Insurers are continuing to adapt to an evolving business climate. As organizations adopt new technologies and processes, experience an aging employee base and work through shifting customer demands, attracting and retaining the right talent is essential. The war for talent is accelerating and insurers must be strategic in how they promote open positions, approach the hiring process and actively build employee loyalty.

Claims is a foundational element of insurance and can provide a springboard for young talent to grow within the larger industry or take a more linear path into senior-level claims positions. In the Q3 2021 U.S. Insurance Labor Market Study, conducted by The Jacobson Group and Aon, plc, claims was reported as one of the most in-demand functions within the property and casualty space, second only to technology roles.

P&C carriers are at least moderately likely to increase claims staff in the next 12 months and are more likely to hire claims employees than they were a year ago. There’s also a great need for young talent. Those planning to add claims staff were not targeting management or executive-level professionals. Roughly one-third shared they are most likely to add entry-level staff, and two-thirds plan to add experienced, non-management-level employees.

While entry- and mid-level professionals are in high demand, many insurers are struggling to find and hire this talent. Difficulty recruiting P&C claims professionals was reported as the highest in the study’s 12-year history. At the same time, the industry is aging. The median age of claims professionals was 42.3 in 2015. This number rose to 44.5 in 2020.

Comparatively, the median age for the overall U.S. economy in 2020 was 42.5. Professionals across all industries are retiring earlier than planned and roughly two million more individuals retired during the pandemic than experts predicted. With an insurance unemployment rate of 0.8%, the availability of talent is shrinking, even as demand increases.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that on average, roughly 25,000 job openings are expected for claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners and investigators each year over the next decade, due to individuals moving to other roles or retiring. Building a healthy talent pipeline and a strong bench of professionals to step into these open positions should be a priority for insurers.

Attracting tomorrow’s claims professionals

Claims roles have evolved in the past several years and insurers must be proactive in increasing awareness and sparking interest as they vie for young talent. They must take a fresh approach to promote entry-level roles, explore where to find qualified individuals and commit to developing solid career plans.

Expand where you find talent.

Demand for entry-level talent is growing across all industries, especially as hourly service jobs increase their pay and industries such as construction are growing at astronomical speeds. Proactively recruit individuals from backgrounds that require similar skill sets, such as customer service, while also being creative with how unconventional skills and backgrounds could be leveraged within claims. Rethink where younger candidates are looking for jobs; it may not be on traditional job posting websites.

Encourage current employees to serve as ambassadors and share open roles with their friends and on their social media feeds to help you reach additional prospects. It’s also essential to look at high school and college programs to familiarize soon-to-be graduates with the opportunities available to them. You may even consider partnering with local community colleges to sponsor claims programs and certificates, which will cultivate a skilled and eager pool of future talent.

Promote positions in a way that resonates.

While reaching the right individuals is important, insurers must work harder than ever to showcase the value and benefits of a role in today’s competitive market. Approach job descriptions with a human-focused lens and emphasize a position’s impact and desired skills, rather than technical specifications and experience, keeping in mind recent graduates may be unfamiliar with what it means to file an insurance claim. Additionally, share aspects of your organization that make it a great place to work, including a commitment to professional development and career growth. You may also choose to highlight your current team members and showcase your organization’s values, helping further resonate with a broad audience.

Be a claims champion.

The majority of young professionals want to feel like their jobs make an impact. Claims adjusters are on the frontlines of customer interactions, assisting in a policyholder’s time of need and playing a key role in their overall experience and satisfaction. Help potential employees understand the more human side of claims, as well as the growth opportunities it can provide. After a few years in a call center environment, they may be able to move into areas such as large loss or litigation claims, or even other areas of insurance. Share how you will help them develop into well-rounded insurance professionals and prepare them to move to the next stage of their careers.

Retaining and growing employees

The claims field is continually evolving, making agile, teachable and loyal talent paramount. Insurtechs will continue to push insurers to innovate and further evolve. Automation and new technologies will provide a wealth of information at adjusters’ fingertips, enabling them to focus on more complex tasks. Claims prevention will become increasingly prominent. Positions and responsibilities will shift with the pace of change. Engage your talent and give them the tools and training to successfully lean into these future opportunities.

Acknowledge the challenges of entry-level claims roles. 

While claims are a vital part of insurance operations, entry-level positions can be challenging. Consider the day-to-day trials these early-career individuals may face and take this into account within your management strategies. Previous generations of claims professionals began their careers by going out into the field and interacting with their customers in person. Today, those new to claims often spend their days on the phone with customers who are experiencing a loss and reacting to high-stress situations. Without a clear development plan and ongoing support, individuals may not see a future in call center-based roles. Ensure you’re recognizing these challenges and addressing ways you can support employees and best meet their professional needs.

Train on soft skills.

As automation becomes common for more basic tasks, claims adjusters are having more immediate contact with policyholders. Unlike when speaking face-to-face, it’s easier for individuals to take out their frustrations via computer screens or phone calls. When challenges arise, well-developed soft skills are often key to diffusing heightened emotions and working with a policyholder toward a common goal. Communication, empathy, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are more important than ever. If individuals are better able to handle difficult conversations and work toward positive outcomes, they will likely be more satisfied in their roles and provide a better experience for customers.

Be candid about future opportunities.

Have conversations upfront about future opportunities and outline how you will help support an employee’s long-term career goals. For instance, after one or two years in a call center environment, individuals may be ready to move into more senior-level roles or management positions. Or, if they show interest in exploring other areas of the business, you can help create opportunities for them to build the necessary skills and connections. As the industry evolves, new roles and responsibilities will emerge. Consider how you can reskill current team members and build transferable skills that will complement multiple positions. Then outline how these skills can translate to future roles and opportunities within the organization.

Prioritize development and create metrics around it.

If employee development has taken a back seat within your team, establish performance metrics and goals around it. It’s common for entry-level claims professionals to be assessed on how quickly they can close a claim. Managers are then evaluated based on their team’s aggregated numbers. As a result, many claims departments focus on the number of claims, without prioritizing long-term goals. Instill the importance of ongoing development and hold managers accountable for creating professional goals for themselves and their employees. By placing metrics around career growth, it will become a priority and more easily adopted into the team culture.

In today’s competitive labor market, it’s important to reevaluate how you attract and retain young professionals. By taking a future-focused approach and investing in your team, you’ll be well-positioned to take on tomorrow’s challenges.

Tony Canas (tcanas@jacobsononline.com) is a property and casualty client advisor with The Jacobson Group, a leading provider of talent to the insurance industry. He is also the co-founder and chief motivational officer at Insurance Nerds and co-author of the best-selling book, Insuring Tomorrow.

The original article appeared on PropertyCasualty360.com.

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