Utilising educational institution career fairs and in-house development are key ways to attract new, younger talent to the sector

Recent shifts in claims trends have led to a “big demand” for property-related technical specialists. However, there is a “real gulf” in employment across the insurance sector because a lot of people with experience are “close to retiring and there is a shortage of talent coming into the market”, said Gary Pike, managing director of insurance recruitment firm Right International.

A lot has happened within the property insurance market within the last year. For example, an influx of business interruption claims and storm losses saw UK property insurers record underwriting losses for the second time in three years in 2020, according to analysis of the industry’s latest Solvency and Financial Condition Reports (SFCRs) conducted by Insurance DataLab last month.

Meanwhile, data from Consumer Intelligence published in August 2021 revealed that home insurance premiums fell by an average of 5.6% over the 12 months to the end of July 2021.

Loss adjustor visits were also impacted over the last year as lockdown restrictions were introduced to mitigate the spread of coronavirus – pushing businesses to invest in digital solutions to meet the demands of a changing workforce.

Therefore, “we need to be concerned about an ageing demographic and how we can ensure this doesn’t become an even bigger issue over the next 10 years – where are we going to cultivate that next generation of talented, technical people from?”, asked Innovation Group director ot business development Gary De Groot.

Employment gap concerns

Pike was speaking as part of a roundtable session hosted by the Managing General Agents’ Association and Innovation Group, titled ’The widening skills gap and the changes to the modern way of working’ on 28 October 2021.

Chaired by De Groot, Innovation Group head of specialist services Rob Angus, head of human resources Jo Doyle and Right International senior consultant Jessica Power also spoke on the panel.

According to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey, published in January 2014, the generation born between 1981 and 1996 will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

De Groot therefore noted that it is “relatively concerning” that only 4% of millennials are interested in working in insurance, according to a report by Acord distributed to the Canadian market in July 2020.

One of the reasons for the sector’s employment gap is that insurance industry jobs are “not being communicated as well as [they] potentially could be” to school and college leavers as well as university graduates.

“There’s a great opportunity there for companies to approach younger individuals to ensure that talent comes through – I think that’s the key thing,” said Power.

Universities often host careers fairs or exhibitions where students can explore potential job routes and network with industry leaders. The University of Westminster, for example, organises a number of career events each year in addition to its themed employability month in February. The institution currently supports more than 19,000 students, according to its website.

De Groot added: “We’ve all gone through this joke when people ask how did you get into insurance and it was never something that you put down on your school report when you were eight years old, saying I want to grow up to be an insurance salesperson or claims handler - it’s always ‘I fell into it’.

“We need to remove that stigma of it being quite a boring industry to work in because actually it isn’t, but it’s got a reputation for being quite bland, quite boring [and] probably not as diverse or multicultural or technology driven as it is as well. There’s work that everyone needs to do to reframe that sort of perception.”

Exposed to opportunities 

To curb this issue, Angus said the industry will need to approach talent attraction in a ”very different” way than ”what we’ve done in the past”.

“It’s a big adaption to be had here to find out how youth look at employment and what it is that they need from it,” he added.

“We do a lot about creating role profiles and how we want the relationship to go on, but I think we need to pay a little bit more attention [to] what the employee’s role profile is, what they are looking for from this particular opportunity and try and meet some of those objectives as much as meeting our own.”

One way to do this is by harnessing shorter term roles, such as a two-year position, before moving the employee to a different avenue within the company. As a result, Doyle said: “They’re still getting that exposure. We’re still keeping it fresh and entertaining for them, but we’re keeping them within Innovation Group, so we’re not losing that talent and we’re managing to retain them.”

Echoing Doyle’s sentiments, Angus said: “[Young people] are tired of the same old promises – just work hard for 20 years and something good might happen. We’ve got to create an honest path [to show we] are committed to providing for them and to work with them to help them get what they need out of a job without having to change jobs to get it.”

To utilise the knowledge of more senior staffers while benefiting upcoming leaders, Doyle further noted that an exercise that has worked well at Innovation Group is asking older employees what retirement looks like for them.

She continued: “Could [they] do two to three days [at work] so we can still harness their knowledge and train someone alongside them?

“We’ve got four different generations in the workforce and everybody’s got different wants and needs.”

For job hunters that do take the leap of faith to join the insurance sector, Power said: “Once you work within the industry, you notice the opportunity that’s there, the types of people, the leadership that’s there, the expertise, the knowledge and it’s a great opportunity for young people. They just need to be exposed to it.”