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Insurers should consider gig talent

A promising answer in the insurance industry talent crisis

Insurers are creating products for the gig economy but are they tapping it for talent?

With two-thirds of working Americans anticipated to take part in the gig economy in less than 10 years, the uber-traditional industry of insurance is making inroads into this paradigm. In the gig economy, there are all kinds of challenges in navigating liabilities and industry giants are assessing how to respond. A number of startups are emerging and products are already available to protect people doing work outside of a traditional employee-employer arrangement. 

Yet, there is another facet of this economy where insurers are lagging. Largely overlooked by the sector is the significant pool of talent available by tapping into the gig economy.

Much ink has been spilled over the past several years about the workforce shortage in insurance, along with much written about the variety of approaches leaders are taking to attract talent.

However, if human resources isn’t engaging this segment of qualified workers, they won’t even be on your hiring radar. These workers largely aren’t competing for traditional office-based work. Instead, they are using channels that focus on gig, contingent, independent contractor and other opportunities for work not based from a company office but rather a remote location — i.e., home. Check out our brief history of the phenomenon.

Freelance economy new normal

The global professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) confirms this workforce is here for the foreseeable future. “The gig economy—an economy that relies on freelance or contract workers—has moved from the margins to the mainstream,” EY reported in 2018. 

The article noted a 2016 survey indicating a significant portion of enterprise is leveraging this talent pool in a substantive way: “In 2016, 18 percent of the workforce at mid-market companies (with turnover of $100m to $5b) was contingent, a figure projected to reach 20 by 2020. At big companies (turnover above $5b), those numbers are 16 percent and 19 percent, respectively.”

“Technology is enabling companies to meet resource needs in new and flexible ways while also offering workers new ways to manage and build their careers,” EY stated.

This includes the insurance industry. Property Casualty 360 has reported how the gig economy can “shore up the insurance talent crisis.”

“Some insurers are still surprised to learn they can find consultant-level expertise on a temporary basis…They are drawn to the flexible lifestyle and diversity of projects unique to contract work. Leveraging years of hands-on knowledge, these subject matter experts are adept at jumping in and hitting the ground running in a comparatively short time period. They exhibit extreme flexibility, being able to quickly integrate into any work environment with limited assistance or training,” according to the 2019 article.

The article notes a 2018 study by Jacobson Group and Ward Group found 13 percent of insurers expect to increase their use of temporary staffing solutions in the next 12 months.

Industry giants already sourcing remote workers include Humana, United Health and Anthem.

Remote talent pool offers cost advantages

Companies report in a Forbes column that sourcing gig workers enables retention of expertise and access to skills not available within the existing workforce. 

“The desire to cut down the overheads will not likely disappear in the next few years. And with the rise of new technology for communication and remote collaboration, it may no longer even make sense to have all the staff being physically present in one space,” the column continued.

Equally appealing is the opportunity for cost reduction presented by the gig economy. EY reported 62 percent of big companies surveyed said the No. 1 driver is controlling labor costs.

Embracing remote workers enables knowledge retention

By making remote and other nontraditional work arrangements part of their regular recruitment strategy, insurers will stem the brain drain due to a flood of baby boomer retirements. Property Casualty 360 notes these workers are open to working in a remote capacity. 

“Older workers want to work beyond traditional retirement age for a variety of reasons: to supplement their retirement income, to remain active participants in an industry they’ve devoted their careers to, or to switch gears and contribute in a lower-stress position. But they don’t want to commute—they prefer working from home,” according to the industry news site.

“That mindset creates a large advantage for carriers. By embracing flexible work arrangements, carriers can retain the knowledge and skills possessed by the long-time workers who have helped their businesses grow and thrive. It takes rethinking the traditional workforce and embracing the potential that remote workers bring.”

Want to engage the remote workforce?

Experts recommend if your organization isn’t already using gig and remote workers broadly to take the temperature before proceeding. 

“Culture is fundamental. If work-from-home (WFH) days are frowned upon, the company is not yet in a place where a remote individual will thrive,” according to a Forbes Human Resources Council contributor. 

“In order to hire any new employees remotely, companies should look at how they reward or punish remote work for the current team,” the column continued.

When company culture seems aligned for gig and remote workers to succeed, the next step is investigating company policies. 

If you’re among the estimated 57 percent of companies without a policy around remote work, your effort to bring on talent from the open economy will encounter unnecessary challenges. So it’s in your best interest to make clear policy first and clear your path. 

Ready for gig talent? 

A growing number of online platforms connect talent with hiring managers. Small business owners and enterprise leaders alike are using apps—or “platforms” as they’re more commonly called in corporate-speak—to source this talent.

For instance, WeGoLook sources gig workers who provide asset verification and related services.

Organizations seeking customer service and claims reps, licensed and non-licensed agents, and other experienced insurance professionals should explore possibilities from Liveops, which engages a 20,000-person plus workforce across the United States. Learn more about Liveops solutions for insurance. 

Jessica Kauffman

Jessica Kauffman

Jessica Kauffman works with leading organizations to help them understand the impact agent talent has in the contact center, and how to tap into new and growing agent talent pools at Liveops. With more than 10 years working with major insurers, utilities and communication companies, Jessica is passionate about the workforce trends in today’s evolving economy and improving customer experience outcomes through talent.