In the past three years, we’ve experienced the height of a global pandemic, followed by the most challenging talent landscape many have ever experienced. Even though we are entering what appears to be a slightly easing insurance labor market, having the right employees in place remains essential.

Sixty-seven percent of insurers plan to add staff this year, according to The Jacobson Group and Aon plc’s Q1 2023 Insurance Labor Market Study. Understanding professionals’ current expectations and taking a renewed approach to attracting and retaining high performers is key in remaining competitive and building a loyal workforce that’s ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges.

Acknowledge Shifting Employer/Employee Dynamics

The pandemic played a unique role in transforming business as we know it. Previously, employee attitudes and expectations largely ebbed and flowed along with the economy. However, in the pandemic’s wake, we’re seeing a fundamental change in professionals’ values and priorities. Overall mentalities have shifted for the long term, and most individuals won’t hesitate to move on from companies that are unable or unwilling to meet their needs. Flexibility remains vital, and insurers are taking note, with 92 percent of carriers currently offering hybrid work options. It’s not likely these sentiments and expectations will reverse, even in the event of an economic downturn.

Along with a realignment of priorities, the employee/employer power balance has also experienced a shift. During the height of the candidates’ market last year, employees became comfortable having the upper hand, asking for notably higher salaries and increased work flexibility. While these expectations have become more realistic in recent months, personal priorities and work-life balance still frequently take a front seat. Rather than resisting these shifts, embrace them and consider how your team can rise to meet new demands.

Focus on Retention

In the current climate, effective retention and employee engagement strategies are essential. Industry unemployment is low, yet job openings remain abundant. The industry’s workforce is also continuing to age, with 25 percent of insurance professionals now at least 55 years old, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, Jacobson’s recent Insurance Industry Succession Planning Study found 38 percent of insurers have no formal succession plans in place and the majority do not have plans that extend past senior management.

Recognizing what is important to your employees and then working to the best of your ability to meet those unique needs is key to retention. Hold stay interviews with employees to uncover essential information such as their motivators, what would make them leave, whether they feel challenged and satisfied in their work, and more. This also enables you to better understand individuals’ career aspirations and ensure you’re aligned from a succession planning standpoint.

Leverage the information garnered from stay interviews as you build individualized retention plans and prioritize factors such as compensation, professional challenges and flexibility based on each employee’s unique motivators and values.

A sense of connection and shared purpose is also crucial, especially in hybrid and virtual environments. Consider setting up regular one-on-one coffee chats among teammates, encourage non-business conversations and ice breakers at the start of team meetings, and provide opportunities for open communication and knowledge sharing. If all or part of your team works virtually, also strive to build face time into your budget — even if it’s just getting together twice a year. In-person meetings can have an incredible impact on working relationships and team productivity, even if they happen infrequently.

Stand Out in the Current Market

Along with retaining and growing talent within your organization, it’s also important to rethink traditional recruiting tactics in the context of today’s labor market. A talent shortage remains, making it necessary to be creative and intentional in how you position open roles and design the candidate experience.

Job postings often serve as an individual’s first touchpoint with an open position and your company. Ensure you’re writing these in a way that is inclusive and candidate-focused.

For instance, rather than sharing a list of daily tasks and responsibilities, promote the role’s greater impact on the company and its customers. If possible, allow the role to be performed virtually; not only is this a selling point for many candidates, the option also opens up your talent pool by removing geographic restrictions. Further broaden your reach by removing rigid requirements around experience and qualifications. Mandating certain degrees or past titles is likely to exclude individuals who would be able to excel in the role. Instead, focus on the transferable skills and attributes that are essential to success but more difficult to teach, such as a growth mindset and emotional intelligence.

Today’s talent landscape also requires the interview process to be intentional and efficient, with shortened timelines, fewer interviews, increased communication and virtual hiring. Determine who will best represent your company in the interview, focus on the areas that resonate with individual candidates and have a clear understanding of what each conversation aims to uncover. If you get to the point of an offer, be quick and make it as strong as you can — highlighting how you have tailored it to the individual.

Whether you are growing talent from within, hiring from the outside, or aiming to increase productivity and employee satisfaction, recognize that effective talent strategies have evolved. By being flexible, focusing on communication and aligning to individuals’ motivators, you’ll be poised for continued success.

*This article was originally published by Insurance Journal, CM’s sister publication