It’s one of the paradoxes of the digital age, where insurers are automating processes and adopting advanced technology, a skilled and engaged workforce remains a critical differentiator. While COVID-19 may have temporarily paused the industry’s “war on talent,” three key talent issues remain:
1. High demand for technology and related skills
IT, data science, analytics, and related skills remain scarce, and the shift to online sales and remote working, along with the acceleration of digital transformation across sectors, means those technical skills remain in great demand. The pandemic may lead more people to seek stability by remaining in their current roles, so insurers face stiff competition for tech talent.
2. Attracting and employing new tech talent
Recruiting tech talent remains a challenge for insurers. As one director said, “Smart tech talents like agile working models and big returns. That is not what they get in the insurance business.” In EY team's experience, cultures that reward risk-taking, promote “test-and-learn” thinking, and offer opportunities to innovate gain an advantage in attracting the tech workers they need.
However, even if insurers are able to attract these coveted workers, a director cautioned that technological skills must be paired with industry knowledge to be effective. We believe a clearly articulated societal purpose – such as protecting families, businesses, and communities from unprecedented risk and promoting wellness – can also attract younger generations of workers. The opportunity to “make a difference” matters to this group.
3. Reskilling current employees
Finding more employees who understand how to best deploy new technologies in insurance requires recruiting more tech-savvy talent while also bolstering the technical skills of current employees at all levels. A participant said, “You cannot just recruit a few thousand ‘tech people’ into the sector who are then put into IT or innovation teams in a corner. You need everyone from the chair of the board to the CEO to the fund managers to the claims processers to understand and develop new digital skills.”
The key to solving this issue is through upskilling employees over a long-term horizon as jobs and necessary skills change in the wake of technological advances. We believe this requires defining clearly defined career paths and establishing leadership development programs for the most promising employees. It’s also important to convince employees that it is in their interest to acquire new skills over time and identifying industry-wide approaches to ensure consistency and applicability if people move from one financial institution to another.
Beyond specific technical skills, insurers must also train their people to “work digitally” – that is, collaborating remotely within multifunctional teams, scanning many different data sets, and making decisions based on insights provided by AI or analytics packages.