One of the most important things insurance companies and employees alike can do to achieve success is stay curious, experts said on this episode of The Insuring Cyber Podcast.

“Make curiosity a sought after quality when interviewing for any position,” said Darren McGraw, president at Mechelson Private Client. “Because I’ve found those who are curious are the most likely to want to invest in their own professionalism, and those who want to invest in their own professionalism typically are those who are most likely to exceed expectations more regularly than those who don’t.”

He said for hiring managers and leaders at insurance companies, it’s important to pay attention to curiosity demonstrated among staff. Insurance employees who are interested in exploring how other parts of the organization work are more likely to become future cross-trained professionals, and those that stay curious about particular subject matters and technical details are likely to be better prepared for senior level roles, he added.

“If someone seems to be curious about other people and how to lead, then there’s your future management,” he said. “I just believe that curiosity leads to learning, which leads to understanding, which leads to caring, which then leads to contributing. And I think a company who nurtures that might get all of that return under their roof.”

For insurers, it’s not only important to nurture curiosity in their employees, but to also maintain a level of curiosity and creative thinking when it comes to the hiring process, added Sylvester Mathis, chief insurance officer at Insurity.

“We have to be honest and be fairly creative,” he said. “We have to challenge ourselves in new ways to attract talent.”

He said this means adapting to the world in which employees currently live.

“[Employees] want a business that mirrors the world they live in, or at least the world they want,” he said. “So we also have to pursue people who think differently. As a matter of fact, celebrate the differences and promote culture that brings people together, valuing everyone’s differences and unique contributions. That’s a cultural shift that insurance companies have not yet fully embraced. I mean, it’s one thing to say it, but how do you demonstrate it? Is it demonstrable? Is it felt day to day?”

Adapting also means rethinking traditional retention rates and instead empowering employees in their career goals within or outside of a particular company, he added.

“Some of what can help us move this industry forward is understanding and accepting that most of the people that can help us be successful can’t be retained long term. If we can just move that thought out of our heads and understand that that’s not the world that we grew up in, but it’s the world we’re in today,” he said. “We have to make a plan that not only anticipates the transition through the phases of growth for our candidates, but also embraces the opportunity to flourish and help them flourish as entrepreneurs when the time comes. And how does that happen? You have to empower and give them a safe place to be entrepreneurs.”

Indeed, McGraw said one of the ways insurers can do this is by highlighting the culture and the people within their company.

“I’ve always been impressed and have said many times how great the quality of people are in our industry,” he said. “I have found over 32 years so many good friendships with caring, funny and interesting people in our industry. I think that’s one of the best kept secrets is that there’s a lot of fun, really good people.”

He added that embracing new technologies and offering flexibility in how employees like to work are other ways that insurers can build a culture that feels safe and inviting.

“I wouldn’t expect everybody who is interviewing for a job is going to say at the outset that they want a 40-year career in insurance,” he said. “I realize that, but I do think we can do things as an industry to put ourselves in the best possible chance that we might attract those people and convince them to stay.”

However, Mathis said to build a work culture that empowers employees, retention shouldn’t be the only goal.

“This may sound controversial, but it really shouldn’t be,” he said. “Everyone wants to retain everyone. We know we can’t, right? But then you have to find ways to attract and develop and set free — not just attract, not just develop, and not just retain, but also set free. Build them up. The message to the market and to the people that are considering your organization that this is a place to grow, develop, and prosper in life in line with your personal goals, not just the corporate goals here, is received far better than forced loyalty. We have to embrace this reality and turn it in our favor.”

For new employees to the insurance industry, McGraw’s advice pointed back to what he shared at the onset: stay curious.

“Just stay interested in learning about new developments and keep a central focus on the few important things that you can do about it,” he said.

Mathis added that he believes the most important thing new employees to the industry can do is set personal goals they’re willing to revisit often and adapt as the world evolves.

“If you don’t have personal goals, set them before you do anything else. Figure out what those are. Nothing in our careers is more frustrating than watching the world change around us and not understanding how it impacts us or our plans,” he said. “The world’s going to change, right? It always has. But when we view change in the context of how it relates to our goals, that empowers us to adapt and win. That’s what I try to tell especially the newer folks is you are in control. It’s what you know about your goals that you set that becomes the lens through which you view change. And if you view change through that lens, you’re going to make the solid decisions that move you forward in your career.”

Check out the rest of this episode to hear what else Darren and Sylvester had to say and be sure to check back for new episodes of The Insuring Cyber Podcast publishing every other Wednesday along with the Insuring Cyber newsletter. Happy Insurance Careers Month and thanks for listening!