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Speaking to the Next Generation

Millennials and Gen Z can fill the claims talent gap, but insurers have to speak their language

March 15, 2019 Photo

The mass exodus of claims veterans is upon us. On their journeys to the well-earned freedom of retirement, these experienced professionals are leaving a significant knowledge gap and a worrying amount of vacancies in their wake.

Employers are struggling to secure replacements, and the graying of the industry’s workforce isn’t expected to slow anytime soon. In fact, today’s claims professionals are older and more tenured than their counterparts in the general economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of claims professionals was 42.9 last year, compared to 42.2 for the general U.S. workforce.

Facing this harsh reality, insurers are turning their attentions to attracting and retaining millennial and Gen Z workers as the new faces of claims. Poised to be the protagonists of the future workplace, these generations already account for 40 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. However, most of them are simply not interested in pursuing careers in insurance, let alone the claims sector.

Now is the time for claims leaders to reevaluate their management strategies to successfully appeal to emerging talent and fill the burgeoning gap. Not only can millennials and Gen Zers help resolve the ongoing talent crisis, but also they possess unique skillsets that claims departments can leverage to innovate and seamlessly move into the future. By clearly understanding the desires and needs of young professionals and addressing them, organizations can expect to gain a competitive edge in tomorrow’s evolving marketplace.

Attract Through Innovation and Technology

Forward-thinking insurers know recruiting and retaining millennials and Gen Zers is essential to keep pace with technological developments. These generations are technology natives who grew up using smartphones, laptops, and other tech gadgets. Their technological proficiency adds value to any claims department looking to modernize and stay competitive.

A wave of innovation has taken the entire industry by storm; claims operations look vastly different today than they did even 10 years ago. Gone are the days when countless claims professionals would physically travel to impacted areas. Drones now fly over disaster areas for property inspections and chatbots handle policyholders’ claims questions. Real-time monitoring sensors alert people exposed to preventable risks, while applications and supporting documents are sent and received within seconds, thanks to digitalization.

However, modernization is far from complete. Automation, machine learning, and data analytics will continue to open doors to endless possibilities. The claims function we know today will likely look vastly different in another 10 years from now. To boost modernization efforts, insurers are looking for more tech-savvy professionals with untraditional skillsets. According to the “2018 Mid-Year U.S. Insurance Labor Outlook Study,” conducted by The Jacobson Group and Ward Group, 62.6 percent of property and casualty carriers plan to increase staff sizes in the next 12 months. The claims function is the second-highest area in demand for these insurers, coming in only a tenth of a point behind technology.

But attracting tech-savvy millennials and Gen Zers to your organization is a “chicken and egg” scenario. Accustomed to the latest technological devices and platforms, young professionals prefer to work for tech-savvy businesses. It is critical for the claims function to continue its modernization efforts to appeal to these generations. Whether or not an employer has digitalized and modernized is a point of consideration for young professionals when evaluating potential employers. If your department is still in the beginning stages of digital transformation, then share your company’s innovation story and illustrate how candidates can make a direct impact in writing the future of the department and industry.

A Culture to Attract Young Talent

Focusing solely on modernization is not enough to entice millennials and Gen Zers to become the next generation of entry-level claims professionals. Even if a claims department has the latest data analytics and blockchain systems in place, young professionals are still likely to explore other industries that offer better and more competitive benefits. Now more than ever, carriers should invest in creating an interactive, motivating, and purposeful corporate culture for their employees. Successful cultural adjustments can engage current employees and candidates while simultaneously driving innovation and improving employer brand.

It is important to remember culture is much more than flexible work arrangements or unique company benefits. A prosperous culture is the intersection of employee expectations and organizational missions and values. Individuals must be connected to enterprise initiatives and understand the impact of their own performance.

For example, each claims professional should understand how his field operations and inspections contribute to the department’s and the company’s strategies and initiatives. Making an impact on society and on their companies is important to millennials and Gen Zers. Knowing how their potential responsibilities are related to departmental and enterprise missions is likely to motivate them to consider claims as a viable career path.

At the same time, claims departments should adopt proactive approaches to understanding their workforces. Open discussions between claims leaders and their employees can identify what adjustments are needed to satisfy and motivate the workforce. Additionally, organizations can leverage research, if necessary, to understand what drives millennials and Gen Zers, ultimately balancing those desires with the organizations’ missions, values, and intended corporate culture. Launching candidate surveys or holding anonymous public polls are also proven ways to draw out the true perspectives of young professionals.

Appealing Benefits

Cultural adjustments should be purposefully reflected in visible changes, such as benefits. Implementing creative benefits that appeal not only to current employees, but also to young professionals is effective as part of a larger corporate culture strategy. For example, younger generations expect their employers to offer flexible work arrangements. Surveys found millennials prefer to have more opportunities to work remotely while altering their workdays’ start and finish times. Still new to the workforce, Gen Zers have yet to express their opinions on this matter, but their interests will likely not vary much from those of millennials.

