Blog: What lies ahead for the future of skills in the insurance industry?

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The London insurance market is facing a huge skills shortage as insurance firms struggle to compete for talent. While a huge number of baby boomers are retiring from the sector and taking those long-held skills with them, there is also a distinct lack of millennials filling the void from the bottom up writes Cameron Gallagher, strategic client director at Manpower Group.

As digitally led insurtechs come to the fore, organisations must merge and align their people with evolving technologies, in order to attract and retain the best talent, as well as satisfy their skills needs.

Traditional insurance providers are being challenged and disrupted by insurtechs. These digitally-led insurance services and insurance-as-a-service propositions afford them lean operating models, lower cost burdens and a lack of legacy infrastructures. This makes them far nimbler than many incumbent insurance providers and allows them to operate in fundamentally different ways – tapping into new markets and delivering enhanced services through new innovations and digital processes.

What’s their secret? Insurtechs are underpinned by Big Data and the Internet of Things. Together these technologies fuel the deep, predictive analytics that allow them to really get under the skin of their customers’ behaviour. Armed with this intelligence, they can tailor an insurance package to the individual’s specific needs and nurture a very customised, personalised experience. It’s clear that established insurance providers need to look at how they can compete with these emerging disruptive insurtechs, and better meet the demands of customers – and this all starts with people and skills.

Striking the right balance with integrating people and technology

Developing the right blend of people, processes and technology is key. Our research reveals that people will continue to be critical in the years ahead – but the skills that insurers will require of them will change. And, as the skills requirements of an organisation evolve, so too must the overarching strategy by which they are managed. It is critical that insurers understand the skills they have in their workforce and can forecast the skills they will need in the future, so they can take steps to bridge the inevitable gap.

One solution that can help involves taking a total talent management approach. This means uniting the entire workforce - permanent worker, contractor, freelancer, statements of work and outsourced services - in a single talent management programme. This approach can give insurers the complete workforce visibility they need to make more strategic decisions about recruiting and managing talent. This all means insurers can better identify future skills gaps and take steps to upskill and train existing workers to fill them.

Attracting millennial workers to insurance firms

Many of the skills that insurance providers now require can come from millennials who are exiting education, or have just a few years’ experience in the corporate world. Their digital-first mindset and understanding of technology-driven society can be incredibly valuable to insurance businesses.

Increased exposure to this generation and more proactive hiring of millennials can deliver many benefits to the insurance sector. Alongside helping with succession planning, they provide fresh perspectives, diversity of thought, and new ideas. Since this generation has grown up with technology and is accustomed to the pace of its change, they’re well placed to help businesses connect with customer’s demands.

Yet the industry currently struggles with several misconceptions that hinders its ability to attract workers from this generation. For example, many people associate insurance with underwriting – and if this job doesn’t appeal, they discount the industry entirely. There’s a lack of understanding of the full range of opportunities and career paths that the industry can offer. What’s more, insurance is often viewed as having a slightly stuffy, formal working environment. This doesn’t positively compare to other more modern, technology-led workplaces that are targeting the new crop of talent.

Insurers need to be more proactive in managing their employer brand. They also need to embrace new employment models and more flexible ways of working, since nearly half of workers worldwide would prefer something other than a full-time job.

The insurance industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation, as it harnesses technology to develop more personalised, enhanced services. In the long-term, this offers organisations fantastic opportunities to secure and shape their future. But in the short-term, workforce churn creates uncertainty – and this can quickly disengage existing employees and hamper recruitment efforts.

Ultimately, the workforce is an organisation’s largest asset. But it’s also its biggest variable risk. By taking a more holistic view of the workforce, insurers can more easily adapt to changing skills requirements – ensuring they secure and retain the talent they need to transform the business.

Cameron Gallagher

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