Accelerated hiring, growth initiatives, expansion, succession planning and momentum — are we still in early 2007 or is this the outlook for 2012? It is 2012 and we are off to a strong start! The insurance labor market has certainly had its share of ups and downs since the downturn in 2008. The unemployment rate wavered month-to-month and hiring slowed drastically. Fortunately, the insurance industry is well on its way to recovery and there is positive energy in the market. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a gain of 3,300 jobs for the industry in December. That is a 3.3 percent increase over November. According to The Semi-Annual Insurance Labor Outlook Study, conducted by The Jacobson Group and Ward Group, the insurance industry’s likelihood of hiring went up 14 percent from the beginning of 2011 to mid-year.
In late 2008, the tell-tale effects of a hard-hit economy became apparent within our industry’s labor market. Companies were taking on two very distinct behaviors—there were those who adopted the bunker mentality of “close your eyes and hold on until the worst is over” or those who faced the future head on with a bit of defiance. The Survivors took an opportunistic approach, with the vision and heart to see growth as a means to recovery. Rather than falling into Survival mode, the companies of the future acted as Survivors; and there is a difference!
Survivors are those that use innovation to renew and revive areas where business is hurting or to expand in new areas to make up for loss. Those that default into Survival Mode, or bunker mentality, neglect to nurture the growth of the organization, effectively putting everything on hold. Survivors are opportunistic realists; they are not afraid to take a calculated risk to achieve a market edge. It is time to look ahead and to build back up.
As a result of recent labor market changes, shifting attitudes and Survivors’ innovations, the landscape in 2012 feels energized and forward looking. Recruiting, hiring, retention and leadership development strategies are all getting a breath of fresh air. Exciting changes are in the forecast—Survivors take note!
The hot topic in 2012 is the insurance industry’s impending talent shortage. As companies begin to open up hiring budgets, many are finding that the skill set they desire is hard to come by. Boomer retirement, cuts made to training budgets during the recession and prior layoffs have resulted in a skills gap. Sought-after talent will be snatched up quickly. Survivors will remain in the recruiting game by staying on top of upcoming recruiting trends.
Recruiting gets creative
When it is time to hire, organizations have to get creative with the outlets they use to tap into fresh talent. Building your talent pipeline means attracting candidates that will grow with the company. Sometimes inherent skills trump experience when it comes to selecting a long-term hire. Dig deep to find out what candidates have to offer along the lines of team work capabilities, leadership traits, reliability and work ethic. The resume won’t reveal it all!
If you can’t find the right skill set, consider looking outside the box. Sometimes that could mean pulling talent from other industries and non-traditional backgrounds. New hires that come from different backgrounds can be paired up with tenured employees and fully trained to do the job. Recruit for a culture fit and train for skill.
Some situations may require alternative staffing solutions. When senior-level talent is required to implement new strategies, some organizations turn to consultants to get them on track. Temporary staff usage will be a common theme as budgets open up.
Succession and leadership development top the agenda
If you don’t have a succession strategy yet, launch one in 2012! Running a sustainable business means developing your talent to be prepared for attrition, planned leadership changes or the unexpected. Assess your workforce for potential leaders and develop them. Differentiate your strategic players and talk to them about their career aspirations. Succession planning is the responsibility of human resources and supervising managers; but accountability falls on the CEO and, ultimately, the Board of Directors.