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Hire and Keep the Best

Attracting new staff to the insurance claims industry requires new strategies.

October 22, 2008 Photo
Twenty-somethings who say they can’t find a decent job simply aren’t looking in the right places—like the insurance claims industry.

How can it be that an industry so needful of new workers is unable to attract even those desperate for employment? Something is clearly wrong. It’s time to admit that the old methods of drawing young people to jobs as claims professionals no longer work. The entire hiring/management system is broken and needs to be fixed, even if the journey toward change starts with baby steps.

Appealing to Generation Y (born between 1978 – 1989)
Engaging and retaining a typical Gen Y personality requires innovative recruitment and management tactics—something conservative traditionalists in the insurance sector may be hesitant to invite, thus missing opportunities. Utilizing fresh approaches can help draw a younger person’s eye to the very field he or she might otherwise overlook.

Play up the unique aspects of the claims industry that are apt to appeal to Gen Y. Since these spirited multi-taskers generally like anything new, creative, and stimulating, such possibilities as varied work environments, non-traditional shifts, telecommuting options, mentoring programs, online training, and opportunities to advance should turn their heads. In fact, these fairly common claims industry perks may entice this pool of applicants just as much as the salary you offer.

If targeting Gen Y when placing an ad for a position in claims, choose your words carefully and display them where they’re most likely to be seen by this tech-savvy group of workers—on the Internet. Traditional ads in the local newspaper may go unnoticed, but a snappy, well written job posting online is apt to draw attention and prompt positive responses from applicants. Remember, you need to capture a younger reader’s attention, so know what’s likely to appeal and what won’t. Keep job titles and descriptions honest, but make them interesting, fresh and clear.

When interviewing Gen Ys, look for individuals who display work habits and views that, though perhaps different, are likely to mesh with those of your existing staff. Finding the right personality for the job reduces tension, hastens the acclimation process, lowers turnover, and boosts overall team morale. No one likes to feel out of place and no one wants to dread going to work everyday.

Get to know the natural strengths of your applicants. Discuss their various backgrounds or interests and then steer them toward those areas of claims that seem most appropriate.
For example, Gen Ys with business or accounting expertise might specialize in claims of financial loss due to strikes, breakdown of equipment, or damage to merchandise. Have a candidate with architecture or engineering preferences? Sway these pragmatic thinkers toward industrial claims, such as damage from fires or other accidents. Legal scholars would likely welcome workers’ compensation or product liability cases, and medical minds probably would find medical and life insurance claims most satisfying and interesting.

It’s important to know that once they’re employed, Gen Ys usually set a fast run up the career ladder as a primary goal. While they might not be opposed to staying with a single company long term, most admit that if promised a better opportunity or new challenge elsewhere, they’ll leave. Find ways to keep them on board.

Some employers, now exploring next generation initiatives, are offering new hires formal assessments and help on how to predetermine their natural abilities and appropriate longer-term career paths. They’re having two-way discussions about potential promotions or cross-training, hoping any future move made will be within their company. Doing so seems to be paying off, saving businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in turnover expenses, and saving employees the stress that comes with changing companies.

What kinds of learning and growth opportunities can you offer new applicants? Because their Baby Boomer parents went out of the way to make them feel challenged, important, and nurtured, these newbies to the work force expect to gain the same feelings from an employer. When describing their responsibilities in claims, underline how intriguing and unpredictable the job can be. If your Gen Y prospect appears to have the traits you need and a personality that blends with your existing staff, let him or her know. Gen Y likes feeling special and wants to hear encouraging words from superiors.

Gen Ys were taught by their parents to seek input from others when faced with new situations. Consider providing some assurance that resources will be available for guidance; arrange for temporary peer mentoring if at all possible. They appreciate a boss who takes on the role of a concerned, informative coach rather than an all-powerful leader. Exchange ideas, build relationships, and don’t hesitate to discuss non-work issues with your Gen Y employees. Gen Ys respect bosses and authority figures—especially those who are knowledgeable, interesting, spontaneous, approachable and driven.
Communicating with Gen Y
This is the first generation with no memory of life before cell phones, the Internet and e-mail. They‘ve mastered the art of text messaging, online networking and blogging. Unlike their elders who typically prefer face-to-face conversations and personal exchanges, Gen Y favors techie gadgets, brief responses, and efficiency. They’ve rewritten much of the English language, dreaming up their own shorthand for everyday phrases, like AMOF (“as a matter of fact”) and NBD (“no big deal”).

