Attracting and retaining talent – The insurance industry’s biggest challenge?

20 August 2014 The Innovation Group

A lack of sufficient skills and retaining skilful talent is not a new challenge and it is certainly not limited to the insurance industry. However, in many other sectors, such as medicine or education, it remains a priority agenda item to attract and retain sufficient talent and skills and receives attention at both a policy and institutional level. The insurance industry faces ongoing recruitment struggles, as it continues to battle a decidedly unglamorous image and an aging workforce.

But what if these specialist insurance skills are not forthcoming? Is there more at stake than a simple human resource dilemma?

The earthquake that struck near Orkney earlier this month left a trail of damage in its wake. The extent of the destruction included structural damage to schools and clinics: all essential services that need to be repaired and restored to full operational capacity as soon as possible. Similarly, the recent double tragedy that struck Malaysia Airlines has not only raised many questions within the commercial airline industry. It has also served to stress the importance of an industry often misjudged: Insurance. Regardless of whether it is an act of war, a claim arising from a natural disaster or hull coverage, someone needs to pick up the tab if there is any hope of regaining a semblance of normality after these disasters.   And settling these claims takes knowledge and experience.

“Every touch point in life gives rise to risk. The potentially crippling effect on individual organisations and the economy as a whole in times of substantial financial loss can only be mitigated by adequate insurance cover,” explains Jonathan Holden, Managing Executive of Insurance at Innovation Group South Africa.

While the emotional toll of any large scale catastrophe may be unquantifiable, the financial consequences are less mysterious.

“If we use the World Trade Centre attack, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster or super storm Sandy as a case in point, the necessity for swift monetary compensation becomes apparent,” says Holden. “Ensuring the continuity of suitably skilled human resources to process and manage these types of claims is imperative to not only the individuals and businesses involved but also to the entire global economy.”

Making the necessary adjustments

Holden believes that the first step towards overcoming the skills shortage is to raise the profile of the industry. People should no longer fall into insurance by accident. He explains that there should be a desire to pursue a career based on educational and vocational expertise.

“If the industry is going to attract highly-skilled graduates, then they need to ensure that they have an effective draw card. This could be in the form of money, job-satisfaction, exciting career opportunities or a combination of all three. It is also essential to constantly improve existing skills as opposed to simply trying to retain talent.”

Identifying skills that are critical to the long term vigour of the industry and then formally setting aside regular gatherings of industry leaders and influencers to monitor progress and drive development initiatives will ensure that nothing is left to chance.

Holden says that the internship and mentoring programmes that exist within many individual organisations provide invaluable in-house training. However, he believes that it is possible to offer these opportunities in a more structured way that allows the entire insurance sector to draw on the pool of skills that these programmes create.

“Graduates need to be kept within the industry; as it cannot afford to lose these skills to other sectors. Collectively, the industry has a loud enough voice to retain the talent and guarantee the longevity of these crucial services.”

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