

Nontraditional sources

Colleges are expanding programs in insurance and risk management, which gives students a look into the exciting world of insurance, as demonstrated by the number of schools that are part of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association. Yes, I said “exciting.” If you’re a risk professional, your job is to keep your company out of trouble, keep its employees safe, and make sure its products arrive at their destinations intact.

A recent college graduate can learn those skills, but another good option is to consider members of the military who are leaving the service. Many are involved in supply chain management and the logistics of moving soldiers and supplies across the country and across the world. A critical need, especially after a natural disaster.

Another overlooked source of potential employees are those over the age of 40. Many mid-level managers lost their jobs due to cutbacks in other industries. They have solid managerial skills, they’re eager to continue their careers, and they can learn the nuances of insurance.

Possibly the most overlooked group of potential employees are people with disabilities. They often report feeling invisible to employers. Customer service reps spend most of their time on the phone with clients. Being blind doesn’t affect a person’s ability to carry on a conversation. And one of the top sales clerks in the men’s department at my local Macy’s zooms up and down the aisles in his wheelchair.

When you’re recruiting new talent, be sure not to look in the mirror and hope to find someone who looks, thinks and acts as you do. You’ll be missing out on people with skills that you didn’t know you needed until that employee arrived in your office.

Think of it this way: The Broadway show “Hamilton” is a great success even though the actors look nothing like the Founding Fathers. But they get the job done, as the box office receipts demonstrate.

And that’s what’s top of mind this month.

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Talent Gap Ahead: How to Adapt

Posted By Michael Brown, CPCU, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

When Your Senior Staff Retires


The insurance industry has been operating in the looming shadow of a talent gap for several years now.

The senior tier of insurance company, reinsurance company, wholesale and retail broker operations professionals is nearing or passing retirement age, and the next generation is significantly underrepresented in the workforce.

A 2017 McKinsey & Company survey indicated that 25% of the current insurance industry workforce would be retiring by the end of 2018 — which leaves some 400,000 positions at predominantly senior levels that will need to be filled.

The last 20 years have been volatile, one might even say tumultuous, for the insurance industry and the business sector overall. We have weathered the DotCom bubble bursting, September 11, 2001, the foreclosure crisis, and more. During these rough financial times, many organizations, insurance organizations included, slowed down their hiring. Open positions went unfilled, new positions and departments were left undeveloped.

The net result is that not a lot of my generation (sneaking up on 50) entered the industry in those years. Now, as the generation ahead of us is retiring, companies and other organizations are finding that there are some gaps — the second-in-command in some units are 20-somethings or 30-somethings and may not be adequately prepared for a leadership role so early in their careers.

Adding to this delay in bringing new talent into our organizations is the sad fact that the insurance industry is often not perceived as an exciting or sexy career opportunity. So even when companies wanted to bring new talent on board, we didn’t always have a lot to choose from. A 2015 Harvard University Millennial Leadership Survey found that only 4% of those surveyed saw insurance as an appealing industry in which to pursue a career.

Adding insult to injury, a 2017 survey from the College Board found that only 82 national universities offering formal risk management and insurance degree programs. Eighty-two (82) in the entire nation. No wonder the best and brightest young talent is largely unaware of the opportunities that a career in the insurance industry can offer!

So how can the industry adapt to the new reality of senior staff retiring within ranks in the tier below them? We have to embrace the younger generation. There are an awful lot of bright, talented young people out there. We need to make it a priority to try and entice young talent to give insurance a chance, and then make genuine investment in their training and development.

Stacey Jackson, General Counsel for M.J. Hall and Company, Inc, a wholesale insurance brokerage, described a broker career development program in which two recent college graduates were offered a two-year training program to introduce them to the industry, the wholesale distribution model, admitted and non-admitted carriers, and reinsurance.

Along the way these brokers-in-training obtained their P&C broker licenses, and completed several institutes designation programs, including the Associate in General Insurance, Associate in Surplus Lines Insurance, and started working towards the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation. They were also given the opportunity to intern at Lloyd’s of London for a few weeks, attend NAPSLO and AAMGA (now merged into the WSIA) schools, and complete training courses at some of the carriers with which M.J. Hall and Company works closely.

More than three years into the experiment, one of the two is building a successful book of business with M.J. Hall and Company while the other has moved on to another wholesale brokerage. Fifty percent (50%) retention within the organization after three years is very promising, and 100% industry retention after the same interval is also worthy of note.