It follows then, that to hold their attention, prospective employers would be wise to appreciate the unique attributes of Gen Y and learn, at least to some extent, to speak their language. Keep discussions brief and to the point. Utilize e-mail when a personal visit isn’t really necessary. If critiques are needed, give them privately; make constructive input seem more like a learning experience. Emphasize team building—Gen Ys care deeply about being accepted as a vital member of a group.

Because they’ve grown up being told they can accomplish almost anything and, indeed, have it all at the same time, most GenYs believe they’re able to work faster and better than their older counterparts. This rather egotistical attitude can be one source of inter-generational dissent, misunderstanding, and resentment among other employees.

Remind your entire staff, regardless of age, that while each worker’s methods will vary you’re all striving to achieve a common goal. Different perspectives and different tactics actually can enhance the teamwork experience. For example, someone who is systematic and methodical might be less prone to making mistakes than one who is hurried and distracted. Learn to utilize the work-approach gaps that exist in your company, not just manage them, in order to attract and retain a skilled, productive, satisfied, well-rounded work force.

There’s symmetry and eye-opening knowledge to be gained wherever workers with different perspectives interact. The key lies in understanding the reason behind a specific behavior and then finding ways to deal with it or even capitalize on it.

Misfit Workers
Managers can feel so stretched to the limits that they just want to quickly end the dreaded, time-consuming hiring process. As a result, they become way too eager to sign on the first person who breathes, looks acceptable on paper, and does at least fairly well during the interview. This is when the real problems begin.

Any new employee—not just one from Gen Y—will struggle and fail to meet management’s expectations if placed in an ill-suited role. The areas affected are critical, and appear most often in pace, communication style and ability to self-direct. He or she also may be more assertive and bold than necessary or, conversely, be too cautious in a position requiring independent thinking and steadfast drive.
Claims adjusters need to be, among other things, enterprising, inquisitive, social and detail attentive. Be sure the candidates you’re considering exhibit definitive signs and appropriate measures of these traits. Otherwise, expect mutual dissatisfaction, poor productivity and a mediocre job performance at best.

It usually won’t take long for managers to notice shortfalls in a new hire, and when they do, many feel responsible and therefore obligated to provide at least some measure of help. Unfortunately, this often translates into several hours per week that a boss must remove him or herself from core responsibilities and deal with ongoing issues relating to a lagging employee’s performance. Tempers flare, morale drops. Protect yourself and your department by learning how to build your Gen Y staff.

The Bottom Line
The price of not dealing with struggling staff is high. Statistics show the cost of employee turnover can range anywhere from 30% to 150% of a person’s annual compensation. For example, if a company with 100 employees normally experiences 10% turnover annually, assuming an average salary of $40,000, the company could add anywhere from $120,000 to $600,000 back to the bottom line just by decreasing turnover.

Gen Y is poised to make a huge impact on businesses in the future. And without a doubt, they have their own flair, their own character and their own unique perspectives. Understanding them will be critical not just for employers but also for colleagues and clients. The members of Gen Y are 76 million strong and destined to start calling the shots in most workplaces. They’ll bring a new and ultimately prized spirit and flair to the insurance claims industry nationally and globally.

First, you need to get them. Then, more importantly, you need to keep them.
Barbara Bauer (bbauer@omniagroup.com) and Carletta Neal (cneal@omniagroup.com) are senior consultants for The Omnia Group. Omnia provides employers with the tools they need to not only hire but keep the best team possible, including pre-screening, employee development & retention, management succession tools and more. Visit www.omniagroup.com for more information.
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About The Authors
Barbara Bauer

Barbara Bauer is a senior consultant for The Omnia Group. She has over 22 years experience as a consultant and teaches companies how to successfully hire, manage and motivate employees. bbauer@omniagroup.com

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