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June 14, 2016

When it comes to recruiting top IT talent, insurers are used to competing with businesses in other industries that appear more glamorous or exciting. But its becoming even more challenging in the wake of demographic, technological, and social trends that are transforming the entire insurance business. Its hard to compete with Silicon Valley firms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google that are willing to starting salaries of $100,000 to $150,000, according to salary data aggregator PayScale.

In addition to managing the transition from legacy to modern systems, your employees also need to be familiar with both old and new technologies. However, many IT professionals familiar with legacy systems have already retired, and many more will retire in the near future. In fact, within the next 10 years, insurers will have to address the fact that they have a large number of much older technologists who are going to retire and move out of their jobs. Its difficult to find workers with just the right skillsets who can replace these retiring employees who are well versed with older technologies, and also have the skills needed to work with new and emerging technologies.

Making this a tall order is the fact that employee expectations are changing. Its no longer just a matter of being adequately compensated. Employees want more – job satisfaction and an acceptable work-life balance. And if these qualified IT workers arent happy with their current situation, they will leave your organization.

How can you effectively deal with these workforce challenges?

You need to take these actions to ensure your organization has the right staff to be successful and competitive in todays business environment.

Pay attention to employee experience
The principles insurers are adopting to get closer to policyholders and improve customer experience can be just as relevant when applied to the challenge of attracting and retaining the best IT employees. Some insurance organizations retain their people a lot longer than others because they do a better job of aligning the workplace with employee expectations. Insurers that not only understand their employees perspectives but are also willing to change how they do business to align with worker expectations will be more effective and will retain their employees longer.

Create a living, dynamic plan
Whats right today isnt necessarily going to work tomorrow. Attracting and retaining employees is something that you must review and revise continuously. This requires flexibility and the ability to change rapidly.

Step Up Investments in Training
We cannot train and develop internal staff fast enough. There is a shortage of people moving into the workforce who have the technical skills to work with both new and old technologies. Training or retraining existing staff can be a great solution. Identify employees with high potential to learn and move into new technologies and train them to have a more diverse skillset. Consider creating an in-house university within the organization to facilitate training.

Employ flexible Staffing Models
Most insurers recognize that their core platforms and infrastructure arent completely up to date with the times. If your platform and applications arent current technology, your employees wont be current technologists, and you will need to go through a transformation of both people and systems. To speed up these transformations, adopt a variable staffing model to supplement the staff you have today. Its not practical for existing staff to simply run new technologies, and even with training, existing staff wont optimally utilize these new technologies. Its important to bring in variable staffing, experts who have already worked with these new technologies to maximize the effectiveness, so that youre not just learning new technologies, but harnessing the new technology to its fullest potential and ensuring it aligns with business in the right way. For example, some insurance organizations are investing in their internal development programs and getting commitments from their employees to stay for a period of time so theyll get a return on investment. Other companies are supplementing internal staff with outside parties that provide them with a variable and more cost-effective model.

We recommend a blend of approaches that will align with your companys specific geographic location, the competition for workforce, your organizations particular orientation of what it wants in terms of its own employees versus supplemental variable staffing, and the culture within your organization.

To blindly stay with what youve been doing in the past is a formula for failure. An effective IT staffing model has to be a living plan and it has to recognize that, as people and the ecosystem change, the plan needs to evolve at the same pace.

John LaGrasse is an ex TCSer and used to head client advisory services for the Insurance unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He specialized in leading lines of businesses and large complex technology strategies for insurance organizations. Prior to TCS, John has worked with leading global organizations including Procter & Gamble, American General, AIG, Citicorp, Ernst & Whinney CPA, and The Phoenix Companies. He has extensive experience, which spans the length and breadth of corporate management, including roles such as the CIO and COO. John also serves as a member on the board of directors of several companies.


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