In a similar fashion, M.J. Hall and Company subsidiary Golden Bear Insurance Company has been refining an underwriter training program for a number of years (an author near you may have been one of the early underwriter trainees lured into Golden Bear nearly 16 years ago).

Over the course of my career at Golden Bear we have brought in eight underwriter trainees from other industries and provided the opportunity to learn how to be an insurance underwriter in one or more of our departments. Seventy-five percent (75%) of them are still in the industry (five underwriters and a wholesale broker), and 37.5% are still with Golden Bear.

Again, these retention statistics are very encouraging — especially considering that the 25% who did not choose to remain in the industry made the decision fairly early, minimizing the expense of salary and education somewhat.

These examples are in no way unique. Arthur Gallagher companies have a long history of bringing college interns into one or another of their businesses, with the notion of offering full-time positions to the interns who impress them the most (I am told that one such intern each year is selected for an extended internship with the Gallagher Lloyd’s broker in London).

WSIA (formerly NAPSLO) internships are in high demand and provide the lucky recipients with an excellent opportunity to both test the waters of an insurance career, and to make industry contacts and connections that can assist with job placement when the time comes.

The major reinsurance companies also bring in college interns routinely. Peter Grace of General Reinsurance (San Francisco) reported that a number of Gen Re offices have very successful internship programs. The property facultative unit in San Francisco has hired three recent college graduates in recent years to be property facultative reinsurance underwriters, two are still with the firm after at least two years, the third returned to school to pursue a graduate degree (and may someday return to the industry, one never knows). Their retention in recent years is as heartening as the other programs.

One of the AAMGA (now WSIA) white paper contest winners from 2017, Matthew Pauszek, reported the results of his survey of university students before and after taking an entry level course in Risk Management and Insurance. Prior to taking the first course 50% specifically stated that they were NOT interested in a career in the insurance industry.

After completion of Introduction to Risk Management and Insurance, 80% of those students reported that they were more interested than before. Clearly the challenge is how best to introduce the college students and younger workforce members to learn more about our industry. Once in the door, many will choose to stay and lend their talents to this great industry.

These programs all come at a cost, though. Many of these candidates are paid a salary from day one, and interns often receive a stipend to live on while they are learning about the industry. In addition, there is the cost of the education materials, exam fees, conference and convention fees, travel expenses, and maybe most valuable of all, time invested by their mentors in their training and development. It’s not enough to make the education materials and opportunities available to the younger generation; we must invest our time and attention to their growth and development.

I am reminded of an old joke (origin unknown) — one manager asks another, “What if we train our people and they leave the company?” and the other manager responds, “What if we DON’T train them, and they stay forever?”

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Tackling the Insurance Talent Gap

Posted By Shannel Clubb, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

It Starts With Raising Awareness


It’s no secret that one of the most pressing issues facing insurance companies today is the persistent struggle to attract new, diverse talent to the industry amid an aging workforce.

Insurance may have a challenging and unglamorous reputation among millennials, but young professionals working within the industry find their work fascinating, impactful and lucrative.

In fact, a recent Vertafore study found that a whopping 87% of millennials working in insurance would recommend it to friends as a career option. The same study found that 76% of millennials in insurance stay in the industry for at least three years.

These numbers provide some much-needed relief to those who stay up at night worrying about the insurance talent pipeline. It’s increasingly clear that once a young professional is in the industry and begins to fully grasp the inner-workings of insurance, these individuals are satisfied and enthusiastic about their career path.

So the real challenge for insurance companies is how to raise awareness, educate younger professionals about the benefits of working in the industry, and convince them that insurance can offer them the exciting career they desire.

The characteristics of cool

To solve this puzzle, it is first helpful to get a sense of what exactly young professionals are looking for in a career. After interviewing young insurance employees, as well as speaking to insurance agents to gauge their thoughts on recruiting initiatives, one fact stands out above the rest: Young professionals want to work for new, cutting edge technology firms. “Cool” is a buzzword often used to describe these companies, but what gives these companies a “cool-factor?”

Based on our intel, “cool” companies share a number of unique characteristics. For one, they make their employees feel as if the work they are doing is meaningful and impactful to both the individual and community. To put it simply, today’s younger generation wants to make a difference in the world, oftentimes pursuing purpose over profit.

Another key characteristic of “cool” is innovation. Prospective employees are increasingly looking for companies that produce game-changing products that transform either the efficiencies of a certain business or the actual lives of individuals.

