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Insurance sector seeks new ways to attract staff

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attract staff

As insurance industry retirements accelerate, experts say companies are deploying old and new tactics to address the projected talent gap, although past failures have prompted some to rethink talent acquisition strategies. 

Established programs, such as paid internships and job fair participation, have helped draw interest in insurance careers over the years, but employers recognize the need to widen the scope.

Newer initiatives, such as apprenticeships that guarantee employment upon completion and building on diversity programs, are showing some promise. 

In addition, some employers use social media for recruitment, both through established channels and newer platforms. Results, though, are mixed, experts say. 

One major challenge companies face when seeking talent is the industry’s reputation for homogeneity. The industry should diversify its workforce if it wants to be considered a worthwhile career path, experts say (see story here). 

Apprenticeships

“At Zurich, we hire our (apprentices) from day one,” said Al Crook, Schaumburg, Illinois-based head of HR business partners for Zurich North America, who heads the insurer’s apprenticeship program. 

Zurich apprentices — paid as full-time employees — enter the role for which they apprenticed after completing the two-year program (see story here). 

“We purposely designed the apprentice program to bring in new talent to the industry, talent that prior to the apprentice program had been excluded from the organization because of the degree requirements or the nonexistent path for learn-while-you-earn,” Mr. Crook said. 

Other companies have also turned to apprenticeships for recruitment. 

Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. hires about 40 apprentices annually with help from the Massachusetts Apprenticeship Network, said Maura Quinn, the insurer’s Boston-based vice president of early career, DEI and talent acquisition. The two-year apprenticeships are paid, and participants are eligible for full-time employment upon completion, she said. 

Many companies in the sector continue to use internships to recruit talent. 

Milwaukee-based brokerage M3 Insurance Solutions Inc. aims to hire at least 75% of its interns for full-time positions, said Jake Cline, talent acquisition manager. 

Once candidates receive job offers, they can participate in M3’s business insurance associate program, where they undergo 36 to 48 months of training. In 2023, more than 200 of the company’s top commercial property/casualty producers came out of the program, Mr. Cline said. 

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. has a longstanding internship program now in its 59th year, said Julia Szukala, the company’s early talent program leader based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Gallagher hires an average of 480 paid interns each year from across the U.S. and Canada, she said. More than 80% of the brokerage’s entry level sales full-time hires come out of the internship program. 

“Our intention of the internship is really to use that as a source for full-time hiring,” Ms. Szukala said. 

Gallagher has also embraced “persona marketing” as a recruitment tool, Ms. Szukala said. The process involves employers creating personas with characteristics and skills that make up an ideal hire and help direct outreach appropriately. 

“We try to lead with some of those different characteristics when we’re promoting our opportunities,” Ms. Szukala said. 

One such persona campaign involved “women in business,” in which the brokerage segmented female college students who had declared business majors, such as finance and economics, she said. 

Rethinking recruitment

Some new recruitment efforts have not been successful.

Liberty Mutual, for example, experimented with virtual career recruitment events, but the program wasn’t well received because students appeared uninterested. 

“We quickly realized that we had to pivot,” Ms. Quinn said. She called the failed initiative a “learning opportunity” and a wake-up call to revise its recruitment practices. 

Ms. Quinn said the industry has often placed too much emphasis on recruiting students with advanced business degrees.

Now, more companies are targeting students studying subjects such as data science to better address the needs of a changing industry, Ms. Quinn said. 

“We have individuals who are primarily focused on the tech and analytic space right now that we’re growing,” she said. 

Social media

Some companies have successfully recruited candidates through social media, even using newer platforms such as TikTok. But the strategy doesn’t always work. 

Organizations use video- and image-based platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to highlight a company’s culture and tell its story in an attempt to make an insurance career appealing. Experts say viewers must feel a connection with these recruitment videos; otherwise, it’s a wasted effort. 

“Just seeing an insurance industry company pop up in social media, I’m hard-pressed to personally think that I would find a level of interest in that,” said Nick Abraham, an executive vice president with Amwins Group Inc. in Atlanta.

Gallagher uses LinkedIn messaging to target candidates, Ms. Szukala said. Direct messaging enables potential hires to get a wider view of the industry. 

“Students are receiving so many direct messages from employers that they’re applying to a lot more roles, taking the initiative to apply to a bunch of positions as compared to maybe historically taking more time researching before actually submitting an application,” she said. 

This summer, interns with Marsh LLC will be creating “day in the life” video blogs about their 10-week internship experience and posting them to LinkedIn and other social media channels to help attract other candidates to the insurance sector, said Linda Foppiano, chief human resources officer for the brokerage.

Focused efforts

Successful recruitment strategies often include a personalized touch, experts say. 

Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. runs an industry advancement program combining classroom learning with on-the-job mentoring for some new hires. The company averaged between 200 and 300 new hires per year through the program during the past four years, said David Reed, Sedgwick’s Kansas City, Kansas-based global head of talent acquisition. 

The program targets recent college graduates and instructs them on how to become claims adjusters within their first six to 12 months of employment.

A similar Sedgwick program targets high school and junior college students who can job-shadow field adjusters, Mr. Reed said. 

Sedgwick retains about 90% of participants as employees following the first year of the industry advancement program, but that figure drops to 70% in the second year and 55% in year three, he said. 

“Obviously, we’d like that to be a little bit better, but it’s still actually pretty high,” Mr. Reed said. 

Attracting candidates with expertise in insurance can be difficult because fewer students are enrolling in insurance coursework in college, said Brian Fritz, a Lewes, Delaware-based senior executive recruiter with Key Strategies LLC. 

That trend, however, isn’t consistent across colleges. 

“Our experience this year is that we’ve seen growth in the number of students that we’ve had and that we’ll actually produce a record number of graduates in this academic year,” said Rob Hoyt, professor of risk management and insurance for the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. 

Students graduating from insurance and risk management college programs may find a tougher job market, Mr. Fritz said. 

“One of the big things that we’re noticing is that companies are slowing down their hiring, and … hires now are intentional, purposeful hires to meet the needs and the demands of today’s business,” Mr. Fritz said.