Building the insurance workforce: Tips for recruiting talent amid a hiring crisis

There are untapped talent pipelines with a broader candidate experience slate that the insurance industry should explore. (Photo: adragan/Adobe Stock)

“Now hiring: No college degree required. Minimum 4 years of experience in the construction trades with preference given for experience in estimating, water, smoke, or mold remediation. Starting pay $100k. Apply now.”

This sample job listing represents the current status of recruitment in the building consulting industry. Even a listing with a six-figure starting salary still may not get the candidates needed to fill the growing void of insurance industry workers.

Despite hiring crises across every industry, the claims and restoration industry has a few unique challenges to work against. Here’s how managers in our industry should think about and address recruiting talent today.

Breaking from tradition

The insurance services industry has traditionally been viewed as a white-collar workforce. However, in the last 20-30 years, this industry has struggled to secure and retain appropriate talent. The industry’s workforce is aging and creating a near-crisis-level problem: eight out of 10 millennials have little interest in the insurance field as a career, according to Amtrust. This unprecedented pressure for skilled workers has companies increasingly recruiting blue-collar workers, which is shaking up the long-established process for recruitment.

Traditionally, building consultants and adjusters were recruited from the ranks of college graduates at career fairs and through traditional recruiting practices. The prospective team members would then go through a series of company-sponsored training events and certifications provided by Vale and others. Following training, rookies would have weeks or potentially months of one-on-one mentoring before being given a solo assignment.

Today most new consultants and adjusters are hired via online recruitment and job platforms, with internal referrals at a close second. While there are still a fair number of traditional candidates with college degrees entering the ranks, it is much more common to find new colleagues without degrees or with only limited post-secondary education.

Time and experience are valued at a premium

It is easy to assume that these new colleagues without degrees are less qualified, but in reality, the opposite is true. What these candidates lack in formal education is often surpassed many times over in real experience, including, in many cases, practical certifications directly applicable to their fields.

Take into consideration the economics of experience vs. education, and it is clear that lack of college education doesn’t necessarily create the most valuable workers in claims and restoration jobs.  Insurance is complicated, intricate and relatively difficult to become proficient and workers with on-the-job experience at the start can enter the field much faster than rookies with a degree. Looking at a different way, a manager can teach a competent and experienced carpenter to write reports and document estimates much faster than it would take an experienced office worker and software user to become a carpenter.

Look out for candidates with direct experience — they often prove their worth, generating revenue and value for your business in spades.

Take a two-fold approach

Especially today, the real challenge moving forward as leaders in our industry is finding enough of these qualified candidates with either the right education or experience. Consider the following two-fold approach, which has been successful for my team:

First, search for great programs at the university level that are relevant to either the insurance, risk management, or construction sciences fields. Once you have found the right institutions, forge a working partnership. This can include participating in the co-op or intern programs or even providing feedback to the administration and professors about emerging trends and problems in the field. This, in turn, can help solicit further expertise in finding solutions and getting access to talent to correct these issues.

Then, in the meantime, seek recommendations from other adjusters, contractors, and industry professionals. Don’t necessarily seek someone who is ready to work today, but rather solicit leads for people who may want to transition to the field. The best candidates are people who may be interested in building on existing skill sets in construction or restoration to take their careers to the next level.

Closing the deal with candidates

As you engage prospective colleagues, emphasize long-term career potential — the insurance sector is extremely consistent and can even see significant growth during economic downturns, which positively impacts growth opportunities for employees. Address the fact that compensation for adjusters and consultants can be nearly limitless, with top-tier compensation packages approaching $400,000 with the right experience and expertise. Make sure that any prospective candidate is also aware of the investment insurance companies can make into growing talent long-term, whether through training and certifications or tuition assistance. For candidates in the construction field, enhanced career progression opportunities are especially attractive: reduced physicality of work enables longer career tenures.

While the hiring statistics remain less-than-optimistic during the post-pandemic “great resignation” across so many industries, new opportunities for insurance sector workers have opened up in the last several years. There are great benefits to emphasize and untapped talent pipelines to be explored with a broader candidate experience slate.

Justin White ([email protected]) is VP specialty services, principal building consultant at Sedgwick. White is an executive building consultant with more than 15 years in the construction management, consulting, and restoration industries. He has proven hands-on and executive experience in complicated large losses and offers a thorough understanding of construction components and various methods with an emphasis in institutional and health care projects. White has estimated and managed countless projects involving heavy marine construction, commercial high-rise buildings, industrial facilities, major shopping malls, medical facilities, and casinos.


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