Securing Strong Leaders for a Successful Future

Posted by Mike Abate

The insurance industry has been in a state of transformation throughout the past three years. We’ve experienced the height of a global pandemic, the most challenging labor market on record, and now, what looks like the beginning of a more stable future. Leaders have managed through the shift to fully virtual environments, “the Great Resignation” and evolving employee/employer relationship dynamics. As insurers define their future expectations and adjust to post-pandemic norms, having the right leadership in place is essential. 

Securing Strong Leaders for a Successful Future1-01However, the roles of today’s executives have evolved, as they are not only responsible for owning business strategy and priorities; they must also visibly demonstrate corporate values and culture in environments that are largely virtual. At the same time, the ability to inspire productivity and innovation, while fostering a sense of loyalty across multiple locations, personalities and time zones is essential. Whether you’re recruiting for this talent or building it from within, it’s vital to retain and grow leaders by not only offering competitive compensation, but also being intentional with development opportunities; cultivating a sense of meaning and purpose; and providing flexibility in where, when and how work gets done. 

Embrace changing expectations.
The pandemic has played a unique role in transforming business as we know it. Previously, employee attitudes and expectations have largely ebbed and flowed along with the health of the economy; however, the pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in professionals’ values and priorities. Despite a looming recession, it’s unlikely some of these sentiments will change – especially around desired flexibility and work-life balance. Currently, 92% of insurers are offering hybrid work options; those that maintain rigid requirements are likely to lose out on top talent – regardless of salary. Be thoughtful with in-office work and grant flexibility in hours and locations when possible, encouraging those at the helm to lead by example and set the tone that permeates throughout all organizational ranks. 

Securing Strong Leaders for a Successful Future-03

Provide support for success.
Many of today’s leaders have never had formal training around managing and motivating teams within virtual and hybrid environments. However, being able to foster connections and engagement across locations and varying work styles may not come naturally – and successful in-person tactics do not always directly translate. Ensure you’re providing the tools, coaching and support to help individuals hone their management styles to be effective in the current environment. This not only increases team productivity, but also contributes to engagement and retention across the entire organization. 

Emphasize emotional intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are more likely to have strong internal relationships, contribute to productive problem-solving and effectively work through conflict. The ability to have difficult and respectful conversations – especially in virtual settings, where physical cues and body language are minimized – often sets the greatest leaders apart. Organizations may consider providing formal emotional intelligence training, while encouraging ongoing practice and growth at all levels, including middle management and individual contributors.  

Securing Strong Leaders for a Successful Future-02Take a comprehensive approach to retention and
succession planning.

The industry’s workforce is aging, with 25% of insurance professionals aged 55 and older. However, 38% of insurers have no formal succession plans in place. While CEO and executive-level succession planning is a key focus for most organizations, it’s also important to think past the top-tier of leadership and into director and middle management roles. Identify your high potential employees and consider how they can be given the exposure, growth opportunities and challenges that can mold them into tomorrow’s executives. Encourage transparent and ongoing communication in the form of “stay interviews,” and create clear career paths to ensure your goals remain aligned to their professional aspirations. 

As the industry settles into new ways of working, strong leadership and a focus on the future is essential. By focusing on growing and engaging leaders, while offering support, flexibility and development opportunities, you’ll be best positioned to attract and retain the talent that will move your organization forward.