Retaining Talented Employees A Growing Industry Concern
There is a “strong dearth of talent” in the insurance industry, and management is largely to blame, says Tom Rowe, managing director of Korn/Ferry Internationals Insurance Practice, New York.
A general lack of accountability on the part of senior management and their boards is the culprit, as well as employees being promoted through a “narrow, functional focus, rather than a cross-functional focus,” he says.
In other words, rather than spotting a talented professional, having her gain experience in different jobs in the company and then promoting her, management often takes a superstar from one department (underwriting or sales, for example) and promotes her right away. This often leads to senior positions being populated by people who do not have a broad perspective on the industry, Rowe says.
Upgrading the human resources function and bringing in people who are focused on training and development can spur an effort in training, he says.
“Typically the HR function in the industry has been filled by failed underwriters,” Rowe says. “In the past few years theyve brought in real professionals.”
Companies are more conscious about recognizing high performers than they have been in the recent past and are trying to retain them, he says.
Skills that identify a high performer, Rowe says, include leadership, a broad business perspective, turnaround skills, and “the ability to come into a situation and improve performance.
“High performers approach their job as though they have a have bottom-line responsibility for their area, even if they dont,” Rowe says.
Once high performers are trained, retaining them becomes a key concern, he says. Management should make available to them that which motivates most employees: career satisfaction, money and time, according to Rowe.
Companies are making the retention of talented people a priority in part because there remains a limited supply of talented professionals despite the relatively high unemployment rate, says Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking Inc., New Haven, Conn.
The high unemployment rate affects people “generally at the lower end of the employment spectrum,” he says.
Because the insurance market requires a high level of skill and education among its employees, management is competing for employees in the professional talent pool, where demand is higher than supply, Tulgan says.
In order to retain talented people, management should strike a balance between making sure employees have the skills they need to perform and over-investing in those employees, so they dont take what theyve learned elsewhere, he says.