On the other side, insurance companies desperately need the fresh skills that are going to drive the innovation and digital-driven products of the future as digitization continues to disrupt the industry.

Not only do innovative products attract the top-notch talent that insurers need to thrive in the industry’s next era, but they also drive brand recognition and positive reputation. Brands that showcase their innovation with new products witness many benefits including a consumer perception that a company is both an expert in its industry and that shoppers are personally benefiting from a brand’s cutting-edge work.

Finally, “cool” companies have a casual, collaborative, and flexible work environment. Having a healthy work-life balance is extremely important to younger generations. The Vertafore study found that 65% of millennials listed it as their top priority when looking for jobs.

Is insurance cool? Yes!

What may come as a surprise to those outside of the insurance industry is that these “cool” characteristics can easily be used to describe insurance companies.

Given the large amounts of data insurance companies collect and use to make thoughtful, preventative decisions, one could argue that insurance companies are essentially tech companies. For example, when a hurricane is barreling towards the Florida coast, property & casualty risk managers will use technology to provide clients with live risk assessments of the expected property damage to the company.

Insurance also provides an essential safety net for businesses when faced with new and emerging risks, and it’s what restores companies after a natural disaster or a cyberattack strikes. Yet when young professionals think about working in the insurance industry, they do not immediately think of the inventive and impactful nature of insurance companies, nor do they see that making a positive difference is truly the core of the insurance industry model. Although it’s not glaringly apparent to the everyday consumer, insurance companies work with innovative products every day. Insurers are using drone solutions and intelligence tools to assess damage from national disasters. They’re adopting wearable devices as a component of health insurance and they’re playing a pivotal role in the employment of smart home monitoring devices in households.

This lack of awareness among consumers could partially be due to the way insurance companies, at least those focused on commercial lines, market themselves.

Attacking the awareness gap

Now more than ever, insurance professionals worldwide need to step up as advocates for their industry and showcase insurance careers as modern, impactful and innovative. One way to do this is by marketing products as something consumers want to have instead of need to have.

One challenge in attracting young talent to the field is due to a serious knowledge gap: Most recent college graduates simply do not understand the business of insurance. While most understand the basics at play, many lack a greater understanding of the many nuances of commercial insurance or how insurance touches nearly every facet of business. Additionally, younger professionals do not realize that working in insurance often comes with flexible working hours, autonomy and an unlimited earnings potential in the long-term. The lack of education is a detriment to insurance companies and does not do the industry justice. From terrorism insurance, to policies for rare and expensive art, to maritime trade insurance, the industry impacts every business in every industry.

So, the jury is out: How can insurance companies educate prospective young employees about the exciting career opportunities within the insurance industry? As the statistic in the first paragraph noted, fellow young professionals in insurance are one of the industry’s greatest weapons. Insurance companies should encourage their younger staff to attend more career fairs and explain the benefits of working in the industry to peers. Social media can take on a larger form either through educational videos or showcasing some of the cool products that insurance companies produce.

Insurance companies should embrace the idea that they are tech companies. The innovative products they produce aid individuals and are the backbone of every business and community. By positioning insurance companies as cutting-edge tech companies that are passionate about doing meaningful work, insurance companies can get young people interested in the profession and attract the next generation of top talent before the looming talent gap gets even larger.

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Insurance Needs More Women to Step Up and Lead

Posted By Belen Tokarski, Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Women make up 60% of the insurance workforce but are scarce in leadership roles


Many in the insurance industry are hyping their digital transformation efforts, proudly sharing data points and revenue numbers that result from these initiatives.

However, there is a clear lack of focus and subsequent celebration of success on an equally important topic in the industry: diversity and inclusion.

Why is this? Research shows that companies where men and women are equally paid earn 41% more revenue, and racially diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 35%. Clearly there is a business case to make for better representation of women, but it is apparent the case hasn’t been made strongly enough in the insurance industry.

As it stands, women make up 60% of the insurance workforce but are scarce in leadership roles. Just 19% of board seats in insurance companies are occupied by women, and make up only 12% of top officer positions. To make matters worse, the support to lead women to higher positions just doesn’t seem to be there. Only 8% of insurance companies have a formal program or training to help women advance in their careers.

