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Viewpoint: Young drawn to innovation

By Claire Wilkinson

How to plug the talent gap in any industry is a perennial question, but the question asked of this year’s Break Out Award winners “What should the industry do to attract more young people to work in it?” is perhaps more pertinent.

The good news is that this year’s winners, the youngest of whom is in his 20s, universally expressed a commitment to and a belief in the opportunities available to those who pursue a career in insurance. Clearly, rewarding roles and challenging paths are drawing some young people into the industry and retaining their interest as they advance through
the ranks.

That said, there is more work to be done. Many shared that active recruitment for entry level roles needs to start well before graduation day. College campuses are not the only fertile ground where the industry needs to search for new talent. Insurance could be worked into the high school curriculum, one winner suggested.

Social media platforms continue to be important venues for making connections and shaping the industry’s narrative. This is important because many winners feel that the industry is misunderstood and that it needs a public relations makeover. It’s also important because my 10-year-old is looking to YouTube and TikTok to keep a pulse on the latest trends and influencers. As one winner said, “You’ve got to meet young people where they are.”

Another common theme is that in addition to doing a better job of marketing itself, the industry needs to broaden the way most people think about risk management and insurance. As many winners point out, it’s important to get across that it’s not just about home and auto insurance, but also about solving some of the greatest risks facing the world, such as climate change, pandemics and earthquakes, with innovative approaches.

Again, this is borne out by my 10-year-old, who, when asked what comes to mind when he thinks of insurance, responded: “Car insurance, because I see a bunch of ads for that on TV.”

Along with embracing technology, the industry needs to embrace diversity of talent and background, regardless of age and length of time in the industry. One of the challenges facing many companies is how to maintain institutional and industry knowledge, while also providing opportunities for newer entrants to advance, several winners commented.

If there’s one thing this pandemic has highlighted it’s that flexible work schedules, work-from-home options and virtual networking are no longer perks, but things that are here to stay. Already, many companies in the sector are saying the way they work will not be going back to pre-pandemic “normal.” Flexibility and adaptability will attract a new generation, one that has grown up with technology and social tools and expects alternative work options.

Perhaps the most important takeaway on this topic from Business Insurance’s Break Out Award winners is that many young people want to join an industry that is focused more on improving society and benefiting a cause than making a profit. Yes, the industry is about putting peoples’ lives back together, but this goes further.

One winner summed it up by saying: “Young people are attracted to industries where they can really leave their footprint and help drive change. If we can highlight that the insurance industry is an area where they can really make an impact and a difference, that will bring them in.”

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