Channels

11:31 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce

CIOs from USAA, Unum and other insurance organizations shared secrets to attracting and retaining IT talent during a panel at the 2014 ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum.

Although technology is changing at a mind-boggling pace, some of the toughest challenges facing insurance company tech executives have nothing to do with systems and tools. Rather, it's the changing demographics of the IT workforce, along with intensified competition for talent with skills in hot areas such as analytics, mobile and agile development, that is simultaneously frustrating and inspiring today's insurance CIOs. That was a dominant theme of the C-Suite Panel Discussion that took place at the just-concluded 2014 ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum in Orlando.

Moderated by Dan Roberts, president & CEO, Ouellette & Associates Consulting, the panel covered everything from outsourcing to mobility to customer engagement. But the discussion kept circling back to the importance of developing and retaining a versatile, talented and committed IT workforce. The panel of current and former insurance tech bosses concurred that, while these issues can be vexing, addressing them effectively is critical to success in today's increasing customer-focused, digital financial services environment.

[The future workforce will extend beyond employees to any user connected to the Internet, says Accenture's John Cusano: 3 Tech Trends Set to Rock the Insurance Industry]

"I always thought the job would be easier if it weren't for people," kidded panelist Allan Hackney, a long-time financial services executive who most recently served as SVP and CIO, John Hancock Financial. Getting serious, he noted, "At the end of the day we ride on the shoulders of really great teams -- they do all the work." Having worked in mergers and acquisitions, finance, operations and IT, Hackney observed, "At the end of the day it was always about the ability to deliver tangible results."

Greg Schwartz, USAA
Greg Schwartz, USAA

One organization that seems to have found the right formula for leading a skilled, productive and happy IT workforce is USAA, although panelist Greg Schwartz, SVP and CIO, said, "I wish I could tell you there's a blueprint." Part of the culture at USAA, which consistently racks up awards for being a good place to work in IT, is recognition that "it's absolutely critical to be focused on that as part of your IT strategy, not just architecture or platforms," Schwartz said. Furthermore, when it comes to recruiting for IT positions, "People want meaningful work. We are selling careers, not jobs. We tell you, if you're right out of college, that we want you here all your career. The good news is, the IT field is growing, so we can do that."

Panelist Katherine M. Miller, SVP and CIO of Unum, concurred. "People want challenging work," she said. The challenge, she added, is, "How do you empower the workforce?"

This is particularly urgent considering the looming retirement of many baby boomers and even Gen X'ers from the IT workforce. Miller warned against any "neglect of the incoming pipeline of skills and expertise" and said she is very focused addressing the capabilities and expectations of the Millennials to "make sure we have the right pipeline of talent coming in the door. We're being prepared for the shift of skills, as well."

The implications of the demographic shift "is one of my favorite topics," USAA's Schwartz said. CIOs should know what percentage of their staffs are likely to be retiring in the near future -- a number that "is going up every year," according to Schwartz. "We've been looking at this problem for long time. One of every two open jobs we fill with college student rather than an experienced [IT professional]. One-third of my workforce is millennials. We really have five generations in the workforce today, and they have to coexist. You do not want to wake up on other side of 30% of your staff retiring."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
5/16/2014 | 3:20:33 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
Interesting post, Steve, and it has some good ideas for fostering greater collaboration in the workplace. No doubt that could be a good strategy for insurers that have seasoned employees working closely with new hires.
KBurger
50%
50%
KBurger,
User Rank: Author
5/16/2014 | 2:55:56 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
Good point, Steve. Intellectual capital should be considered a critical resource, same as systems and infrastructure. It doesn't matter where (who) that capital resides,
Steve Trautman
50%
50%
Steve Trautman,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2014 | 11:02:23 AM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
There is one more wrinkle that should be considered here. In our work on knowledge transfer we are routinely called in because of the aging worker issue but we coach our clients that demographics is only one of several risk factors to consider. We would rather have them focus on deconstructing and replicating the expertise of their critical (often silo'd) professionals regardless of their age. With IT transformation, this is more important than ever because the younger experts are more mobile and could easily leave before the boomers they were hired to replace. I've written a white paper on the subject of "Preserving Your Secret Sauce" that you might find helpful. www.stevetrautman.com
Steve Trautman
50%
50%
Steve Trautman,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2014 | 10:46:33 AM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
I agree, Kelly. Knowledge Transfer between generations is a critical component to making IT transformation smooth. In our work on the subject, we've found that putting the newer workers in charge of driving their own onboarding and knowledge transfer helps reduce the pressure on the busy experts and allows the ramp up to productivity to be reduced by 50% or more. That is good for millenials who are eager to make a difference, good for the customer experience, and good for the bottom line as well. I've written a blog post on cross-generational knowledge transfer http://stevetrautman.com/rethi... that you might find interesting.
KBurger
50%
50%
KBurger,
User Rank: Author
5/15/2014 | 5:39:55 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
Yes, that was (part of) his point -- it's not that these folks are obsolete, rather that their institutional knowledge has become so rare & critical that they tend to be locked into certain functions because no one else has that knowledge. That's not good for morale, and it contributes to functional silos, too. In a way this also speaks to the need for/value of a more team-oriented, collaborative approach to IT and IT-related functions, so the knowledge is shared.
Nathan Golia
50%
50%
Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2014 | 7:47:20 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
Schwartz's point about knowing how much time everyone has left, so to speak, seems really crucial in an industry facing disruption. Some people might be the last ones to perform a certain function in the history of the enterprise. It's important to identify what knowledge needs to be passed on.
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
5/13/2014 | 6:00:50 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
We do! I would definitely agree with that.
KBurger
50%
50%
KBurger,
User Rank: Author
5/13/2014 | 5:30:48 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
We live that every day at Insurance & Technology, right (I hope)?
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
5/13/2014 | 4:37:06 PM
re: How To Build A Great Insurance IT Workforce
I like the point that Hackney made about having the younger and older generations work together. The two groups have a lot to teach and learn from one another, and their collaboration can undoubtedly result in a stronger workforce overall.
Register for Insurance & Technology Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Slideshows
Video