The Talent Trap – Why the insurance industry needs to implement retention strategies that start with the recruitment process.

Last week I wrote about the potential impact of Brexit on the insurance industry and why staff involved in recruitment should focus on having solid staffing strategies in place; one of which should focus on how they retain their best people.

With the average staff turnover in Ireland around 11% – and the typical cost of replacing an employee nearly €13,000 –  the industry needs to consider wholesale strategies to increase retention rates.

If you have gone to the effort of recruiting someone you don’t want to be repeating the process any sooner than is absolutely necessary. From the moment someone applies, up to when they resign, you need a clear strategy that shows you’ve done everything possible to keep them.

But if you consider an employee’s ‘life-cycle’ within your organisation, many businesses look at the immediate needs in a functional way: This role does X, X contributes to Y, Y delivers Z. Therefore we need someone who can do X.

Hiring someone based on their ability to do a single role can often mean they quickly outgrow the position and responsibilities they were hired for. If they fail to see an obvious path for career progression then you may find yourself with an unhappy, and unproductive, employee.

Taking time to think about internal strategies and processes means staff see new opportunities, know what they are working towards, and have greater job satisfaction, while you benefit from increased productivity, improved working environment and optimal business performance.

Having a framework to maximise these means you are constantly striving to develop your business through employing the best talent on the market. But how do you achieve this in the recruitment phase?

A fool proof process

Some of the insurance industry businesses I work with think they do what they need to hire the best people, but the reality is that they often do the lowest common denominator of work to recruit. They write a job description, place an advert, review applications, interview and offer.

Why? Because that’s how they’ve always done it. Or if they are re-recruiting a role they don’t have time to think about doing something in a different way. They need to hire someone as quickly as possible but without necessarily taking the time to ensure they’re getting the best available talent in the market.

Taking this rushed, “firefighting” approach can be too broad. How do you know you’re hiring the BEST?

  1. Be clear on what you want

If it’s a new role, or you are updating an existing job description, know what you need that position to do, how it will contribute to the company’s bottom line and what skills are required. Don’t stop there – think two years down the line, could that person move into a new job within the organisation? What will they have achieved in their first 12 months?

  • Write a job description and person specification

Yes it’s obvious but here you have a chance to narrow down the skills and expertise vital to your company. Think about the role you are recruiting for and the person who it would suit. Give key responsibilities and the characteristics applicants need to demonstrate. What skills should applicants possess that you don’t have time to train them in?

  • Be selective with your advertising

Where you place an advert can determine the quality of applicants you are likely to attract. If its entry level this might not matter as much, but for more technical or senior roles in the insurance industry consider specific job sites or specialist recruitment support.

  • Review applications

A quality candidate will quickly make their skills known. Depending on your application method – CV-based or Q&A – you’ll quickly determine which ones stand out. It’s also a good chance to see any wildcards that could be worth considering in the interviews. Remember not to judge a book by its cover either. Some of the best talent may not look the best on paper.

  • Hold interviews/screening tests

If the role with an insurance company requires specific skills you should consider incorporating a test to demonstrate these. In the interview look at how the candidates demonstrate their knowledge and skills by asking probing questions to get detailed answers.

  • Check references

Rarely overlooked but often underestimated, it’s worth picking up the phone with a candidate’s referees. It gives you an opportunity to validate their credentials with an objective third party but also gain insights that may not come to light in the interview.

  • Have a clear induction process

Being the new person can be intimidating so put a structured induction together. Give a tour of the building, pre-arrange meetings with key staff, organise a welcome lunch, and talk about non-work issues.

Demonstrate that they made the right choice in coming to work for you. They won’t remember everything about their first day but they’ll remember how they felt when they walked in as your new employee and it’s important that they maintain that feeling.

Things to consider

By using tests you can measure how applicants react under duress. The best individuals will keep calm, identify the problem, demonstrate logic, and present a cool demeanour when faced with any challenge. People like this have confidence in their ability and make excellent employees.

Should they demonstrate this, and then become an employee, you need to do everything you can to create an environment that allows them to grow and flourish. Identify their career aspirations – discussing it in the interview – and create structures or opportunities that help them develop. By putting these in place at the outset, you’ll ensure that staff goals and company goals are aligned.

Applicants will get a sense from the interview whether the potential employer matches their career expectations. Demonstrating this from the job description to the advert, application process to the offer, is the best way to ensure low attrition rates of your top performing staff.


The goal of any company hiring new staff is to ensure that the business gets the best person for the job. Taking a half-hearted approach to your attraction and recruitment strategy will likely lead to attracting unqualified, unsuitable and unhappy employees.

At each stage of the interview process you are looking for candidates who’ll stand out in terms of their experience and skills but also people whom you can see fitting the culture of your company and who will contribute meaningfully to its growth. It requires that companies focus on creating job descriptions, adverts, and interview processes that support long-term retention strategies.

By demonstrating an approach to nurturing and developing your employees, throughout the whole recruitment process, you increase your chances of attracting the best talent available in the market but also of retaining that talent to sustain your business.

About Campbell Rochford

Campbell Rochford is a specialist executive and contingency search company with over 18 years’ experience of the Insurance sector.

We’re passionate about sourcing and placing the most difficult to fill roles in the market and our mantra is “Turning Good To Great”, meaning we turn good clients into great ones.

We provide a bespoke professional recruitment service that delivers quality results and we have an extensive network of clients and candidates throughout Ireland, UK, Europe, US, & Asia.

Our brand represents a fair, transparent and ethical recruitment service that has been developed through many years of successful recruitment assignments both in Ireland and overseas.

Are you worried about losing out on the best talent to other firms? Working with Campbell-Rochford means you’re never second-best. We help insurance industry firms recruit talent that makes a real impact to their business.

If you are an employer seeking to fill a specialised role call Gerard on 01-9065116, visit, or send me a LinkedIn message, to discuss your recruiting needs.

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