FACING THE TALENT CRISIS
New approaches combined with existing best practices help with recruitment, retention
By Carla Corrado and Sam Matthews
As individuals and an industry, we’re always looking to grow, to expand our knowledge and reach in new ways, to broaden our perspectives, and explore fresh approaches to problems old and new. Today, our industry continues to be faced with a talent crisis. It’s a crisis we’ve seen coming for more than a decade but now our industry’s need for talent has been exacerbated. Economic turmoil, challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing labor shortage have left employers desperate to hire.
Thought leaders from across the industry have opined on the subject, encouraging industry leaders to get creative and think outside the box to attract and retain this hard-to-find talent. While we should leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding the right ways to attract and retain the quality talent we need, it is also critical for us to remember that some of the more traditional ways we’ve engaged employees and prospects continue to hold value.
In this tight labor market, hiring for insurance has not been an easy feat. In fact, 48% of insurance companies surveyed by the Jacobson Group for its Insurance Labor Market Study noted that hiring talent was more difficult this year than the year before. At the same time, 68% of those companies surveyed said they planned to boost staff over the next year.
Today, employers are trying to get creative beyond bonuses, compensation and flexibility. They are looking to expand their candidate pools, looking to universities with insurance programs to recruit, looking to college graduates with other majors who may find their fit in insurance, rehiring the retired, and reconsidering job requirements to determine if a college degree is really necessary for certain positions.
Here are a few best practices for blending tried-and-true talent recruiting and retaining strategies with new ideas to keep your firm performing optimally with a challenged, happy and fulfilled team.
- Start early. Many young people still view insurance as they did 10 years ago—uninteresting, stale and uninspiring. The industry is looking to change that by spreading the message that insurance is about resilience—helping individuals, families and business owners at their time of need.
More universities are offering insurance as a course of study. Gamma Iota Sigma, the international professional fraternity designed to encourage interest in insurance and risk management, has now grown to 100 chapters within the United States. With interest like that from major universities across the country, we are on our way to changing old and outdated perceptions of insurance.
Additionally, insurers are also finding quality talent in the interns they bring on from these programs. We have a robust intern program at Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company (PLM) and we hire a number of our interns for full-time positions. One of our recent interns joined us for two summers and was hired into our marketing department upon graduation. She is now thriving in our compliance and regulatory department. We find that our employees have their careers further enriched by experiencing different departments within our company from marketing to underwriting and claims to IT.
Beyond universities, some in the industry are also looking to attract talent even earlier in their careers. We work with Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, an independent Catholic high school with a focus on work-study programs. Students visit us during the week to experience working in the various departments under our roof from customer service to underwriting.
Students work for us one day per week in our home office. We give them real-life work experience while we assist in helping to pay their school tuition.
- Expand your reach. Since the pandemic, many employees have transitioned to working remotely part time and even full time. McKinsey & Company reported in June 2022 that 58% of Americans reported having the opportunity to work from home at least once a week.
As a result, employers have had to open their minds to flexibility—some offering completely remote experiences to requiring a few days in the office a week. At PLM, we’ve found success with this model in bringing back those who left the work force. For example, we recently rehired a retiree in our underwriting department on a part-time basis. This has been a win for both parties. We have a trusted, seasoned employee back on our team, and the employee can still enjoy the time he wanted at home for his family and hobbies, while remaining challenged professionally.
Remote work has also opened doors to hiring without geographic limitations. Not only can insurers, agents and brokers recruit locally, but they can look across the country for the right candidate to fill open positions.
- Power their future. Once a hiring manager gets a prospect in the door, it’s important to keep them engaged, happy and growing in their position. Many in our industry realize this and support employees with tuition reimbursement programs and continuing education.
At PLM, we do both. We believe strongly in the power of continuing education to not only keep our employees engaged, motivated and professionally fulfilled, but to help our company to succeed. We require everyone in our company to participate in continuing education. Every time an individual passes a course or receives their designation, we provide them with a monetary bonus.
- Support the whole person. While numerous companies are engaging in similar strategies to recruit and retain quality talent, more employers, perhaps particularly independent agents, need to remember that the personal touch of old still goes a long way.
It may be old-fashioned or cliché, but we support a family atmosphere at PLM. With people working remotely and unable to interact in the office as much, we find that these opportunities to get together even more valuable to the work we do and the people who do it. We continue to have events where we invite families. We have a charity softball team. We send flowers and gifts to our employees for holidays and mile-stone events such as being honored as a top workplace. Our CEO knows many of our employees’ family members and interacts with them at in-person and virtual events.
One very special tradition we have at PLM that we believe goes a long way toward retention is delivering a young tree to each new employee upon their start. The type of tree we deliver depends on the geography, but the message is the same. Our business supports an industry that starts with trees. As the tree grows, so will your career with PLM.
Finally, in recent years many company leaders in our industry have realized the value in community support, not just to win new customers, but to empower their employees and under-stand that they work for an employer who cares for their community. We promote volunteer events to support the community and, during our annual United Way campaign, we inspire camaraderie through virtual family bingo and trivia games, family football pools, and interoffice gift giving. We also recognize that young people want to work for companies that support their communities and allow their employees time to spend volunteering.
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve noticed even more of an appreciation for our in-person events, and we believe this is something the industry needs to re-energize. Togetherness will help to build a culture that prospects want to join and employees want to support.
The talent our industry needs is out there. It may not be where we have looked in the past and it may need nurturing, but it’s there. Once we find someone we want to bring on or retain, it’s important to remember that insurance is about relationships. As employers, we need to recognize the value in our employee relationships as well as our customer relationships. Job candidates and employees should understand who your company or agency really is, what you support, how you work together, how you help each other grow and pro-mote each other’s successes.
We will continue to achieve success by engaging our employees, helping them further their careers, providing them with opportunities to support their communities and, most important, to connect with each other.
Carla Corrado is manager of talent development at Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company. Sam Matthews is recruiting manager for Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company. You can reach them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.