Building Up Underwriting Talent: A Three-Step Program for a Four-Generation Workforce

Over the last decade, we have seen an unprecedented shift in the makeup of the underwriting workforce in insurance. As of 2020, Millennials and Gen Z combined to make up 43% of the workforce – and that number is growing quickly. Today, that means companies employ four generations of people with a wide range of life, professional and technological experience to account for.

It’s not a stretch to say that the formative experiences for each generation tend to create some similarities in how individuals approach their work. Take the process of writing a research paper in college. Baby Boomers went to college in the pre-internet era, where they had to do painstaking research on a microfiche machine – getting a reference from a book, finding the right microfilm and then hoping it was what they needed. Gen X could tap into the power of the early internet, with a single search term yielding dozens of research references available via a single click. The efficiencies have only accelerated since then, with Millennials able to download e-books instantly and Gen Z now able to leverage the power of ChatGPT to source the material and specific points needed to support their work.

The evolution of the tools available has been truly mind-blowing and set very different precedents for how each generation will approach their daily work life, as well as what their expectations are about their day-to-day work. How do we take advantage of this moment and capitalize on each generation’s strengths?

The stakes are high. Successfully bringing together these disparate generations will lead to the entire workforce being engaged in the challenges facing underwriting today, from cyber risk to climate change to enhancing client service. Failure to do so will result in continued difficulties around workforce shortages and changing risks, to the detriment of clients. To help the industry navigate this shift, we’d like to share a three-step plan to bring these generations, with all their inherent capabilities, together to increase capacity and capabilities in underwriting.

The first step is to create partnership between the generations. Just imagine what this partnership could look like: a Gen Z or Millennial early-career underwriter gets to enable technology for their very experienced partner, while the partner teaches them how to apply everything they know about evaluating risk. This kind of partnership would even reduce key-person risk as the junior builds knowledge and relationships alongside their mentor. The success of this approach hinges on having the right collaboration tools, allowing older workers to choose their mentees and making the partnership collectively responsible for work.

The second step is to engage team members in determining what the new work world looks like. Today’s underwriters have the opportunity to create a new paradigm, and each generation has its own experiences to add. By facilitating workshops or building teams dedicated to defining how technology will be used or how emerging trends can be incorporated into products, organizations can create powerful new ideas for meeting the challenges of this unfamiliar world, as well as activating the team to help along the way.

The final step is straightforward, but crucial: investing heavily in training and development programs. In a PWC survey, about 29% of Baby Boomers and 44% of Gen Z insurance professionals felt they weren’t getting enough training on technology and digitalization from their employers. You don’t need to create these programs from scratch – there are great resources available that offer off-the-shelf training, and many software and data vendors are more than willing to help train your underwriters. The key to this kind of professional development is making it more than just a one-and-done program. Continuously investing in your team will provide ongoing capability development to help meet the challenges ahead in underwriting.

These three steps are each useful on their own, but they are exponentially more powerful when used in concert. This moment is an incredible opportunity for all of us working in talent. We have the chance to use a multi-generational workforce to pave the way for the future of underwriting, which will help the insurance industry define new ways of working and create new products that better protect clients from the new risks they are facing. Just as important, it will meet younger generations’ expectation of advanced technology and service to the community, attracting new talent to this workforce.