Crescens George - Chartered FCIPD
Young people entering the workforce today have more routes and opportunities to choose from than ever, shifting the need for employers to impress. Are young people worth the effort? Certainly. So what does the insurance industry need to do to set it apart from the competition?
The insurance sector does not appeal to young people in the main because it is perceived to be a ‘dull’ and ‘boring’ environment. Having successfully run the talent programme at Be Wiser for the last three years, it seems to me that these negative perceptions are mostly a result of a lack of knowledge and awareness of the sector, and little understanding of the opportunities the insurance industry presents to young people.
Engaging with young people can bring a variety of benefits to your business. Growing your own workforce, brand, increased competitiveness and satisfying skills gaps can all be achieved through the employment of young people. But we as an industry must work together and do more to attract young people into the world of insurance.
Remaining competitive, working innovatively and staying one step ahead of the game are vital to the success of any business. What’s more, your people are your business, so recruiting and retaining the right people are imperative. Not just talent you need today; thinking ahead means that you have the skills in place to support your business growth. Bringing young people in provides for future needs, and they have a lot to offer organisations that are looking to grow and develop with them.
Here are my top three reasons why Be Wiser has embarked on a ‘Grow Your Own’ talent strategy:
- It provides a cost effective and exciting alternative to trying to buy in skills and talent at a later stage.
- It provides existing employees with opportunities to grow by mentoring and training young people.
- It helps bring unique skills, attitudes, motivations and employee loyalty to the business.
As much as it is important to attract young talent into insurance, getting them in the door is only the start. More crucially, it is important to develop and retain them for the long term. This starts with a comprehensive and engaging induction programme in an environment that develops confidence, skills and enables them to experience how they will become a successful part of the business.
While many graduate and school leaver programmes boast how young people acquire generic skills such as ‘team working’, ‘problem solving’ and ‘commercial awareness’, etc, it is critical that you start to develop their technical insurance knowledge training from the outset. We have seen young people quickly change their mind-set towards insurance from ‘dull and boring’ to ‘exciting and stimulating’ when they have started their CII studies.
Once fully inducted, we start to put together their long-term development plan. Again, if you want talent for the future of insurance, keep technical knowledge and skill development as the central theme and look to new and innovative ways to ring-fence this with other business and soft skills as well as commercial awareness and business acumen.
Consider giving them the opportunity to work and experience the departments within your business; this way you will help them develop a bigger and deeper picture of insurance and your business. Young people often don’t have a lot of work experience, so don’t have a clear idea of their skills. This varied exposure will help both you and them discover their talent, strengths and, more importantly, their passion. Developing a young person and continuing to do this as they grow with your business is key to long-term success. Millennials want to keep learning, and employers should embrace this enthusiasm. Share your knowledge and provide personal growth opportunities.
The modern workforce thrives in a modern working environment; this doesn’t mean upgrading the physical environment – the fancy colourful offices that are often boasted elsewhere – but upgrading your approach to leading a younger workforce. Young people respond well when their manager takes the mentoring role over the traditional ‘boss’ role. Managers should lead through guidance over instruction and allow young employees to explore their talents while encouraging them to create their own opportunities to apply this in a work context.
If you’re a business that isn’t used to employing young people, the prospect of doing so can be daunting; it needn’t be. Engaging with young people makes sound business sense, providing a way to plan for the future and fill emerging gaps in skills and expertise. Working alongside young people also helps to improve existing employees’ skills, improve the diversity of your business and can be incredibly rewarding.