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Four ways insurance agencies can combat the talent pipeline crisis

September 17, 2019
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Colorado's economy is booming, but leaders in the insurance industry are finding it more and more difficult to recruit experienced and engaged employees. Experts think this problem will only become more dire as the industry faces a looming talent pipeline crisis.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 200,000 open positions in the insurance industry went unfilled in 2018 due to the double whammy of retiring baby boomers and millennials not stepping in to fill the gap. In fact, a worrisome study by The Hartford finds that a paltry 4% of millennials are reportedly interested in an insurance career.

The end is not in sight, either: The BLS estimates that nearly half of the current insurance industry workforce will retire over the next 15 years, and the 2019 Insurance Industry Employment Outlook found that 92% of respondents had open jobs.

Against that grim backdrop, proactive agencies might be wondering how they can thrive in the upcoming years. The great news is that, as the future of work evolves, insurance leadership can adapt to meet new workplace norms.

Here are four ways you can appeal to the next generation of diverse workers, while simultaneously helping retain and grow your current staff.

Offer flexible working hours

From telecommuting to schedule shifting, study after study reports employees crave flexibility as a top workplace benefit. The IWG Global Workspace Survey found that 80% of respondents would choose a job with flexible work opportunities over one without them. Add the fact that Colorado has the highest percentage of employees who work from home, and it's clear that companies promoting flexible work options will be more successful in recruiting talented employees.

Most employees say the key factor is having choices about when and where they work. Perhaps allow employees to pick their core on-site business hours and let them work from home when it makes sense. Is there paperwork or correspondence that your team can handle during off hours so they can have more work/life balance? By working with your team to find the right coverage recipe, you can not only meet your associates' desire for flexibility, but simultaneously offer better service to your customers.

Upgrade your professional development opportunities

Nine in 10 employees believe skills development opportunities are important, according to one survey, and that's a win for companies. Investing in continuous learning can help attract and retain workers and make them more productive and effective in the process.

Another important development aspect that agency leaders could embrace is nurturing a strong climate of mentorship. Younger staff will benefit from the wisdom of more seasoned professionals, and they, in turn, will appreciate the opportunity to grow and stretch their skills.

Connect your work to a sense of purpose

In a recent survey of millennials, 63% agreed that businesses should "improve society," rather than simply "generate profit." While insurance agencies, of course, aim to earn profits, the good news is that you provide a product and service that has a built-in sense of purpose as you help safeguard your customers. You can recruit and retain employees by helping them to connect to that higher mission.

The Insurance Information Institute recently created a video designed to position the career in an appealing light, and as one young insurance worker says, "I get to make communities safer and more resilient every day." Your agency can also leverage the work you do every day to improve your customers' lives.

Start by collecting customer testimonials and success stories. If you have regular staff meetings, ask your team to share a "good news" story of a customer they helped. When you receive rave reviews, share them with your staff to reinforce the benefits of the work they are doing.

Leverage feel-good stories further by including them in the marketing materials; see if customers will allow you to use their story, or use it anonymously.

Finally, rethink your ads and other recruitment efforts to include these messages of "purpose." Appeal to potential candidates' altruism by sharing how your work helps local businesses and the community — and how they can play a role with a career in the insurance industry.

Go where the workers are

How can you get your foot in the door early with the next generation of workers? Consider starting an internship program or job shadow experience, and participate in professional career fairs at local high schools and colleges. There is a great benefit in exposing potential workers to the opportunities that a career in insurance offers — interesting work, stability, attractive compensation and, of course, appealing benefits.

Pinnacol is helping promote insurance careers through its apprenticeship program, registered with the Department of Labor through CareerWise Colorado. By the time participants have finished the three-year program — where they earn while they learn — they are both immersed in the importance of the insurance industry and prepared to contribute immediately.

While the hurdles can look significant, the great news is that the future of work involves new norms that benefit both employers and employees. By embracing the possibilities, you can help introduce the next generation to a fulfilling, long-term career while reinforcing the value that your existing team provides.

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