A fresh approach: uncovering new ways to attract and retain young talent

Few among us are likely to have grown up dreaming about working in insurance. But for many, insurance or risk management is a fulfilling career choice: challenging, rewarding and lucrative, and typically allowing for a positive work-life balance. Fortunately, word is getting out about the benefits a future in insurance or risk management can hold.

This is welcome news, particularly as the industry continues to wade through the talent crisis that experts have been predicting for more than a decade. In the next few years, nearly 400,000 employees are expected to retire from the insurance industry according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, reeling in new talent is not the end of the story. It is still necessary for us to keep prospects engaged and thriving.

Securing quality talent from the next generation centres on understanding their needs, wants and aspirations. To do so successfully, we need to expand the scope of our talent searches, provide learning opportunities and ensure work cultures that reflect their aspirations.

What potential employees want

Today’s job candidates thoughtfully and deliberately consider multiple aspects of both the job and industry where they seek to work.

Compensation – once the be-all and end-all of a job hunt – is now just one part of a broader picture that also includes flexible work arrangements and work-life balance. A wealth of surveys and anecdotal data show younger generations in particular want to join organisations that demonstrate commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and ESG initiatives. Potential candidates also almost always ask about opportunities to volunteer and give back to their communities when interviewing for jobs.

Our industry is well positioned to deliver this type of holistic value to potential employees. Fundamentally, insurance organisations exist to help people navigate difficult life circumstances. This purpose-driven mission resonates with many potential employees across generations, making insurance an appealing career option.

Finding the best and brightest talent

Rethinking skills and requirements for success is an important consideration. Community colleges and high schools offer promising new sources of talent, and many organisations are already developing outreach programs to attract these students. Last year, for example, Munich Re US launched the Dare to Dream program, a partnership with local nonprofits that offers internships to Chicago-area high school students from communities who have been historically underrepresented. It went so well that the program expanded into both Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Princeton, New Jersey in 2023.

Similarly, Intact Insurance is piloting a high school work internship program with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a private school for students with limited economic resources. The program, which launched in August 2023, allows students to work one day a week at Intact.

In addition to internship programs, Munich Re and Intact are piloting apprenticeship opportunities to community college students in Chicago and the Greater Hartford, Connecticut area.

These are bold, innovative ideas for our industry. If we are to address the talent crisis facing insurance, we need to continue being inspired by such opportunities and other industry trailblazers. Intact, for example, learned about the value of apprenticeship programs during a webinar hosted by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) 18 months ago. They then connected with representatives from Aon, who shared best practices and ongoing guidance so Intact could confidently launch its pilot apprenticeship program.

Additionally, companies should explore a variety of recruiting resources. The National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) offers its members numerous resources, including industry career fairs and job postings.

And while many organisations rely on their talent teams to do the recruiting – and you do need the best and brightest people in those roles – the reality is that recruitment should be everyone’s job. When attending career fairs or outreach events, consider bringing employees from other departments who can share their experiences and entice aspiring students to join your team.

Providing mentorship and sponsorship

Again, it is not enough to just bring top talent through the door. These individuals want and expect to understand how they will grow within their roles and organisations.

As many as five generations co-exist in the workforce today. That crossover opens the door for tremendous knowledge-sharing. Formal mentorship programs allow experienced workers to share their expertise with newer hires and create enriching experiences that benefit both mentors and mentees.

Last year, we both worked within the IICF’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Council to launch the organisation’s first Mentoring Alliance. We intentionally paired mid-level, 10-year-plus staff with a mentor from another organisation. For eight months, mentors and mentees participated in one-on-one conversations and group sessions, including virtual educational sessions, and talked openly about career development. This program specifically focused on talent that was underrepresented and enabled the industry to collaborate on encouraging career development for these emerging professionals.

Mentees told us they appreciated their mentors’ candour, and mentors shared that they gained as much from the program as their mentees. The second Mentoring Alliance has recently launched with 19 pairs of mentors and mentees, nearly doubling the pilot’s participation.

Your organisation does not need a formal program to create mentorship or sponsorship opportunities. The fact is, your mid-level and senior employees have plenty of wisdom to share. Encouraging them to become mentors who can teach younger workers the ins and outs of life at your company – or to become sponsors who can help younger workers identify meaningful professional development opportunities – is a path well worth exploring.

Keeping talent for the long term

Once young professionals settle into the insurance industry, data shows that they typically stay in our industry for the long term. Let’s be sure this next generation of young talent wants to do the same. A few smart ways to retain your best and brightest employees include:

  • Asking them what matters: Stay tuned in to what your colleagues want. Conduct employee surveys. Get feedback from your employee resource groups or affinity groups. Listen and respond appropriately. This will show your employees that your organisation listens to them and values their input.
  • Helping them grow: Stretch projects and rotation opportunities are smart ways to encourage your existing employees’ professional development.
  • Assisting them in achieving a sense of belonging: For example, Munich Re US has created psychologically safe spaces. These spaces include listening sessions held throughout the year. There is no agenda; people can speak their mind and be their authentic selves. ‘Walking the Talk’ sessions, in which employees can do a deep-dive with a leader on important DEI topics, have also been well-received.

New workers entering the professional workforce for the first time are excited about insurance. By taking a fresh approach to recruiting and retaining talent, our industry can build a strong pipeline that will carry insurance to a bright future.