Insurance carriers face plenty of challenges today, particularly
when it comes to IT, but who would have believed finding talent
would be the top challenge reported by insurers for 2017? More
than 60 percent of CIOs taking part in the “Insurance IT Talent
Management” report put together by Novarica list it as No. 1,
ahead of areas such as IT operations, costs and budgets, and
Rob McIsaac, a senior vice
president of Novarica and author
of the report believes there are a
few issues that conspired to drive
the talent drain to the top of the
list, starting with the recognition
that the baby boomer generation is
aging quickly. The year 1957 was a
peak and now those boomers born
that year have, or are about to,
reached the age of 60.
“With the pace of technological
change and the need to be able
to operate in a dual mode—keep
the existing legacy environment running yet be prepared for an
array of different challenges—it forces the conversation to look
at how to attract and retain newer and younger talent with a
diversified set of skills,” says McIsaac.
If you could run the IT organization with the same
set of performance criteria or operational support that
would be great, but McIsaac explains the reality is there is
a distinction between the generational chord and one of
the challenges CIOs face is some of the infrastructure they
depend on, such as HR partners, aren’t ready to operate in
that dual mode.
“Even some of the ways people thought about measuring
results of performance may not be appropriate,” he says. “If
you think of a generation ago, the issue of retention of staff
may have had people anticipating spending extended periods
of time with an organization and not thinking about regular
turnover. Today you have a generation that believes their career
path will take them on a series of journeys that last two, three or
four years. People aren’t ready for that turnover, but it’s part of
Some millennials, and even companies, seem shortsight-
ed about the current situation. With young people leaving
one organization for another after two or three years, they
often are forfeiting vesting rights from company-sponsored
“Maybe you need to stay five years to become vested. It’s not
a big jump from three to five years so I expect we’ll see some of
that,” says McIsaac. “We may also see shorter vesting periods.
It depends on who you are going after and what the talent pool
When employees move on to another company, there also is
an issue of leadership. McIsaac feels there are challenges com-
panies face in growing leaders internally and so they sometimes
turn outside the organization.
“The more they go outside, the only thing they are teaching
their people is that they themselves have to go outside if they
want to advance. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says McIsaac.
“People are patient for the opportunity to go to the next level,
but to the extent the path becomes unpredictable, there is an
interesting challenge where talent becomes an increasingly
flexible and fluid resource. Companies have to think how they
are going to manage the talent and the knowledge within the
organization to make it run effectively and efficiently.”
Many younger people are living with fewer material things
and have more flexibility. They enjoy living in more urban
settings, so employers need to find themselves both meaningful
and relevant and, where possible, sexy, according to McIsaac.
Data analytics, to pick one area, has a tremendous amount
of draw from a variety of industries and insurance should be
one of those places where there are all sorts of meaningful
opportunities that can come from it.
McIsaac explains insurers typically are not good at talking
about what they can offer. Finding ways to be more effective
about projecting the message about what insurers do and the
role financial services play, and demonstrating the social and
economic value could be a positive force.
Insurance tends to wait to go after talent until later in the
talent development process. McIsaac believes the best and
the brightest almost always know where they are going before
they graduate from college.
“If you are going to attract talent, being able to draw
them into an interesting experience where they want to
be becomes really important,” he says. “Some insurers are
blessed by being in major metro areas, but others are not.
They have these ancestral home offices and are nice places to
live, but they are not the places to draw in the type of talent
insurers will need.” ITA
Somehow, the talent drain has risen to the top of the list for insurance IT leaders.
There are several reasons why, but fewer ways to fix the problem.