The Eleventh Hour Part 1: The Crises at Hand
As suggested by the title, this post is only one piece of a larger series entitled The Eleventh Hour. In this four-part series we outline the major crises facing the job market of the insurance industry. We find the title of this series apt in that it accurately portrays just how close the industry is to being overwhelmed with a critical talent shortage. To open the series, we feel it is vital to delineate the three major dilemmas that are actively destabilizing the market of highly qualified candidates within the insurance industry. As we move forward with the series we will scrutinize these issues as well as the supposed solutions to an evaporating talent pool, which may prove to only worsen the situation.
Instead of viewing the three crises of the insurance job market as separate issues, it is best to understand these as three distinct patterns that are converging to produce a perfect storm capable of dismantling the foundations of the established hiring practices of the industry.
The Baby Boomer Crisis—The first, and most foreboding, blow to the talent pool is the mass retirement of the baby boomers. For nearly two decades, speculators have warned that the saturation of boomers in the insurance industry would, like any other economic bubble, reach a bursting point. It is clear now that these were not “the sky is falling” prophecies, as the data only encourages the position that the insurance talent pool is on the verge of falling beneath its critical mass. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this mass retirement will result in as many as 400,000 vacancies by 2020. Even more urgent is the prognosis that 25% of professionals within the insurance industry will retire by 2018.
The Generation X Crisis—The second prominent concern facing the industry is the scarcity of midlevel professionals in the insurance industry. When facing such a mass exodus of senior leadership, it is only natural to look down the bench toward those candidates with 10-15 years of experience and the résumé to inherit the executive mantle. Unfortunately, this is an especially deficient demographic as it is largely populated by Gen-Xers, a relatively diminutive generational population (in comparison to Baby Boomers and Millennials) whose professionals largely forewent careers in insurance to pursue opportunities in the world of finance. This deficiency has set the stage for a daunting experiential gap between rising Millennials and retiring Boomer executives.
The Millennial Crisis—As the Boomers who dominate the market retire, with no one to whom they can pass the torch, the generation most saddled with the future of the industry is the one with the least interest in insurance careers. The technology- and data-focused Millennials are highly sought across a number of industries that more closely align with their philosophies of a work-life balance. According to the Insurance Careers Movement, less than 5% of Millennials have expressed interest in the insurance industry.
Without dramatic adjustments to the processes of recruiting and retaining talent, the insurance industry faces an unprecedented shortage that could only exacerbate itself as it places an increasing burden on the current professionals who comprise the industry. In our next post we will address in greater detail experience gap presented by a sparse Generation X population and how companies can position themselves to address this gap.