We have discussed how the three primary generations that comprise the pool of insurance industry talent (baby boomers, generation x and millennials) each present a unique problem in terms of the workforce. In part two we continued to explore how betting on technology to compensate for dwindling manpower could be nothing more than wishful thinking. Now, as we enter part three of our four-part series, we focus at another growing epidemic that is proving to be just as confounding as the generational and technological dilemmas. While the shortage of incoming talent is a clear problem facing the industry, the looming experience gap threatens to weaken the core of the insurance hierarchy. In this article we lay out the reasons behind this gap and how it resonates at all levels of the industry.
The “Donut Hole Gap”
As has been previously covered, the talent crisis in the industry is most directly being spurred by the mass retirement of the baby boomers who monopolize not only the executive and management sectors of the industry, but nearly all levels of talent in the insurance ecosystem. What their exodus does is expose the absence of insurance professionals between the ages of 35 and 45. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the “donut hole gap,” represents the already slim field of Gen Xers that are expected to inherit the executive mantle. As more boomers leave, the next generation of leadership proves to be too shallow to allow for an adequate transition.
A Numbers Game
A lot of emphasis has been placed on the impact millennials are having and will continue to have on the industry, and rightfully so. The population of millennials is estimated at around 83 million, followed by baby boomers who boast a population of approximately 77 million. But the story lies in the space between those generations. Generation X has an estimated population of 65 million, which is roughly twice the difference between it and the boomer population in comparison to the difference between boomers and millennials. This population differential exposes that from the gate Generation X is not prepared to make a spot-for-spot replacement of boomers leaving the industry.
A Closer Look
The population gap is only the surface of the problem in relation to the experience gap created by Generation X. When Gen Xers were entering the insurance workforce, boomers were in full force. This pushed many Gen Xers to exit the insurance industry as they saw themselves in a career with few advancement opportunities. The effect of this Gen X departure is evident today in the insurance workforce population of those in the 35-50 age range. With a workforce population already considerably smaller than its preceding generation, a lack of advancement opportunities only further depleted the talent pool that should have served as a bridge between incoming millennials and departing boomers.
The first three parts of this series have focused on the problems of the insurance workforce as it relates to specific generational dilemmas. In the fourth and final installment of our Eleventh Hour series, we will focus on the future, discussing how the insurance industry can prepare itself for a crisis that is already at the door. What we can already say is that for companies and hiring managers looking for the next executive or mid-level manager, it is time to be open and creative to how talent is sourced for these positions.