Years ago, I had a professor who cautioned our business class to never work for banks or insurance companies. His rationale was that these industries notoriously churned and burned through employees with only a small percentage making their way into the higher ranks.
So what did I do? Upon graduation, I took a job with a relatively unheard of company who eventually became a top 5 insurer. The job was challenging but also very rewarding. Insurance adjusters serve a critical function in the claims process yet the staffing gap in this profession continues to grow.
On the retirement front Pew Research indicates that nearly 10,000 baby boomers retire each day in the United States and 25% of them are in the insurance and financial sectors. Well versed, technically sound adjusters retire with a wealth of experience leaving in their wake a shrinking pool of new adjusters tasked with handling a rising volume of claims.
In 2015, The Hartford Millennial Leadership Survey found that only 4% of millennials are interested in entering insurance compared to 36% interested in education and 31% interested in healthcare.
Let’s face it, insurance is not a sexy industry. I don’t know of a single fellow adjuster who grew up saying I want to handle claims for a living. Honestly, when I got into claims 33 years ago, I didn’t even know what I was getting into, but I did get a company car which was an attractive perk. That is part of the key to attracting talent; what are the perks that get the attention of the younger generations, in particular Gen Z.
The challenge facing the industry now is twofold. First, there is a growing knowledge gap. Long gone are the days when adjusters hit the streets and learned from their version of Mr. Miyagi how to “wax on, wax off” claims. There is also a retention gap whereby employees have created “The Great Resignation”. According to Gallup only half of millennials plan to be in the same job next year, with results for Gen Z being even bleaker.
The younger generations are markedly different than baby boomers and Gen X’ers, where work ethic was instilled at a very early age and we were challenged to face confrontation head only with conflict resolution skills honed over time. These skills proved helpful in adjusting careers which are often viewed as adversarial.
Complicating matters has been the dumbing down of the profession from boots on the street investigators to what have essentially become data processors in many organizations. In my book, Re-Adjusted: Taking Your Claims Organization From Ordinary to Extraordinary, there is extensive discussion on the need for adjusters to have an insatiable curiosity. Thinking back to my earliest days in the streets of Los Angeles rooting out fraud it was curiosity that led to good results. What we need to do as an industry is get the younger generations curious about a career in claims.
Bringing talent into claims organizations is critical for the ongoing health of the industry. Certainly there is advancing technology that will help ease the staffing burden but we are probably a generation away from being able to effectively have a fully automated end to end adjusting solution, in particular on bloodline claims. Can you imagine a bot trying to negotiate a settlement with the billboard attorney, who isn’t likely to utilize AI in the near future?
Younger generations have different wants and needs that older generations need to understand and adapt to. Long gone are the days of commuting an hour into the office, spending sixty hours a week reviewing evidence, searching for clues and aggressively negotiating for advantageous outcomes. It was fun for us, but it isn’t the jam for Gen Z.
Careers in claims need to be entrepreneurial and rewarding. According to FirstUp, younger generations care more about work-life balance and personal well-being. They are seeking benefits such as PTO, mental health days and activities that create a sense of community.
This creates an interesting dynamic. Ask a boomer what it’s like to work with a millennial or Gen Z and you will often get an eyeroll. There is frustration of a perceived entitlement mentality, short attention span and need for immediate gratification (a/k/a – everyone gets a trophy). Thinking back, this is probably similar to what the Greatest Generation thought of us when we entered the workforce in the 80’s and 90’s.
As claims professionals retire, the need for Gen Z’s increases. We need to be asking what they want in a job. According to Forbes one of their biggest concerns is their career. 68% of younger workers worry about their career growth potential and 79% have high drive and ambition. Perhaps the frequency of turnover has less to do with short attention spans and more to do with having a highly successful, long term career with a company that might take a few moves to find. Remember, many of the Gen Z’ers came of age during the Great Recession, which took a toll on many families. Children are very observant. They take notice of things, in particular financial struggles. Perhaps this helps to explain their need for security.
Contrary to what some are saying, the younger generations want to get back to work. 47% of younger workers said that working from home has had a negative impact on their well-being, a full 13% more than older workers. Being in the office in a position like claims is critical because you learn so much from those around who have acquired knowledge over the course of their career.
Gen Z is super tech savvy! They love and live the digital life. It is something that should be embraced as technology is deployed to help adjusters. While we learned claims in real life settings such as training rooms or from co-workers, Gen Z will see the best results while engaging with a highly informed avatar. According to the LinkedIn talent blog 91% say the technology offered by an employer would influence their job choice.
From a social network presence, the younger generations will be checking you out. Among Gen Z, Snapchat is the “go to”, followed by Instagram. If your company doesn’t have those accounts set up then now is the time to do it.
Work needs to be fun, and things like ping pong and air hockey were all the rage for a while. But what the younger generations really want is financial stability and responsibility. They aren’t looking for perks like ping pong and air hockey, but rather are focused on 401k’s, student loan repayment assistance, and other initiatives to help them save for the future. It is estimated that 35% of Gen Z’ers plan to start saving for retirement in their 20’s, so helping them plan for the future can create a competitive advantage.
While Boomers may joke about everyone “getting a trophy, the reality is that Gen Z’ers are very competitive. They are also team oriented. They want healthy competition in the workplace. While they desire promotions and raises, one common denominator is that they want verbalization of a job well done.
Having coached Gen Z’ers in football and lacrosse over the years, these points seem very real. They were competitive players with a drive to win and understood that there is no “I” in team. But they also wanted to earn kudos through hard work on the field, often competing for a variety of post-game accolades.
Attracting this younger pool of talent is critical to the long-term health of claims organizations across the country. For a generation that frequently cites helping others as a reason for taking a job, claims may be one of the best options. After all we are in the business of restoring dreams. But we are also in the business of being on the side of right versus wrong, another oft cited reason for seeking jobs. With fraud being an estimated 10% of all claims, having the ability to make a difference could prove equally as enticing.
What we are learning about the younger generations is that they are, in many ways, very much like us but with a unique set of instructions and different buttons to push. But at the end of the day, they are looking for what many of us seek in a career; stability, fun, growth and satisfaction.
If you are interested in being a guest on my podcast to discuss this topic, and steps you have taken to attract and retain talent please let me know. It is something that business leaders often cite as one of their biggest challenges and my hope is that we can provide meaningful solutions to make a difference.
Chris Tidball is an Executive Claims Consultant with SecondLook, a leading provider of subrogation and consultative services. He spent more than twenty years as an adjuster, manager and executive with multiple Top 10 carriers. Chris is the author of Re-Adjusted: Taking Your Claims Organization from Ordinary to Extraordinary! He is the creator of The Adjuster television series and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.