Canadian Underwriter

How COVID made it easier to win the ‘war for talent’

October 28, 2020   by Jason Contant

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If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that the pandemic might actually aid in talent acquisition – even if that talent comes from outside Canada.

It’s no secret there’s an ongoing “war for talent” in Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry. But the pandemic has allowed recruiters to leverage technology spawned by the pandemic to access a larger, global talent pool. “In short, the global talent pool has arrived, and talent is the new global currency… if businesses have the culture, confidence, and technology to tap into it,” said a recent blog in Harvard Business Review.

It took a pandemic to transform the way most people work day-to-day, wrote labour market expert Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManPowerGroup North America, and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief talent scientist at ManPowerGroup.

People are now much more likely to be familiar with video conferencing platforms, digital collaboration software, ubiquitous cloud-based connectivity, and data-centric approaches to strategic decision-making, powered by the interaction between artificial and human intelligence. Leveraging these foundational aspects of technology has dramatically changed “how we approach jobs and careers, perhaps forever,” the authors said.

“Technology has now untethered talent from location,” Frankiewicz and Chamorro-Premuzic wrote in The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management, published Oct. 13. “Talented individuals with in-demand skills in any sector now realize they can live where they choose, and work where they are qualified. And employers now realize they can source ‘best-of’ talent from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity.

“As we look to the future, it’s time to unleash these new ways of working for the long-term, with a focus on well-being, equality, and productivity that can work for both employers and employees long after this crisis ends,” the blog said. “It’s time to embrace the truly global talent pool that is available to drive growth, regardless of where those people call home.”

Could this shift towards remote working and technology-driven talent acquisition apply to the P&C industry? There’s no doubt the industry is facing a talent crunch, with demographics from the Insurance Institute of Canada showing that more than one quarter (27%) of the P&C workforce is expected to retire between 2017 and 2027.

“At the onset of this crisis, talent literally left the building, and we’re now beginning to realize that in many places, it is unlikely to come back,” Frankiewicz and Chamorro-Premuzic wrote. “In what will surely count as one of the strongest demonstrations for the extraordinary human capacity for adaptability, workers of the world have been able to remain productive even in lockdown.”

The pandemic “marks the formal entrance to the age of digital nomads and a personalized workforce,” the blog said. One of the important trends (and opportunities) to consider is “talent geographically unleashed.” In other words, the virus isn’t confined by borders, and neither is talent in a virtual world.

This means workers don’t have to move anywhere to get the job is gone, which cuts down the costs of relocation. For years, when organizations were interested in hiring talent, they use to ask, “Will you relocate?” But now workers want to be free – free from geographic borders, free from physical location expectations, and free from government restrictions, Frankiewicz and Chamorro-Premuzic said.

“If technology and cultural organizational changes enable people to do their work from wherever they want, they will set talent free even with current immigration laws and restrictions, countering the recent political trend to slow down globalization in favour of nationalist policies,” the authors wrote.

As The Economist estimates, opening borders to free up talent would result in a $78-trillion increase in global GDP.  “Labour is the world’s most valuable commodity,” the authors write, “yet, thanks to strict immigration regulation, most of it goes to waste.”


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