In a world of talent wars - where it is increasingly difficult to compete with the technology sector, banks and pharmaceuticals, in terms of pay scales, training dollars, benefits and "perks" - how can the insurance industry, still perceived as conservative and inflexible, consistently and effectively attract talent to join their organizations? Maybe it is time for insurers to take a hard look at their culture.
Today's "generation X" is not looking for traditional employment in an impersonal maze of cubicles. In addition, high turnover and escalating costs of recruitment are frustrating realities. Can management and Human Resources find new ways to attract and retain talent?
There is hope. Firstly, statistics tell us that the most important thing people are looking for today is an organization that fits who they are, what they stand for and how they like to measure success - all of which results in value alignment. Secondly, a new 2003 study by Lee Hecht Harrison asked outplaced managers and employees what programs and benefits they wanted from a new employer. A similar study was conducted in 1999 and the comparative results are surprising: In 2003, 76% want ongoing training opportunities while in 1999 only 41% wanted it. In 2003 a whopping 73% want flextime compared to only 57 % in 1999. Interestingly enough, company car, child care and concierge services have fallen dramatically in importance in 2003, to less than 28 %, while in 1999 they were desired by more than twice that amount.
Thirdly, the struggle to find good talent has become so critical that companies are learning to sell themselves to potential employees in the same way as they market themselves to customers, says Monica Belcourt, president of the Human Resources Association of Ontario (HRAO). "Employers have learned lessons in customer attraction and retention that they now apply to employees," she adds, "using the 'employee value proposition', (EVP), a company can win the war for talent by marketing itself under one of four brands:
A "winning company";
A "big risk, big reward" company;
A "save the world" organization;
Or a "lifestyle organization".
What does all of this mean? By focusing on strengths, corporate values, and the changing climate in employee value systems, the insurance industry can compete in attracting talent. Instinctively, some organizations have known for a long time that they must offer a different "compensation" or value proposition and have marketed their organization's flexibility, work life balance, or unique training opportunities, for example.
But, where to start? To further enhance your talent-search strategy, consider incorporating some of the following ideas:
Convey a mission statement that is powerful and inspiring. Is your mission statement proudly displayed in your reception area and in your meeting rooms? Is it included in your advertisements or on business cards? Can your employees clearly articulate it? One organization painted their mission and values on every pillar in their employee eating area.
Hire for attitudes and values, train for skills. In the words of Colin Powell, in "The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell": "Look for intelligence and judgment and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, seeing around the corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done." In other words, look past the resume and the degrees. You can always train a bright, willing junior person in the basics of your business fairly well, but you cannot train someone to have integrity, judgment, energy and balance.
Become an employer of choice by creating a good reputation. It means being an employer who treats employees the way they want to be treated. Find out what it is that makes your workplace special from talking to existing employees and use that information as a marketing tool when interviewing. This is what makes an organization's culture and organization unique. You will attract new candidates to your workplace through all of the good that you create internally. Clients, employees and their families will be your best free advertising.
Seek and incorporate best practices. Have you noticed how underrepresented the insurance industry has been in Richard Yarema's book "Canada's Top 100 Employers"? This book, now in its third edition, has become the standard that thousands of Canadian employers and job seekers look to for best practices in recruitment and retention.
Sell your organization. What makes your organization special and unique? Is it your compelling vision or is it a fun place to work? Talk about the big picture and your plans for the future of the organization.
Tap nontraditional markets. Have you considered hiring part-time workers, seniors, displaced older workers, individuals returning to the workforce or physically challenged individuals? Co-op students are also a great resource. Hiring someone from employment seeking segments allows an organization to test and try talent with no long-term commitment. Do not overlook your own retirees who often are interested in part-time or contract work and have client knowledge and core values that they are willing to share. Also, have you considered the international market, which provides a rich source of knowledge but not necessarily any Canadian experience?
Make your advertising inventive and creative. Break out of the traditional advertisement and talk about your mission. Is your website helping or hindering your recruiting efforts? Does it have a "careers section" that allows visitors to send in their resumes? These visitors already have an interest in your organization so why not make it easier for them.
Network - when speaking with colleagues, mention your job vacancy and inquire about downsizing or lay-offs elsewhere. There could be a gem of an employee looking for a new job.
"After the money, show me the love," say Canadian workers. According to a Maritz Canada Inc. 2003 survey, "nine of 10 employees place importance on training and feeling valued. Non-cash rewards are key in motivating employees." With changing priorities in our society, perhaps it is time for insurance organizations to re-evaluate their culture, value systems and employee policies.