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FORECAST 2024: Talent Challenges


Tammy M. Appel
Contributing Editor

January 2024

Attracting younger workers has often been a challenge for our industry. We asked Forecast survey participants what their company is doing differently in this tight job market to recruit and develop new talent at the home office and in the field. They agree that the war for talent is real and increasingly competitive. To effectively attract and retain talent, executives say in addition to flexibility, insurers need to offer a strong value proposition, as well as a compelling corporate culture. 

Most of the executives say they partner with high schools and universities to help connect them with new talent. We’ve expanded a program we call Unum Scholars, where we offer part-time employment to full-time college students,” says Mike Simonds, Chief Operating Officer, Unum Group. “A large percentage of scholars end up being offered and accepting full-time employment upon graduation. The performance and retention of these individuals tend to be stronger than the average new college hire, and we are able to pull in many talented and diverse people who did not have ‘insurance’ on their radar.”

Ron Herrmann, EVP, Head of RGA Americas, RGA, says RGA offers both high school and college intern programs. According to Hermann, RGA has a “High School Actuarial Day” with presentations from actuaries reviewing their education and careers in the actuarial field and an eight- to 10-week high school internship program. RGA also has a 10-week college intern program.

“One key enabler of our approach is Northwestern Mutual’s industry-leading internship program,” says Kamilah Williams-Kemp, EVP & Chief Insurance Officer, Northwestern Mutual. “We have interns who represent 500 different colleges and universities nationwide. We’ve also developed a new national training program — designed in close collaboration with our field. We’re also intentional about recruiting and developing advisors who are passionate about holistic financial planning. They care about our mission to help more Americans build financial security, and they want to provide their clients with the best possible products, plans and outcomes. In 2023, our advisors have never been more diverse or productive.”

“We are actively engaging students directly through collaboration with local universities and at job fairs, showcasing a dynamic work environment with a unique culture and compelling campus features like our gym, collaborative workspaces, professional development opportunities and well-being resources,” says Mark Holweger, President & Chief Executive Officer, Legal & General America. “We offer young professionals a growth platform, primed for collaboration and innovation, to make a difference in our industry.”

“Early career talent is a focus as we implement 'build' talent strategies for actuaries, IT/data and sales,” says Adrian Griggs, EVP & Chief Operating Officer, Pacific Life. “We have a dedicated university relations team that focuses on hiring interns that are converted to full-time hires. This is accomplished through campus recruiting and relationships with diversity organizations aligned with our business functions. Our early career talent typically starts in a rotation program that helps them assimilate into the organization and gain a variety of experiences.” 

Chris Blunt, President & Chief Executive Officer, F&G, says F&G has a large and effective internship program and focuses on the rapidly growing cultural markets for new agent recruitment.

“When it comes to recruitment, many of our teams are actively on campuses presenting to groups of students about careers in insurance,” Wade Harrison, EVP & Chief Retail Officer, Protective Life says. “Additionally, I have had the great opportunity to serve as an adjunct professor with The University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Business, teaching under the Risk Management, Insurance & Financial Services, and Actuarial Science undergraduate degree program and to be a part of the university’s Actuary Advisory Council. Opportunities like these help Protective stay in tune with students and develop curriculum that will expose them to careers in insurance, while giving them the knowledge they need to succeed following graduation.”

Aaron Ball, SVP & Co-Head of the Foundational Business, New York Life, says that New York Life is redesigning its employee value proposition and recruiting strategy to attract both younger and more diverse talent.

Some of the top priorities for younger workers are flexibility, training and development, as well as a company that’s purpose aligns with their values. “The next generation of talent is seeking more than just a job,” says Holweger. “They are searching for a positive learning environment where they can thrive and make a meaningful impact.”

“Many of today’s new hires want to work for a company and industry that can make a difference in the world,” says Joe Monk, SVP, Financial Services, State Farm. “Insurance is one of those industries that is necessary to help people recover from the unexpected loss of a loved one, help people plan for and manage retirement, and invest in communities to improve all our lives. We must be able to market who we are to attract top talent and help fill roles from the large number of employees reaching retirement age. Retaining talent will continue to be a challenge for all industries. Workforce flexibility will be necessary to manage job openings and skill sets required.”

“We have really taken the time to ground our company in our purpose — helping people, businesses and institutions reach their long-term financial goals and access greater financial security,” says Amy Friedrich, President, Benefits and Protection, Principal Financial Group. “We infuse our purpose into everything we do, enabling our employees to connect their work back to the meaningful impact we have on our customers.”

“Specific to new talent, we’ve seen that leaning into career development has really helped attract, develop and retain employees at Principal, helping our new hire turnover remain mostly flat over the last couple of years,” she adds. “While development is important at any stage of an employee’s career, we’ve seen things like our Leader Development Program, participation in Iowa’s iJag program, our new Career Development Network, and efforts like new employee networking hours pay off with those looking for enhanced levels of engagement.”

Gordon Watson, Chairman, AXA Asia, agrees that corporate culture is “a key factor in attracting talent.” He says AXA actively promotes diversity and inclusion, regularly surveys staff and targets improvements in eNPS scores, provides structured training and career development, and offers flexible working arrangements, including work-from-home options.

“Our focus is on providing an engaging culture that aligns with our mission, as well as interesting work that makes a difference in the lives of our members and the communities they live in,” says Denise McCauley, President & Chief Executive Officer, WoodmenLife.

“What aren’t we doing to attract younger workers, and talent of all generations, is the better question,” says Paul LaPiana, Head of Brand, Product & Affiliated Distribution, MassMutual. “In addition to our long-standing ‘continuous learning’ culture and professional development opportunities, MassMutual offers hybrid work arrangements and companywide remote days and weeks in addition to generous time off that includes time for caregiving and volunteerism. Our robust employee benefits package includes enviable retirement plan offerings and tuition reimbursement, as well as a well-being wallet. Since introducing a well-being wallet in early 2023, we have paid out over $4 million to nearly 4,400 employees for items such as athletic equipment, fitness classes, childcare, student loan payments, wearable devices and apps, and so much more.”

“At our headquarters, young talent is attracted to Northwestern Mutual’s noble mission and vision,” says Williams-Kemp. “Few organizations enable you to help millions of Americans achieve their dreams and protect what matters most. We know that young people are mission-oriented, and they are a good fit for our mission-driven company. We’re also staying committed to our employee value proposition and to providing an exceptional and inclusive workplace. Northwestern Mutual continues to see high employee engagement scores across the board — with strong scores across gender, race, tenure and more.”

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