In 2022, all employers—including those in the insurance industry—are reflecting on workplace changes and revamping their talent strategies. Industry expectations are evolving, and employees are placing a greater emphasis on work-life balance and alignment with company values. Companies need to find creative ways to address talent shortages and other challenges of the current working environment, including the expansion of virtual and hybrid work models.
On March 30th, I hosted the latest meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network on Talent Strategies for the Evolving World. Panelists Kara Hoogensen, Senior Vice President of Specialty Benefits at Principal Financial Group; Laurie Pierman, Vice President of Claim Operations and Shared Services at Amerisure; and Qing Yang, IT Business Analyst at Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company shared their perspectives.
Flexible Work Models Help Attract and Retain Talent
Our meeting began with a discussion of work-from-home and return-to-office planning, a hot-button topic in the industry today. Panelists agreed that policies in the industry seem to be all over the board. One panelist shared that, in her company’s experience, the flexibility they are offering in terms of the choice to work from home or from the office is helping them retain employees. She stated that, in her opinion, “In order to attract and retain talent, erring on the side of more flexible is best.”
This view is consistent with industry and societal trends. While we often see generational differences in responses, several surveys on this topic have shown that most employees, regardless of age, want to work anywhere, anytime, and on any device thanks to available corporate communication and sharing tools. They wish to balance family and life priorities outside the office. Other panelists shared that their organizations are also operating on hybrid models and, in some cases, allowing employees to work fully remotely.
Virtual Work Environments Require “Building New Muscles”
Companies are also facing new challenges that have arisen due to remote work. Companies can keep employees engaged through innovative assignments and projects that have a meaningful impact on the organization as well as strengthen their individual skill sets. Employees are also assuming additional workloads as a result of the Great Resignation.
One panelist shared a concern about the difficulty of identifying burnout in employees who are working virtually: “It’s harder to see it because you don’t have those side conversations that you typically do in the office, water cooler talk or getting a cup of coffee. That’s a challenge… and then, when we identify the problem, what solutions can we put in place at the leader and organizational level?” Balancing engagement and burnout are critical priorities for leaders in our current environment, as it can turn into a vicious circle if more employees leave due to burnout.
The issue of maintaining company culture and building relationships among employees in a virtual work environment was also discussed. Companies are finding that it takes longer to build trust and connections through virtual interactions, although it can be done. One panelist who works fully remotely shared that regular check-ins with people outside her department as well as quarterly in-person meetings that bring everyone in the company together help her stay connected to her coworkers.
A panelist summed up the new challenges companies are facing in this work environment: “We are building new skills and muscles here in terms of how to be effective leaders for people we sometimes see and sometimes don’t.” Leaders and managers need to continue to build these muscles in order to retain employees.
Tips for Addressing Talent Gaps
Panelists discussed several ways their own companies are working to address talent gaps. Tips include shortening the amount of time from application to extending an offer and sharing résumés between different departments for applicants that may be a good fit for a different role. Encouraging existing employees to look for new opportunities within your organization, something that has not always been supported, could be win-win for both the employee and the company.
Companies are also focusing on creating a more formalized and robust knowledge transfer process to reduce the impact of departing and retiring employees. Additionally, with an increase in the number of boomerang employees—individuals who return after leaving a company—companies should maintain connections with departing employees who may want to return to the organization in the future.
The next virtual meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network will take place on April 27, 2022, on the topic of “Optimizing Business & IT Alignment.” The discussion will be led by Aite-Novarica Group Senior Principal Deb Zawisza. More information is available at https://aite-novarica.com/womens-network.