TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER IMAGES: LAURA MARTÍNEZ LOMBARDIA
For the young people who participated in a study carried out by Fundación MAPFRE, the insurance industry makes “a valuable contribution to society, and offers peace of mind and stability to both individuals and companies.” However, these values do not appear to be sufficient to stimulate their desire to work in this sector. The lack of knowledge of the professional openings offered by insurance companies is a major problem for the perception of the sector as a future employer, when it really does offer great career prospects to talented youngsters.
Insurance is at the tail end of the preferences young people express regarding the business sectors in which they would like to work. Six out of ten young people openly declare that they do not want to work in the insurance industry. This is the devastating conclusion of the report “Study of Employer Branding in the Spanish Insurance Industry”, drawn up insurance industry specialist researchers Jorge Martínez Rivera and Patricia Sánchez Ruiz, thanks to a research grant awarded by Fundación MAPFRE. The report, the first sectoral employer branding study conducted in Spain, tapped into the opinions of a sample of 1,132 people who are about to join the labor market.
This survey reveals that the insurance industry has an alarming lack of appeal, when compared to others such as Technology, Communication and Marketing, or Education, which occupy the top three spots in this ranking of preferences. 57 percent of respondents feel that the jobs people do in the insurance industry are repetitive and lack variety. More worrying, if possible, is the fact that 50 percent of the sample believe that people working in insurance do so because “it’s the job they found and not because they like this sector.”
With these data, it seems unlikely that the insurance industry could possibly compete in terms of appeal with shining stars like Google, Microsoft or Netflix. But experts believe that, with appropriate employer branding policies, it should indeed aspire to successfully challenge the banking, consulting or auditing sectors and grab the attention of young people. On paper, they are in their same league – traditional industries with scant digitization – and, nonetheless, young talent seem to find them a great deal more attractive. Jorge Martínez Ramallo blames image considerations for these differences. “In terms of hiring volumes, for example, insurance is way above banking nowadays. But they’ve been better able to sell their sector,” he concludes.
This situation has not caught professionals in this field by surprise, and they do not shy away from a mea culpa. “The image we insurers project among our potential employees is long outdated and, to a large degree, that is our fault. Probably because we never needed to worry about it before,” Jorge Martínez Ramallo admits. However, given the current transformations all around us, it’s essential to be capable of attracting the best professionals in the digital sector, for example. “The insurance industry is facing major technological challenges and, in order to successfully tackle such a profound change process, it needs to be able to attract a new kind of talent.” In this context, boosting employer branding is key to being able to bring on board the very best specialists in fields such as digitization, advanced marketing or big data. The problem with a weak employer brand, this expert adds, is that “you have to invest more time and resources to attract the same talent and, what’s more, you end up having to pay more for it. Not to mention the increased risk of delays or, even, failure to complete the needed transformation.”
Reasons for this disenchantment
The lack of knowledge of the career possibilities offered by insurance companies is one of the major obstacles the industry faces in order to appeal more to prospective employees. The fact is that the image the industry has traditionally put across focuses almost exclusively on the commercial side. 59 percent of respondents do not know one single kind of job performed in the insurance industry apart from those related to sales. And, while the sales aspect is undoubtedly fundamental in insurance, it is clearly not the most motivating. “Hardly anyone studying a career has the goal of selling anything; rather, they usually aspire to more technical career prospects,” explains Adrián Gutiérrez de la Dehesa, from the Insurance and Social Protection Area at Fundación MAPFRE.
There is also an emotional barrier which points to a lessthan- desirable perception in the outside world of such an important sector as this, economically and socially speaking. Complex, dull, stagnant or somewhat outdated are labels that, rightly or wrongly, the insurance industry has acquired over time and which have led to young people failing to identify with it, or simply shun this sector altogether.
Reversing the situation
The biggest challenge entails putting across a more attractive value proposition as an employer in an industry which, in fact, has a great deal to offer young professionals in virtually every specialty. “Obviously, economists and lawyers are the professions with the greatest prospects in our sector. However, today’s insurance world offers tremendous career opportunities for specialists in fields as diverse as data analysis, big data, digital marketing, statistics, investment, pedagogy, journalism and, even, history,” Mr. Gutiérrez de la Dehesa goes on.
Among the employer credentials in this sector, the report has identified seven: recruitment capability, job stability, aboveaverage remuneration, high level of investment in training, work-life balance, gender equality, and career opportunities. However, in addition to objective elements, the experts emphasize the need to highlight questions such as a commitment to protecting people and property, fostering entrepreneurship, the culture of savings and investment, or the highly important social actions undertaken by insurance companies, undoubtedly an excellent presentation card and elements that deserve to be highlighted.
The study reveals significant discrepancy between the external and internal image. It is hard to attract new talent; however, the satisfaction levels of the people working in insurance are high. This opens up interesting possibilities for striving to reinforce the employer brand, precisely by turning to our current employees. “Our workers are in a position to be the ideal brand ambassadors for this industry. If employees receive positive signs from their company, their natural reaction is to share them. Previously, they did so exclusively among their circle of friends and acquaintances. But now, thanks to social media, the scope of that message is much greater,” Jorge Martínez Ramallo stresses.
The sector is trying to turn this image around by means of communication and educational campaigns.
Fundación MAPFRE is committed to a close relationship with the university world, as this is an important area for attracting talent, as well as to information campaigns among students, surprisingly effective when it comes to changing their attitude to this sector. This was plainly evident at the pilot event held on the Badajoz campus of the University of Extremadura, where the conclusions of this report were presented. At its conclusion, by means of a mobile application, the university students in attendance had the chance to answer the same questions posed in the survey, “and the results were manifestly more positive,” Adrián Gutiérrez de la Dehesa underscores. This has already been repeated at five universities and further workshops are planned for the near future. As this specialist sums it up, “it’s a question of getting university students to realize that, in insurance, there exists innovation, social commitment, entrepreneurship, new ways of working, etc. Helping them to understand that the world of insurance is much more than issuing a receipt for an auto policy and collecting it.” Another initiative in this direction is that of the UNESPA (Association of Spanish Insurers and Reinsurers), which is campaigning to attract young talent through the creation of a transparency portal and a guide to simplify insurance jargon, among other endeavors
Educate from the ground up
Fundación MAPFRE is intensely involved in “fostering a culture of insurance and facilitating greater knowledge of the reality of this industry among the public at large,” declares Adrián Gutiérrez de la Dehesa, from Fundación MAPFRE’s Insurance & Social Protection Area. With this commitment in mind, the institution runs a range of campaigns targeting students of different ages and educational levels. “Last year, for example, classroom workshops were attended by 26,000 secondary education pupils between the ages of 12 and 16,” Mr. Gutiérrez de la Dehesa reminds us.
Another benchmark campaign is bugaMAP, a business simulation game. Each year 2,000 economic students – in their final years or taking postgraduate courses – from universities in ten different countries participate. The initiative starts with a one-hour classroom session in which participants receive training on the operation of an insurance company, as well as on various technical aspects of its business operations. Later, for three or four hours, the students are organized into teams and participate in a role-playing competition in which they must undertake financial, risk, balance sheet or product analyses, and, on the basis of the results, make their own business decisions.