Leveraging flexible work arrangements is an opportunity for the claims function to expand its talent pool and appeal to emerging talent. Claims representatives don’t need to physically be in the office to effectively perform their job duties. Advanced telecommunications software is now widely available, making it possible for insurers to provide work-at-home programs to accommodate this preference. Offering remote opportunities not only helps recruit and retain emerging talent, but also allows insurers to broaden the geographic scope of their talent pools.

Of course, there are many other creative benefits that appeal to younger generations, such as student loan reimbursement programs, pet insurance, volunteer day off initiatives, and complimentary gym memberships, to name a few. Some claims departments are also allowing their professionals to use their company cars for personal purposes. Allowing claims professionals—who are often required to travel frequently—to take their vehicles home with them can reduce commuting and travel times, provide better work/life balance, and, ultimately, increase productivity and employee morale. Creative benefits like these can be a critical differentiator for insurers looking to stand out from the competition and positively impact employees and candidates’ perceptions and engagement levels.

Grow and Nurture Careers

While long-lasting, intentional culture is necessary to attract millennials and Gen Zers to the claims field, organizations should also value and support professional growth, whether within the claims field or another insurance discipline. According to a Gallup report, 87 percent of millennials consider professional development and career-growth opportunities to be very important. Emerging professionals have a thirst for knowledge and are looking to continuously expand their skillsets to pursue meaningful career advancement.

Many of these young professionals saw their parents and grandparents lose their jobs during the Great Recession. With a firm distrust in large institutions, these individuals are looking for careers that allow them to make an immediate impact in a company that invests in their growth.

It is important to acknowledge that not everyone’s professional goals will be met by pursuing a life-long claims career. Although entry-level claims roles provide excellent starting points for young professionals, there are many other industry disciplines with equally important responsibilities, organizational impact, and social values. No matter what path they are interested in pursuing, insurers should honor their decisions and support their development.

Providing easy access to professional development and training programs allows millennials and Gen Zers to learn more about the industry and find career tracks that meet their interests. By instituting impactful and intentional programs, organizations can groom entry-level employees to become well-rounded insurance professionals by exposing them to all facets of the industry. Personalized training programs further demonstrate an employer’s vested interest in the advancement and development of valued employees.

If a new hire expresses interest in a long-term claims career, then managers and supervisors should provide mentorship and professional guidance to help position her for higher-level claims jobs within the organization. These intentional development efforts leave young professionals with a positive experience—hopefully one that they will be encouraged to share with their friends and peers.

Share Authentic Stories

Alas, all of these efforts are for naught if millennials and Gen Zers do not know about them. Leaders should encourage their employees to leverage the digital space as a means to authentically amplify the exciting opportunities and benefits that lie within insurance careers and within their specific organizations. Traditional recruiting promotions that exclusively rely on stock photography and one-way interviews are things of the past.

Accurately portraying the workplace is important, but it means almost nothing if the audience cannot relate to it. Years of exposure to multimedia campaigns have taught these generations to look for authenticity, even in their job searches. They demand real people and real voices. Each employee is a brand ambassador. Claims leaders should empower their employees to share their stories and to connect with young professionals. Though social posts and grand events have their place, personal interactions with younger professionals are still the best way to share honest and authentic stories of the industry and its career paths.

The interview process is also an opportunity for hiring managers and other members of the interview committee to promote the function and the industry as a whole. Remember a job interview is a two-way interaction. Interviews offer employers a chance to not only evaluate candidates, but also to promote the company and the value and benefits of the open position. Involving peers in the interview process to share their own career stories is an impactful way to draw connections for candidates. It helps them visualize what they can achieve upon entering the industry. At the end of the interview, candidates should have a firm understanding of what the hiring insurer can provide and how they can benefit from accepting an offer for a particular position and with said employer.

As claims veterans retire and vacate their long-held positions, claims departments must strategize on how they will recruit and retain young professionals to fill the gaps. By understanding the preferences and motivations of the emerging workforce, claims leaders can build an intentional company culture that appeals to employees and candidates alike and drives business agendas forward. This story must be shared in a personalized manner across social platforms and during interviews in order to be as relatable and authentic as possible. Insurers cannot wait any longer to attract millennials and Gen Zers; after all, 10 years from now, they will already be well-rooted in another industry, and it will be even more difficult to entice them to leave.

About The Authors
Frank Spatafora

Frank Spatafora is assistant vice president and practice lead for the property and casualty team at The Jacobson Group.  fspatafora@jacobsononline.com

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