While many embrace the greater workplace flexibility ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, employees may be missing out on mentoring opportunities for career development, P&C leaders say.
For example, mentoring is made more difficult when brokers can’t turn around in their office chairs and ask colleagues for advice or brainstorm ideas on how to navigate through challenges.
“I think it’s impossible to replicate what you get when you are sitting next to someone’s desk and can just say, ‘Hey, Joe, what about this?’ and you get that immediate response,” said Tina Osen, president of Hub International Canada. “Or you’re, by osmosis, hearing them on the phone call and go, ‘Oh, that makes sense. I like how they approached that.’ That’s really hard to do [from home].”
The topic of career development during the pandemic came up during a fall Insurance Institute of Ontario webinar with Berkley Canada president Andrew Steen, who said this is a time to double down on enhancing current and building new skills.
“Insurance professionals need to use this time as an opportunity to take an inventory of their skills as they are today and where they want to take them,” he said.
Steen listed several self-assessing questions: “What is it that you want to build next to set yourself up for a broader contribution in the business? Are those hard, technical skills? And if so, what are those and where are you going to go to get that the learning around those?”
Finding ways to develop your career is a natural challenge in a virtual environment, said TD Insurance president and CEO Ray Chun. The job of a leader is to elevate their staff, he observed.
“How do you do career development as a leader virtually? It is a big change,” he told Canadian Underwriter, while noting that his team was rolling out virtual tools to help with coaching and development.
Finding ways to create those moments where you can talk with staff about challenges and opportunities is critical during these times, Osen said in an interview. It will have to be manufactured virtually but is still an important effort to make.
“What we’ve been trying to do is create vehicles within Zoom where we bring smaller groups together — where we discuss difficult account placements, or opportunities we might have, or problems we’re facing — which create that opportunity for people to participate and learn and observe,” she said.
“I’m not suggesting it replaces the [in-person experience], but I think you have to manufacture some of those opportunities for people to connect right now in a virtual world so you don’t lose those opportunities for learning.”
It can be stressful to miss out on those advancement opportunities, Chun said. A lot is involved in working from home, where potential leaders may be juggling a variety of roles, such as teacher and parent, while trying to be a good employee.
“It’s not easy, right?” he said. “I think in the COVID situation, you’re not just managing your work and life in the way we knew it. A lot of people are homeschooling kids. There’s a lot more sort of balancing that’s going on a go-forward basis right now,” he said.