The current insurance industry is in a quasi-crisis in terms of talent. Over the next couple of years, there will be a mass exodus of legacy insurance professionals which will create a vacuum that must be filled by young talent. The talent gap stats have been blasted all over insurance articles so I will refrain from regurgitating that data here as the point of this article is deeper than statistical analysis. If you ask a lot of current professionals who have decades of industry experience how they fell into the industry they will most likely provide the following reasons: sheer accident, a family connection, or simply needing a job out of college. However, times have changed. No longer can the insurance industry rely on the ‘fall-in’ approach to take it to the next frontier of being an active risk management partner for individuals and businesses.
Over the last decade, it is no secret that the entire business landscape has changed in regards to retaining and attracting talent. It is well documented that current and future generations of employees are looking for something deeper than just a ‘job’. Something deeper than ping pong tables, unlimited beer fridges, and even monetary compensation. These individuals are looking to be attached to a purpose, where they can actively add value to that purpose, to truly attach employment with personal passion, to make an impact in the world. For the insurance industry as a whole to change to the current talent climate it is the duty of us, the insurance professionals, to play a key role in showing young talent why our industry is deeper than goofy commercials and the attempts to make the industry ‘cool’, like Keanu Reeves type ‘cool’.
This article is going to dive into how current insurance professionals can play an active role in attracting the talent needed to take the insurance industry into the new frontier. A frontier of innovation driven by advanced technology and looking deeper into how products can be customized to their owners. Active risk management which improves decision making and how insurance reacts to adverse situations.
Insurance is Not ‘Sexy’
Insurance does not equal sexy. J-Lo could become the spokesperson for any global large insurance carrier and it still would not make society change its mind on how they see our industry. People see insurance simply as a life requirement, something needed to appeal to regulatory agencies or contractual relationships. To many (even business owners) insurance is seen as nothing more than a bill with no residual value. With this entrenched mindset polluting younger generations’ attraction to the industry, filling the current workforce gap with strong candidates is like walking up a hill with a one hundred pound vest on, just a tad difficult.
In the end, it is not about making the industry ‘sexy’ it was never this and we should not attempt to make it something it is not. I will tell you what insurance is not. Insurance is not emus, guys called Mayhem, a computerized general Monopoly guy playing poker with Shaq, or a woman named after a diner waitress immortalized in one of Jim Carrey’s best comedic scenes (think salt shaker and sea bass). No, insurance is about so much more, but when you are in our industry it can be difficult to shake off the negative connotations that drift around the titles we hold. Let me share a personal example.
The Social Anti-Butterfly
I often am asked what I do for a living, you know normal social inquiries that always come along at some point or another in urban discussions. People in the city identify themselves heavily with their professions and thus job questions are always an easy icebreaker you can pull out, it’s always more appealing than awkward silences (cue the cricket orchestra). I tell whoever I am a risk manager and am often met with blank stares or eyes I can only read as planning their quick escape onto something more vocally infatuating. My broker once told me a story about when he stood next to his friend who was a winemaker and then people asked both of them what they did, let’s say there was a lot more talk of grapes than re-insurance trends.
By no means does my job title scream sexy, it would be much more seductive if I had a cool job like a hipster brewmaster, coffee sommelier or travel blogger. Anything but someone who stares at insurance policies until he goes temporarily cross blind trying to study every word to protect his company from adverse peril or studying cognitive psychology to improve the ways the business makes strategic decisions with high financial risk. However, let’s take these same social scenarios and see how they would fair if I changed the narrative to explain what I do, my purpose of why I wake up every morning blessed and happy to do what I love.
Flipping the Narrative
To explain working in insurance in a way that captivates people is to simply flip the narrative. Another quick story, I recently spoke to a director of a new Ivy League graduate program concentrating in insurance. I was offering my assistance with the program as I am an academia fanatic and have a strange love of torturing myself with all subjects about risk. My talk with this individual was one that I will remember forever as this woman was one of the smartest people I had ever spoken to in my life and eluded a passion for driving innovation in insurance that had me hanging on every word.
I have never hung up a phone and been more inspired nor blown away by the sheer intelligence amplified through such a simple way of looking at things. The inspiring message I took from our chat was if we simply change the narrative around insurance it can, in fact, become ‘sexy’. No longer do I answer the “What do you do” question with a title, I answer with my purpose, the WHY behind what I do. So this turns my monotonous answer of “Risk Manager” into “I develop strategies to assist my organization in protecting and creating value while encouraging intelligent risk-taking and decision making.” This answer turns eyes of bewilderment to those of engagement, now you want to dive deeper into what I do and how I do it. However, if I do want to end a conversation quickly I go back to using my title (small joke). So you see through a simple tactic I made my work more sexy, more interesting, more impactful. This is what young talent need to hear.
Insurance is one of the only industries that gives you the opportunity to touch any and all other industries. Every business must have insurance to exist, to survive, to grow. Insurance provides an avenue to touch any industry you want and truly make an impact. Want to support a green energy startup company aimed at changing the world? Insurance touches that. Want to get into the cannabis scene and help businesses stay growing and out of regulatory trouble? Insurance touches that. Want to solve problems for global corporations and travel the world in an ever-changing role? Insurance touches that.
Want to work with Wall St. and help keep the capitalistic motor running? Insurance touches that. Want to gather intelligence like a CIA operative on global risks? Insurance touches that. I literally sat down with an insurance auditor last week who used to hang around with professional sports teams as part of his workday. Still think insurance is boring and not sexy? Whatever industry or impact you want to have insurance can help you achieve that sense of purpose, that impact you want to make on the world, our industry is there to feed your internal drive.
The industry is ready for the next wave of talent to take it to the next level. All we have to do as current insurance and risk professionals is flip the narrative to display to others our impact on society and our communities versus a title splashed around at a cocktail hour or industry event. I promise if we all communicate our roles in a new way, we won’t have to use weird large birds or goofy commercials to make insurance seem sexy and cool, our actions and missions will do all the speaking we need.
So I leave all of you insurance professionals with a simple way to explain your job in a new light to help drive young talent into our industry. When someone asks you what you do for a living simply replace your “Title” with your “Purpose”, the WHY behind what drives you each and every day. The WHY that has kept you in such a unique industry for so long and has given you so much. It is time to flip the narrative and show the world who we truly are. This is how you attract the next generation of talent.