2016 saw a significant surge of growth in the Irish economy, with many predicting a return to the boom times. From a recruitment perspective the signs are certainly encouraging – unemployment levels fell to a new low of 7.3% in November. Whilst this is still a far cry from the record level of 3.7% recorded in December 2000, it is a positive indicator of the relative economic health of our nation.

As a Recruitment Specialist I have seen a steady growth month on month of new Financial Services jobs hitting the market, specifically within the insurance sector. A renewed confidence has returned with gusto and many employers are becoming increasingly competitive when it comes to attracting relevant talent in their respective specialisms. In an age where the conventional is often seen as naff and boring, employers are seeking to differentiate themselves from their competitors by creating more imaginative and eye catching job adverts, tailored to appeal to the most discerning job seeker. But the question remains – is that enough to really capture the best insurance talent available?

 

The insurance landscape

From an insurance perspective, 2016 saw its fair share of ups and downs. A Deloitte report earlier in the year opined that the traditional business models are in jeopardy and that the sector faces a period of disruption in the shape of enhanced connectivity, an evolving risk-transfer process, emerging capital sources and a more sharing economy. Taking the enhanced connectivity point, there has certainly been a noted increase in customers’ expectations of a more personalised insurance offering. I call this ‘the app effect’ because there seems to be an application designed for pretty much everything these days.

As consumers we’re more cash rich and time poor than our predecessors with the result that we demand instant gratification and bespoke services from our insurance providers. Ironically despite being more connected than ever before, the underwriters and risk assessors are getting further away from the end users. This is due to increasingly demanding consumers, increased competition and a rising cost base, leading many insurers to actively push more and more business down their online channels.

 

Digital job searching

Looking further at how this enhanced connectivity has impacted the recruitment market, we’re more connected now than at any point in our history and one would imagine therefore that the gap between employer and job seeker has narrowed significantly. This isn’t the case.

The reality is that for many finding the right job or the right hire is just as difficult as it ever was. Yes, advances in online technology have significantly improved the process and ended the traditional methods of job application such as posting or hand delivering CV’s and cover letters to a company. What once took days to reach the employer now takes seconds via email or one of the several online media platforms that we use. However, the relative ease with which we communicate in an online society has it downsides. It is incredibly difficult for many employers to stand out from the noise and differentiate themselves sufficiently to attract the talent they want to hire. From a job seekers point of view, how do you sift through the thousands of jobs advertised and decide which is the best option for your career?

The concept of building a platform to connect job seekers with employers is hardly new. Newspapers have been running job adverts for nigh on 200 years now, but hardly anyone buys a newspaper for the purpose of searching for a job any longer. Why pay €2–€3 for a paper with a limited selection of jobs when you can log online and view thousands of job adverts with a few clicks of a mouse? Online job boards offer a virtual buffet of jobs suitable for all tastes and aspirations but there has been a steady move away from these platforms with the result that both the employers and the job seekers have moved their search elsewhere.

 

The role of social media

In recent years job boards are being replaced by online communities where sharing insights and market knowledge have become the norm. Sites such as Glassdoor, TalentPool and other Crowdsourcing sites are rapidly replacing what a few short years ago was considered a cornerstone of the job seeking process. For many job seekers their default research tools of the past were to seek out other employees who could provide them with relevant market and company insights. Nowadays job seekers have numerous online access points to reach the most desirable employers and their information. Hiring companies have been quick to exploit their online footprint to hoover up the brightest and best talent in the market by capitalising on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. These are now considered the go to sources of the best jobs and people available in the insurance sector.

Even the technology used to search for jobs has changed as we move steadily away from desktops and laptops to mobile. Most people now have a smartphone and the job search process can be conducted anywhere. Some job seekers even use them to conduct video interviews with potential employers with many companies seeking to screen prospective candidates without the commitment of a face to face interview. Social media sites and job search apps are overtaking and replacing face to face networking and companies and recruiters are increasingly turning to these to post jobs and identify suitable candidates. By getting ahead of the technology curve now, job seekers will be more prepared for the changes that will happen down the line.

 

A flexible future

The future of the job market in Ireland is going to be more transparent and fluid. Gone are the days when you left school or university, got a job in one sector and there you remained until you retired. With an ever increasing life expectancy, people will be in a position to squeeze multiple career choices into their lifespans and the good news is that this will be perfectly normal and acceptable. Improvements in education and technology will mean that skillsets are more fluid and transferable, which is terrific news for those considering a job or career change. It will for some time be considered disruptive but ultimately unemployment will become a thing of the past.

Recent studies have shown that up to 13% of the workforce work from home currently, with the expectation that this will rise to 23% within 3 years. With over 70% of the population owning smartphones and broadband connectivity increasing throughout the country, your 9–5 job in insurance may no longer be in the office in Dublin, Cork or Limerick but in your kitchen, living room or back garden. Many large technology firms are actively targeting talent by offering a better work/life balance and affording more opportunities to work from home. This could be the way forward for insurance companies too. The benefits are immediately clear – they can attract a better quality of hire by spreading their recruitment net further than a particular demographic or geographic area and reduce their cost base by removing expensive office rents. Potential employees can schedule the work around their lifestyles and in years ahead the very idea of working in one fixed place at one terminal will seem antiquated and Jurassic.

How all of this will impact the job seeker of the future remains unclear but flexible working arrangements will consequently demand a more flexible employee. All aspiring insurance professionals will have to be more tech savvy than at any time in the past to avail of the best career opportunities. Job titles and responsibilities will increasingly be fluid and evolving. The underwriter of today will be the underwriting/claims/customer service expert of tomorrow with significant IT skills to match. Technological advances will continue to drive a more ‘social’ job seeking route to market with the insurance sector ideally primed to attract the best talent available by being ahead of the technology curve and being more socially engaged. It will be an increasingly competitive market for talent, with only the most up to date, advanced and flexible employers attracting the best job seekers.

The era of ‘social recruiting’ is already upon us. Job seekers perspectives of brands and companies and their expectations of what they can deliver in terms of working environments, hours, work/life balance and remuneration are significantly different from those of even five years ago. The job seeker of the future will think differently, act differently and will consequently demand an employer that does likewise. Insurers that are alive to these changes will ultimately benefit sooner than their competitors because they will be technologically, socially and environmentally ahead of the game. It will be an interesting period in the evolution of the insurance market but one that ultimately should deliver a better quality of hire and a more engaged service provider.

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