From remote work to DE&I: How insurance must adjust to the “new normal”
However, that’s no reason for the industry to rest on its laurels. There are definitely areas where insurance employers can improve, especially when it comes to modern technology, the work-life balance, and improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the industry. These themes have only become more pronounced amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when the industry had to pivot overnight to technology-driven remote operating models.
Learn more about DE&I in the insurance industry by attending Women in Insurance Boston on May 25, a virtual conference celebrating female success and leadership.
“It’s clear that having technology in place to be able to work remotely was a really critical component to the industry’s success in 2020,” said Kristin Nease, vice president of human resources at Vertafore. “That’s a lesson we have learned [from the pandemic] and we must continue to be able to implement that as we go forward because people want to continue to have the opportunity to work remotely. Approximately two-thirds of employees want a mix of remote work and office-based work following the pandemic, and a significant subset of our industry – about 20%, according to our data – want to work remotely full-time.
“We learned in 2020 that we can support remote work and still be successful, and that we’re a very resilient industry – but we also need to pivot so that we meet the demands of our employees as we move forward in this ‘new normal’.”
At present, the insurance industry is over-indexed with baby boomers and Gen X professionals who are approaching retirement. It’s an employment trend sometimes referred to as the “silver tsunami” and is something that insurance organizations must take seriously if they wish to survive and thrive in the future. With more Gen Z workers on the cusp of entering the industry, insurance employers must figure out how to appeal to and create workplaces for generations that are seen as having very diverse perspectives.
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This is a great opportunity for insurance organizations to engage more actively with DE&I, with regards to their recruitment practices, their employee engagement and retention strategies, their customer experience strategies, and their general corporate culture.
“There are so many great opportunities for the industry to connect with DE&I, and there are a lot of resources that have been made available for organizations [as they ramp up their DE&I efforts]” said Nease, who sits on The Big “I” Diversity Council alongside her role at Vertafore. “This will help organizations as they prepare for the silver tsunami that we all know is coming, but also as our country grows more diverse from an ethnicity perspective, it will help us to meet our customers’ unique needs. This is a chance for us to ‘meet the moment,’ to recruit and retain diverse talent, and to create an inclusive environment and culture for people who perhaps haven’t always been part of the insurance industry.”
It’s essential for insurance employers to modernize if they want to attract and retain top talent. This might mean modernizing their workplace culture to incorporate more DE&I. It could also mean enabling more flexibility in work hours, re-evaluating compensation models, providing clearer growth opportunities and career paths, and embracing new technology and innovation.
“One of the most interesting things to come out of our survey was the variety in what people are looking for in their future work,” Nease told Insurance Business. “It’s critical that we have regular conversations with employees about what they’re looking for, but also to recognize that we probably aren’t going to be perfect in how we create a work environment. Having mechanisms for employees to continue those conversations and give feedback as we adjust to the ‘new normal’ will be very important for the success of insurance organizations.”