Filed Under:Markets, Reinsurance

5 ways you can help recruit the next generation of insurance professionals

With many jobs unfilled and more retirements happening soon, the insurance industry has to act fast to find the next generation of insurance professionals. (Photo: iStock)
With many jobs unfilled and more retirements happening soon, the insurance industry has to act fast to find the next generation of insurance professionals. (Photo: iStock)

Did you know the vast majority of agency principals and producers are over the age of 55?

That was part of the impetus behind a collaborative group of insurance carriers, trade associations and industry partners inviting the insurance community to join them in supporting the first-ever Insurance Careers Month to be held February 2016.

The reasons are three-fold:

  • The workforce is aging. There are numerous studies on this issue, such as the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America’s 2014 Agency Universe Study, which showed 54% of principals/producers are older than 56, and 36% of principals/producers are 61 or older. In addition, the carrier side of our industry is feeling the pain of this issue.
  • There will be hundreds of thousands of jobs available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), by 2022 the insurance industry will need to replace more than 295,000 actuaries, agents, analysts, claims adjusters, claims/policy clerks, software developers and underwriters.
  • There’s a shortage of candidates. The unemployment rate in the insurance industry is 2.3%. With only 40 colleges and universities offering degrees in risk management and insurance, graduates from these programs can only fill 10% to 15% of the need.

Threat to the insurance industry

With a staggering number of job openings and more than a third of those working at agencies and carriers near or at retirement age, some could argue recruiting the next generation of insurance professionals is the No. 1 issue facing our industry.

This is why Insurance Careers Month was created, to develop a wider awareness around this issue and to work together to solve it.

This February will serve as the kick-off of a cross-industry, multi-phase initiative to raise awareness of the dynamic career opportunities in the risk management and insurance profession, and to recruit the next generation of industry leaders.

Related: February to be first Insurance Careers Month

But the idea that we are entering a period when talent is leaving our industry and the pipeline to replenish it can’t keep up was identified several years ago. Many carriers have been addressing this issue for more than five years.

In addition, in 2012, the state of Ohio realized that there would be talent shortage and commissioned a study through Regionomics, which projected that there will be approximately 26,000 jobs available in the insurance industry in Ohio between then and 2020.

In response, a constituency of insurers based in Ohio formed a coalition of 13 leaders in government, insurance and higher education called the Insurance Industry Resource Council to start a career awareness program, Insuring Ohio Futures.

The goal of Insuring Ohio Futures is to engage students, career-changers and military veterans to raise awareness of educational and career opportunities in the insurance industry.

Here are some ways you can be involved with Insurance Careers Month and help recruit the next generation into the insurance industry:

Millennials at work

Millennials have a different approach to their careers. (Photo: iStock)

1. Know your audience

The first thing you should do with any marketing campaign (and yes, this is a marketing campaign) is to know your audience. To attract the next generation, you’ll need to target millennials with your recruiting efforts. According to a 2015 article in Fortune, three of the most important things millennials want out of a job are:

  • A flexible schedule.
  • The opportunity to invest time acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally.
  • A chance to become involved in social causes and to gain a sense of a wider purpose in their work, more so than previous generations.

To address these issues related to recruiting millennials, our company — Westfield Center, Ohio-based Westfield Insurance — has found offering employees benefits such as flex-time and work-from-home opportunities have proven successful in recruiting younger workers. Westfield also offer dozens of career and personal advancement courses to help employees increase their insurance acumen, develop interpersonal and leadership skills, explore stretch roles, etc. through Westfield University. In addition, Westfield provides the opportunity to volunteer for nonprofit organizations on company time.

Related: 6 industries millennials think just aren’t cool

Social media tools

There are many ways you can get the message out. (Photo: iStock)

2. Become part of the larger voice

Regardless of the size of your agency, there are ways for you to get involved. Joining the coalition that created Insurance Careers Month is a good start. Specifically, you can: 

  • Visit www.insurancecareertrifecta.org. Here you will find a clearinghouse of partners, resources (including pre-written content and social media tips) and initiatives to help your company spread the word. Begin using and following #careertrifectain your social media efforts to help promote the message thatInsurance Hits the Career Trifecta: Stable, Rewarding, Limitless.”
  • Participate in Talent Tuesday. As part of the Insurance Careers Month efforts, Tuesdays have been established as the day of the week when you can socialize your efforts toward recruiting the next generation of insurance professionals. Join the other organizations and use #TalentTuesday as you post and tweet.
  • Become more involved with the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. Through its InVEST program, there’s many resources available to help promote a career in insurance to a younger audience.
  • Connect with MyPath. Similar to the InVEST program, the MyPath website provides another resource to help provide the ideas and resources you need to help recruit millennials.

Related: Finding the right employees: Recruiting strategies from American Modern

Scholarship winner

Create a scholarship or donate money to an existing scholarship for students studying for a career in insurance. (Photo: iStock)

3. Use your money

Offer paid internships for students who can help in all areas of your organization. Identify projects and use Gamma Iota Sigma (if available in your area) to hire students pursuing insurance careers. At Westfield, we’ve had paid interns working in most every function of our organization, including our marketing, hospitality, commercial and personal lines, etc.

Offer to help fund scholarships at local colleges and universities for students obtaining insurance-related degrees. This is something Westfield believes in strongly as we offer several scholarships through our Westfield Insurance Foundation, our Westfield Agents Association and our recently announced James R. Clay Scholarship, which honors Westfield’s retiring board chairman. 

Depending upon the size of your organization, you can invest in our industry’s future by providing financial support to industry groups and associations, such as InVEST, Trusted Choice, Gamma Iota Sigma, the Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and The Institutes, to name a few.

Related: Attracting bright, young minds to an insurance career

Speaking to a class

Speaking to classes at colleges and high schools in your area is a great way to let students know about insurance career possibilities. (Photo: iStock)

4. Use your time

In addition to financial support, consider serving on the boards of industry groups and associations, such as InVEST, Trusted Choice, Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and Gamma Iota Sigma, as well as local colleges and universities.

Gamma Iota Sigma has more than 60 chapters nationwide. Click here to locate a chapter in your area and then get involved by donating your time and help provide opportunities for students to learn, network and develop as a young professionals.

Work with universities in your area to help them develop insurance and risk management curricula. Connect with InVEST and learn how you can teach an insurance curriculum or simply be a guest speaker at a local high school or college.

Related: Here are the top 10 schools for insurance and risk management

Team pulling on a rope

Involve many people in your organization to help recruit new talent into the insurance profession. (Photo: iStock)

5. Make it a team effort

Similar to any marketing plan, no one department should bear the entire responsibility for attracting new talent.

While in our case the human resources, foundation and corporate communications functions will do most of the heavy lifting, other departments can be involved in spreading the word.  For instance, at Westfield, we formed an internal cross-enterprise committee charged with raising the awareness of what we call our Insurance Pathways initiative.

Some other ways to get involved include:

  • Distributing a letter from your president or agency principal to your employees about the importance of Insurance Careers Month.
  • Attending a career fair at your local college of university.
  • Engaging your own millennials and social media savvy employees by encouraging them to post and tweet about their positive experiences working in the insurance industry.

An issue as vast and important as perpetuating our industry requires collaboration and partnership with carriers and agents alike if we hope to achieve our goal. As cliché as it sounds, securing our industry’s future starts now.

Ed Largent is group leader, president and CEO of Westfield Center, Ohio-based Westfield Insurance. Chris Paterakis is Westfield’s group human resources leader.

Related: Insurance is a great career. How can we let college students and graduates know that?

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