The leadership landscape of the insurance industry is poised to undergo monumental changes during the next 10 years. Currently, the fraction of professionals aged 55 and older within the insurance industry is nearly 30 percent higher than that same fraction measured within the economy as a whole. In addition, almost 25 percent of the current workforce is predicted to be on the verge of retirement by 2018. At this rate, experts estimate the industry will need to fill 400,000 positions by 2020 in order to remain fully staffed.
Seeing this massive leadership exodus approaching, insurance organizations are seeking strategies and solutions to prepare for the impending departures and to minimize the loss of valuable knowledge and skills.
Fortunately, Generation X is in position to step up to the plate. This dynamic group of professionals (aged 33-53) is entrepreneurial, open-minded, honest, tech-savvy and creative—all valuable leadership characteristics. The problem arises when one considers that Gen X has often become the forgotten generation in the industry’s impending war for talent.
In preparing for the oncoming talent storm, insurance organizations have focused on attracting and engaging Millennials. Currently, Millennials account for 25 percent of the U.S. workforce and are expected to form 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020. This talented and innovative generation certainly offers a viable solution to the extensive talent influx needed industrywide. Yet, these young professionals may not have the experience nor the professional maturity to step into the key leadership and C-suite roles left vacant by retiring Baby Boomers. Gen Xers, on the other hand, do have the hands-on knowledge and background needed to fill this void.
However, many of these individuals may be frustrated with their current roles, feeling overlooked by their employers. During the past few years, Gen X employees have found themselves without an upward career path as Baby Boomers delayed their retirement amid the economic downturn and training budgets suffered cutbacks. Feeling stuck in a “flat” organization, these professionals have been tempted by opportunities outside the industry or within other organizations in order to climb the ladder.
The time is now to re-engage mid-level employees and potential future leaders. Gen Xers value independence, global thought and technology. In addition to flexible schedules, they look for professional opportunities that offer autonomy, open feedback, and the ability to grow their skills. In fact, Gen Xers identify professional development as their most-desired job perk. Considering the increasingly competitive talent market, engaging these employees through education and advancement opportunities will be vital in building a robust talent bench.
Now that the economy has recovered and the insurance industry finds itself experiencing a return to its pre-recession state, insurers should take a second look at their discontinued or trimmed professional development and education programs and determine the best way to begin rebuilding them. A professional development program can be as simple as encouraging employees to join professional groups or associations or establishing a company-wide mentorship program. Consider offering financial support for external continuing education programs and professional training. Provide stretch assignments, additional responsibilities and supervisory functions. Not only do these opportunities help to build employee engagement and increase retention, but they provide organizations with the chance to groom their next generation of leadership.
Fortunately, some insurance organizations have already recognized this emerging need and have begun instituting programs specifically targeting Gen Xers. Only by shifting the focus to cultivating and engaging today’s mid-level, Gen X employees can insurance organizations transition their current staff into the leaders of tomorrow.
What is your organization doing to transition Generation X into tomorrow’s leaders?