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Ongoing learning is essential for the new tech-driven insurance environment

15 August 2019 African Unity Life

South Africa’s insurance sector is facing a triple-whammy of change, forcing a rethink on many fronts, especially that of attracting and retaining the right skills.

Along with rapidly evolving technological innovation and a changing customer demographic, the increased regulatory obligations for South African insurers will require increased investment and a new approach to HR.

Marné Louw, Head of HR at African Unity Life believes that the traditional, administrative role of HR should be evolving at the same pace as the industry, to become a strategic partner in the link between the company’s business imperatives and its employees.

“Today’s HR bosses should have a deep understanding of the goals and strategies of the business and should understand that they have an influence over the company’s bottom line”, she said.

Just as the insurance industry has embraced analytics and data science to provide customer-centric products and services, forward thinking HR leaders should be utilising the employee data at their fingertips in the interest of staff retention and engagement. In some companies, HR units are also making use of analytics in assessing would be employees. By using data modelling techniques, they are able to identify the most suitable candidates for the company.

To meet the demand for skills required in the new digital environment, Louw believes that investments must be made into upskilling and retraining.

“Repetitive administrative tasks will increasingly be performed by artificial intelligence and automated processes that will provide data which employees will have to analyse in order to make informed decisions. So, the training of the future must focus on the analysis of data”, she says.

Louw stresses, however that the human element must not be lost. “For example, when dealing with a funeral claim an empathetic employee who can speak to the emotions of the client can never be replaced by AI”, she said.

Studies have shown that technology driven learning outweighs other methods when it comes to accessibility and overall learning experience for today’s employees.

According to reports, insurance companies are missing out on more advanced learning tools such as gaming and simulation for training on claims scenarios, catastrophe situations and sales simulations.

“Gone are the days when an individual can rely on the training they received when they started out their careers. Adapting to the changes requires ongoing learning through training methods that keep pace with the times”, says Louw.

But with the evolution of skills to fit the new digital environment must also come a rethink on performance management. Traditional methods of measuring and quantifying performance are making way for new processes that enable skills development and nurture talent.

According to Louw, insurance companies must rethink performance management with millennials and generation Z in mind. She adds that what is important to these employees is a performance review free of subjectivity and purely focused on measurable outcomes so that they are able to keep track of how their current performance is influencing their career paths and growth opportunities.

“Performance management has always been linked to personal development plans and incentives schemes, and it will always be. However, what was an incentive by previous generations is not necessarily an incentive for the new generation. Studies have shown that millennials value flexibility, skills development, training, regular feedback, mentoring, career progression and growth over other traditional benefits”, she says.

Critical to the current environment of increasing digitisation and regulatory change is leadership that is both visionary and able to provide strategic clarity. According to the Deloittes report on human capital trends; ‘organisations with strong leadership pipelines yield significant returns compared to their peers, improving their ability to retain employees, execute change, and develop talent’.

To ensure the development of leaders, companies must develop leadership programmes built on their company’s core strategies and business imperatives and must include company-wide commitment from existing leaders.

Louw believes that to prepare would-be leaders for top positions in the new age of insurance, companies must be certain of the competencies required and must measure these frequently.

She adds that, once identified, leaders should encourage would-be leaders to be visionaries in their own positions and departments, by exposing them to new trends – including, but not limited to technology.

“Knowledge provides power, leaders must mentor, train and expose their employees to ensure they are skilled enough to become the leaders of the future”, concludes Louw.

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