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Future of risk management was central theme of RIMS 2015

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There was a decided emphasis on the new at the 2015 Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. Annual Conference & Exhibition. As RIMS President Richard Roberts said in opening the event, risk managers looking for new innovations, new encounters and new knowledge were in “the right place.” Those three opportunities plus New Orleans, the site of this year's event, formed the theme of the conference.

But one part of the “new” that emerged in several forums dealt with the reality of a new workforce — both in attracting new workers and how to cultivate them.

Concern over drawing a new generation to the ranks of risk management was evident in a discussion during a breakfast recognizing the winners of Business Insurance's 2015 Risk Manager of the Year® Risk Management Honor Roll® awards programs.

The panel included three risk managers who have been honored as Risk Manager of the Year®. They were 2012 Risk Manager of the Year® John J. Marren, director of global risk and insurance management at Melbourne, Australia-based CSL Ltd. and its subsidiaries bioCSL and CSL Behring, based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; 2010 Risk Manager of the Year® Debbie Rodgers, senior vice president of global risk management at Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp.; and 2014 Risk Manager of the Year® William M. Zachry, vice president of risk management at Safeway Inc. in Pleasanton, California.

Looking out at the attendees, Ms. Rodgers said a greater effort needs to be made to include the next generation in such events.

“There's a lot of gray hair out there,” Ms. Rodgers said. Without greater engagement of younger people, “there's going to be a terrible gap” in a short time.

“We need to make what we do relevant for a new generation,” Mr. Marren said. “There's a lot of opportunity to do a lot of different things” in risk management.

The workforce for which risk management will compete differs in some respects from its predecessors, including the baby boomers, who are retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day, said Lester J. Morales, chief growth officer at Willis of North Carolina Inc. in Charlotte, during an educational session at RIMS.

He noted that by 2025, half of the U.S. workforce will consist of millennials, or those born between 1980 and 2000.

Millennials are the first generation that “was born in technology,” Mr. Morales said. They didn't have to adapt to it. They are confident about their future and are highly educated. They need attention and feedback, and like to collaborate, Mr. Morales said.

This has an effect on even the physical structure of the workplace. For example, offices layouts can be designed to foster collaboration.

One employer that already is dealing with a millennial majority workforce is Columbus, Ohio-based Designer Shoe Warehouse Inc.

Jessica Ward, the retailer's benefits manager, said 72% of DSW's associates are millennials.

“Millennials care,” she said. “They want their organization to care about them.” They care about corporate culture and values, and some millennials will leave a job because of its culture, Ms. Ward said.

Making greater use of technology also emerged as an issue at this year's conference, which was attended by 10,037 people.

For example, during his opening remarks, Mr. Roberts said RIMS will launch a “virtual member engagement platform” later this year on its website.

RIMS Executive Director Mary Roth said the new platform will be a “home run” on many levels.

Among other things, it will allow the organization to engage the next generation of risk professionals, said Mr. Roberts.

Ms. Roth stressed that the platform “connects great people with great ideas.”

The launch of the platform also will further RIMS' growth internationally. Ms. Roth pointed out that RIMS currently has members in more than 60 countries. One country in which the society has expanded greatly is Australia, where membership has been growing rapidly, she said. This is reflected in the fact that a risk forum has again been slated to take place in Melbourne in August.

“We are truly a global society,” Mr. Roberts said.