I realize I am an outlier. I am an executive at an InsurTech company that boasts a nearly 50% female roster, and I broke into the industry with little relevant training in insurance. It took a great deal of hard work, patience, persistence, risk and, most of all, mentor support to defy the odds and become a leader in the insurance industry. This isn’t bragging. Instead, it’s acknowledging my responsibility to help women in my industry to equalize these statistics and bring a much more diverse group of professionals to leadership tables.

In nearly 20 years of working in the industry, I’ve found some tried-and-true methods to set myself apart, and also identified some areas I believe all businesses could focus on to be more inclusive.

My path to insurance was never written in stone. Like many undergrads, I was unsure of exactly where I wanted to land, and concentrated my efforts studying psychology. It wasn’t until I cut my teeth in customer service for a large human resources and benefits consultant that my career in technology as a business enabler and insurance began to take shape.

It was during these years, along with a completion of a Masters Degree in eCommerce and a decade and a half at another global insurance conglomerate, that I learned many valuable lessons about how the industry works and what it would take for me to get noticed and advance.

What follows are the most important things I learned about the industry — and how to stand out — along the way.

No. 1: Learn constantly

When I was first hired to work the phones in an insurance and benefits call center, I knew very little about the industry and was little more than a cog in the machine. What set me apart was my willingness to learn. I took every opportunity to ask questions when appropriate, and made it a point to always say “yes” to opportunities that would allow me to further educate myself about the industry. Before long, I headed up the phone team and was recognized as a subject matter expert. The new role enabled me to build skills in project management, business development and other areas.

Insurance is a very specific knowledge area, and not being well-versed on complex topics like underwriting, actuarial work and the financial underbelly of insurance decision making can be intimidating. However, I harnessed that feeling and overcame it. Any time I found myself on solid ground with a new topic — whether it be tech, operations or other areas critical to keeping the business running — I set out to find another unfamiliar topic to renew my discomfort. Especially in insurance, it is essential to educate yourself to stay ahead of the curve. Even if the subject matter isn’t at all related to your current role, it is bound to be useful in the future. Intellectual curiosity is a must.

No. 2: Speak up

I would not have gotten nearly as many learning opportunities or as much recognition for my work had I stayed quiet throughout my career. If you aren’t invited to a meeting where you feel like you have a place, ask to be. If you’re passed up or talked over when a decision is being made, raise your voice. And, whatever you do, never let a meeting go by without participating — even if it is to offer a perspective that doesn’t align with the majority in the room. Meetings are a real time opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned and add value. Ultimately, getting leadership and other team members to recognize the value of my industry knowledge played a big role in my success.

Speaking up also means offering support. Whenever possible, you should make an effort to help other women learn and get recognition. Ask less experienced colleagues at the table to offer their thoughts.  Encourage their voices.  By acting as a mentor, you can help keep women on the path toward leadership in insurance.

No. 3: Take (smart) risks

Part of growing in any industry is knowing when to stay in your lane, and when to step into another. For the early part of my career, I spent every moment I could with my head down focused on the task at hand, learning and asking questions to get a better understanding of the industry. It took time. However, once I’d really begun to understand the business and where I could create value, it was time to take risks by challenging the status quo. I also took a much more critical look at the underlying metrics and data we used to make decisions.

It is critical women make calculated decisions to step outside their comfort zone. The reality is that insurance remains very much a people business, one where important decisions or strategies are determined in places like golf courses or dinner meetings. Women looking to advance need to smartly evaluate each opportunity and have the confidence to participate when there is a clear business objective. While these interactions may be relics of a different time in business, they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

Women have many opportunities to break the glass ceiling in the insurance industry by taking actions of their own, but leadership has its own responsibility to correct gender imbalance. As the conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion evolves, companies should be proactive about examining their own culture. This can mean engaging with a diversity consultant for an audit of current diversity efforts, conducting unconscious bias training or adopting software that helps make candidate evaluation more fair. It also means being far more dedicated to training — the 8% of employers that offer programs to help women advance is laughable, and a statistic that is relatively easy and inexpensive to improve.

Additionally, insurers should promote the diversity and inclusion efforts at their own company, even if their track record hasn’t been stellar. By simply acknowledging there is progress to be made, and sharing a plan of how the company will become more diverse and inclusive, companies show they are taking the issue seriously.

Climbing the ladder in the insurance industry hasn’t been easy — but it has been rewarding. If every woman with a similar experience took some time to mentor and share their experience, we could reach a future where women’s share in leadership is far more equitable. And, if companies commit to concrete steps to making the workplace more inclusive for women, we might finally see a real sea change in the industry.

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