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.