Professors' Points

Recruiting Talent to an Industry with a Black Eye

Frank Heaps
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 3, 2010

Let’s face it, the insurance industry—in general—is not perceived to be an exciting place to work by college students and people seeking a career change. Those of us in the industry find it to be rewarding, challenging and interesting, but it’s not always easy to convince outsiders of this. To make matters worse, television advertising is a reflection of cultural perception. The national health care debate portrayed the entire insurance industry in a negative light. Several times each day, injury attorneys make a point to showcase alleged poor behavior of the insurance industry. Our challenge is to change the popular perception, and show that insurance and insurance technology is an interesting place to be.

Recruiting is a tough and expensive activity, but there is some good news. The Bureau of Labor Statistics "Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey" (JOLTS) is reporting a steady monthly percentage of separation of 3.1%. Of that number, 1.4% represents what is referred to as “quits”—employees who are voluntarily leaving. While the majority of employees stay put, you can expect those motivated staff members to look around for other opportunities. Hiring these experienced employees can be expensive because they will almost certainly seek a salary increase. And to top it off, you are limited to the talent available to you in your area.

Another alternative for recruiting is universities. Several universities offer Risk Management and Insurance degrees within their business colleges. These students are being exposed to the field of insurance through classroom study, and are learning the business before they enter the job market. A student with a degree in risk management and insurance can easily transition into an entry-level position and, quickly move up to more advanced positions much faster than most new hires without the same degree. Our four graduates to date from the Innovation in Insurance program at the Moore School of Business (USC) were quickly hired by insurance IT providers, and currently are providing value to their employers.

Statistics show that the actual cost of recruiting talent is 100% to150% of that person’s hiring salary, and ramp up time generally takes 90 days to transition a new hire. Bringing in a college graduate who already understands the fundamentals of the insurance industry is less expensive, and should take less time because of their academic background. Looking into universities with Risk Management and Insurance programs is an excellent place to find new and enthusiastic talent who find the insurance industry to be an exciting field.

(Author’s Note: I’d like to offer a special thanks to Julia Hill-Nichols with LeadersCove for background information.)

Frank Heaps is the managing director for Innovation in Insurance (i3), and is an adjunct professor of insurance at the Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina.

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