Canadian Underwriter

Want to attract young talent? Here are some tips

October 15, 2019   by Adam Malik

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From left, John McNeil, Natasha Reichen and Trevor Buttram discuss the future of talent at the CIAA Claims Summit in Toronto on Oct. 10, 2019.

The old saying “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” is something insurance leaders need to take to heart when trying to get young people interested in their company, experts told a recent conference.

Plastering your company name on the side of a building on an attractive sign might be enough to catch the eye of a student thinking about a career with you, but that’s just the start. Bring them inside as well, said John McNeil, co-ordinator of the Insurance Management Program at Humber College.

“When they walk downtown on the weekend, they see all of your signs on the buildings and they wonder what it looks like on the inside,” he said at the recent Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association Claims Summit in Toronto. “So your work environment is really important.”

Hosting a field trip to pull back the curtain and letting them see your people in action can help remove some of the mystery, he added as part of a panel with Natasha Reichen of TalentEgg and Trevor Buttram, manager of Career Connections at the Insurance Institute of Canada.

The claims sector, along with the rest of the insurance industry, is fighting hard to attract young, talented workers to the field. The panel went through a number of strategies companies can use to help.

Diversity was one that was flagged as essential – but not just cultural. “It’s also age diversity and understanding that different thoughts and perspectives and opinions and experiences on a team formulate some of the best teams,” Reichen said.

McNeil agreed, also pointing out that while many companies like to talk a lot about diversity, some say something different in their actions. His students, who are regularly researching companies, can tell when there’s something missing.

“If you’re not telling your story as a company, you’re leaving it to my students to figure it out,” he said.

Naturally, the young generation is smart since that’s what insurance companies are looking for when recruiting. “Last year, I had five lawyers in my class; this year, I have two doctors in my program with MBAs,” McNeil said. “I look at their resume when I’m trying to help them out and I look at mine, I’m like ‘Don’t apply for my job tomorrow.’”

The problem is, other industries are after the same group, Reichen said. The mistake some make is to dismiss them if they’re immigrants and discounting the education they’re received abroad, Buttram pointed out. Insurance leaders can’t do the same.

“Some of the top-ranked business schools in the world are in India. Some of the top-ranked medical schools are in fact in other parts of the world,” he said. “That expertise that’s coming to Canada [and] we have the opportunity to leverage that and offer them a career path where they can apply that expertise, knowledge and background in some of our most complex and difficult roles.”

It’s the soft skills that remain critical when evaluating talent, McNeil said. “Our industry is based on relationships and it’s the personal relationships and the ability to just communicate is really important. Claims is where people see the company in action and that’s something we really stress on our side – the relationships.”

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