Blog :

The Eleventh Hour Part 3: The Experience Gap

The Eleventh Hour Part 3: The Experience Gap

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.

The Eleventh Hour Part 2: The Technology Paradox

The Eleventh Hour Part 2: The Technology Paradox

In the first episode of this four part series we discussed the growing talent crisis that continues to threaten the traditional structure of the insurance industry. Specifically, we focused on the three generations that occupy the insurance talent pool and how each poses their own unique threat to the ability to meet staffing demands. The baby boomers, the most significant portion of the industry are nearing retirement, which stands to leave a vast gap in talent. Generation X (or Generation Next in terms of picking up the mantle of boomers) represents the midlevel professionals who would be expected to inherit the executive mantle from the boomers, but their population is much too small to even come close to satisfy the looming executive needs. Finally, the much-maligned Millennials have the numbers to rescue the industry from its staffing woes, but cultural clashes and a lack of interest has soured the relationship between them and the insurance world.

These concerns are considerable and only growing more so as boomers continue their mass exodus toward a much-deserved retirement. The rallying cry of optimists has become “technology,” and for good reason. According to these pro-technologists, the advancement of automation, artificial intelligence and other digital interventions within the insurance industry promises to satisfy much of the vacancies created by the loss of current professionals. This is not an unwarranted claim. According to some, technology could dissolve the need for as much as 25% of full-time insurance professionals in some markets. This combined with continued mergers and acquisitions promises consolidation and an overall reduction in staffing needs. Unfortunately, what the optimists have either missed or ignore is the dilemma technology introduces to the staffing needs of the insurance industry. We offer three separate obstacles that require attention in regards to viewing technology as a viable solution to the industry’s talent shortage.

The Numbers Don’t Add Up

From a very distant view, the elimination and consolidation of insurance positions seems to fit quite nicely with the dwindling pool of viable candidates. However, technology, while advancing at an incredible rate, is still not growing at a rate that matches the speed at which positions are being left vacant. That 25% reduction mentioned in the previous paragraph? That is over a ten-year period. That reduction becomes less encouraging when compared to the prediction of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that 50% of the current insurance workforce will be retired by 2030. That still leaves an enormous gap to be filled by a less-than-enthused base of Millennials.

Learning to Fish

The oft-quoted adage concerning giving someone a fish versus teaching them to fish is fairly applicable to the short-term solution technology offers. As we understand, technology is only gradually growing to the point of absorbing a number of positions. And as would be expected, the jobs that technology is best at are the most basic, entry-level positions. This does not solve the staffing shortage problem but only moves it a little down the road. By eliminating the entry-level workforce, we deplete the talent pool for mid-level positions in the future. The loss of these jobs to technology is clearly inevitable, but the industry will once again need to address how it will attract tomorrow’s talent.

Starting in the Red

The third obstacle presented by technology is the technology itself. The mass introduction of such industry-redefining tech will require a proportionally mass influx of qualified professionals equipped to manage and maintain these systems. This puts the insurance industry, a market already straggling to attract millennials, even further behind as it is positioned against more culture-savvy industries in vying for the best tech-oriented millennial talent.

Not only does technology not solve the most pressing staffing woes facing the industry, but it presents a new set of problems. Forward-thinking companies are partnering with recruiting professionals like The James Allen Companies to solidify their ranks with highly qualified candidates that can manage the technological transition, helping them overcome the staffing shortage. In part three of our series we will address the experience gap that threatens to deteriorate the bridge from incoming talent and rising management and executive needs.