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Jun 2024

The changing insurance sector landscape and developing the workforce

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Jan 2024

Stephen KerrThere are many challenges facing the insurance sector today, most of all the difficulty in finding good talent from a shrinking pool with increasing demands. Sedgwick’s Mr Stephen Kerr elaborates on the issues and the possible solutions.
 
 
In recent years, the insurance landscape in Asia has undergone transformation, presenting insurers with formidable challenges. The convergence of the global pandemic, heightened weather volatility, escalating costs and the advent of cutting-edge technologies has compelled companies throughout the insurance ecosystem to navigate and respond to these evolving headwinds.

Developing the workforce has also been significant and remains one of the challenges to the industry, both locally and globally. Attracting the next generation of loss adjusters to the industry will require a different approach, with research showing that Gen-Z have a different set of requirements when it comes to choosing a career.

As people embark on their profession, a blend of purpose, diversity, flexibility and stability stand out as considerations. For companies aspiring to allure top-tier talent, recognising and addressing these crucial factors is essential.

As COO for Sedgwick Asia, a focus has been on spearheading initiatives aimed at ensuring our ability to attract and retain consistently the calibre of high-quality adjusters and consultants that our clients have come to anticipate.

These challenges impact us all, and as we move into 2024, it is vital that we share our learnings: What worked, what didn’t and the steps we are taking to ensure our industry continues to attract the highest quality candidates. Through this process, we have found several crucial considerations for winning the war on talent.
 
Understand your business
Whilst it may appear obvious, the importance of deeply understanding your business cannot be understated. If you don’t know exactly what the problems are, how can you solve them? This is especially important in turbulent times.

Organisations don’t exist in a vacuum, and with changes in our industry, society, and the wider working world, what was true about your business five years ago may no longer apply. Step one for Sedgwick was therefore comprehensively to take stock of where we are: What could be improved, which strengths can be bolstered, and how do we compare to competitors and the wider market?

You cannot get this perspective from the top down. What works for a certain role, or a type of person may not work for everyone else. Truly understanding a business requires hearing the honest thoughts of everyone involved, from C-suite to intern. This helps us identify common problem, reach compromises and design solutions that work for all.
 
Give colleagues a voice
This understanding would not be possible without our second learning – listen to your colleagues.

To achieve this, Sedgwick has prioritised organising visits from senior executives to offices across the business, getting a view from the ground and hearing from all colleagues. This serves a dual benefit. It not only provides the insight needed to enact changes, but senior engagement and visibility can provide a valuable boost to morale.

Post-pandemic, some may have felt disconnected from the wider organisation, and letting them know that their voices are heard and valued can go a long way to rebuilding this connection and make them realise they are part of something bigger.

Beyond ad-hoc visits and consultations, it is important to ensure that these lines of communication are formalised - providing channels for open and honest feedback, surveying staff and, crucially, acknowledging and responding to these responses.

As part of our commitment to fostering a connected workplace, we have instituted virtual town halls, providing a platform for all colleagues to not only hear from senior leaders but also to share their perspectives in a collaborative forum.
 
Revamp training and development 
A primary cause of the squeezed and competitive labour market has been the number of senior practitioners that have retired or left the industry in recent years. Replacing years of on-the-job experience can’t be done overnight, but it can be accelerated.

Particularly for younger practitioners, the use of digital tools for training and development has driven impressive results. Learning from other markets can be crucial, and here at Sedgwick our global scale was invaluable. Promoting dialogue, and the sharing of learnings and best practice from colleagues around the globe is a huge advantage.

Our colleagues in the UK have had huge success with their ‘Pathfinder’ initiative, giving us a head start when applying it to an Asian context. Naturally, solutions do not map one to one, which is where a nuanced understanding of the individual cultural, organisational, and practical differences between regions is needed, to make integration a success. But despite these differences, insurance is still insurance, no matter where you are in the world.

Hearing from international colleagues who have already solved similar challenges can allow us to move faster, and by promoting common standards worldwide, foster greater international collaboration and information sharing.

The Pathfinder programme, operational in the UK since 2021, stands out as a resounding success, demonstrating a remarkable triple-digit return in its first year. This achievement is evident when contrasting in-house development costs with external recruitment expenditures within the market.

Overall, the programme is designed to makes it possible for anyone within the business to gain the skills they need as a loss adjuster, allowing us to draw on our existing talent, and ensure that those looking for a change have the flexibility to explore new paths within Sedgwick.
 
One outcome is that no colleague needs to look outside the organisation to realise their career ambitions – we have a programme to support them achieve their goals here in the business.
 
Continuous development
The Pathfinder programme equips our colleagues with the expertise to carry out market leading loss adjusting work. This is accomplished through the seamless integration of two strands: Technical and adjuster excellence segments. These components combine to equip adjusters with foundational skills that serve as a springboard for ongoing development throughout their career.

The ‘technical excellence’ component is crafted to facilitate staff in transitioning seamlessly into the role of adjusting assistant. It imparts technical knowledge relating to fundamental aspects of the claims handling process. The objective is to ensure that claims progress in a streamlined and efficient manner and is open to any Sedgwick member of staff who wishes to move into a technical support role.

Our Aspire programme helps technical support staff transition to a career in loss adjusting and our Protégé programme supports more seasoned/experienced loss adjusters who wish to move into MCL loss adjusting roles.

More broadly, attracting the best technical experts requires offering an environment and resources which will allow them to flourish. We have doubled down on our existing leadership in technology by opening our technical centre of excellence in Singapore.

This training can then be followed up down the line as they seek to further develop their skills once more experienced, through the ‘adjuster excellence’ segment of the pathfinder programme.

Designed and delivered by adjusters for adjusters, this also focuses on the practical elements of the role, putting adjusters out into the real world to learn interpersonal, soft skills that can only be developed on the ground.

In exploring the formidable challenges confronting the market today, it becomes clear that businesses must shift their perspective on the war for talent. Rather than viewing it from a one-sided lens, the focus should be on understanding the employees’ standpoint.

By fostering positive workplaces, making steadfast commitments to staff development and steering towards purpose-driven careers, we pave the way for a workforce of the future poised to cultivate fulfilling careers, thereby benefiting the Asian insurance market for decades to come. A 
 
Mr Stephen Kerr is Sedgwick’s chief operating officer, Asia.
 
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