The Indian insurance industry is experiencing phenomenal change at a rate that has not been seen in years. Regulations that govern the industry are changing even while innovations, such as telematics and wearable health/fitness devices continue to shift the way insurers analyse customer behaviour and sell their products. Customer expectations for how they will interact with their insurers are also on a constant rise, making it all the more important for insurers to provide superior-quality customer service experience.
All these factors combined together are creating a wave for insurers and making it all the more critical for them to evaluate and tackle the associated human capital challenges. When left unaddressed, these can prevent them from successfully meeting the changing demands of the market.
Here are some human resource trends that are expected in the insurance sector in 2017:
1. Greater participation
Human resources will continually play a vital role in achieving an organisation’s goals and objectives without limiting itself to being a cost centre for the company. HR will enhance its role as a true business partner. An HR professional will have to focus and participate in all business aspects including strategy, planning and execution. The kind of growth that is expected of a business is directly proportional to how the HR team functions, and hence, evolving and changing with time to meet the growing needs of business challenges will be crucial.
With the spontaneous advancements taking shape in business dynamics, roles and responsibilities and expectations from HR are enduring numerous alterations. In today’s growth-oriented market, which faces extreme tough competition, an HR professional is expected to be capable of being more challenging and tactical, in its day-to-day role.
2. Enhanced job responsibilities
Human resource personnel face multi-faceted challenges. In today’s talent economy, where the trends of individuality and incorporation shape the way business is done, it is up to the HR to keep pace with such transformations and comprehend the various trends in the workforce. With retention on a steady rise, an HR professional needs to ensure that the right talent is attracted and taken on board. They also need to confirm that employees are quickly able to take up challenges, facilitate a healthy work environment and create a culture that is encouraging for employees to advance themselves and give their best. However, such issues cannot be addressed or resolved with old school thoughts and strategies.
3. Working with the millennials
Hiring fresh talent right out of college is defying some established ground rules of how companies function and is changing today’s corporate culture. Companies are discovering that there are diverse attitudes and work habits that need to be assimilated into the existing work culture.
Consequently, one of the chief goals that an HR has is to create an environment that constantly offers opportunities for further learning, spontaneous growth, overall development and satisfaction of the ‘human capital’. Newer employees are also less dedicated to sticking to one company, either due to loyalty issues, more lucrative opportunities or sheer boredom. Thus, in order to meet the objectives of low turnover rate, reduced recruitment costs and a highly motivated human capital at work, HR has to engage itself in effective planning, mega communication and collaborative execution.
4. Staying abreast with technology
Profitable growth is the top priority for any business, even insurance providers. Competition is fierce and as the digital age progresses, businesses are finding innovative ways to leverage technology and take advantage of them.
Such powerful technological advancements demand HR to become more tech savvy and also get advanced tools deployed at the workplace. Today’s employees would want to be on the move while carrying out their HR jobs including attendance, leave requests, query management and resolution. through effective use of mobile apps. HR professionals will have to deviate from traditional methods of approaching people issues and become more technology oriented. The millennial employees expect HR and their managers to connect with them using online tools instead of outdated face-to-face conversations. The workforce today wants a more connected environment to work in, where they can freely use their mobile phones and social networks. While the insurance industry has been regulated and has been maintaining strict rules on what employees can access at office, the game rules may have to change if they do not want to lose out on top talent.
5. Predictive analytics and big data
Insurance companies will have to embrace predictive analysis and big data to unleash the power of intelligence, to process complex data source variables into relevant data for actionable insights.
While predictive analytics requires deep data, insurers today, who often work with silos of information, need to recognise the fact that a good analytics dataset can typically consist of a mix of integrated data —customer data, historical policies or product data—and agent performance records. Since today’s talent works for far more hours than expected, if they aren't able to produce, they will end up moving on to an entirely different industry. The financial industry is cut-throat and many companies understand that only a small percentage will be able to make it. By recognising this, HR can help the workforce reap the benefits of predictive analytics in the insurance business.
6. Dynamic internal challenges
Internal challenges would continue to have an impact in the coming years including infrastructure, workforce planning and management, cost management, training & development. Training & development will become more and more demanding, not only for internal employees but also in meeting the expectations of intermediaries and partner employees, to enhance their capabilities and make them a part of the sales channel.
These challenges check HR’s ability to adapt to the changing business environment, how they improve work efficiency and capitalise on growth in the sector. HR needs to analyse, innovate and reconstruct existing policies in order to keep up with such frequent changes.
An efficient way to earn an edge over competition is to stay updated on the latest technology relevant to the company’s growth. HR should work closely with the companies’ IT function in order to understand the specific set of skills required by an employee, who will make a significant contribution towards the company’s growth.
7. Recruiting a diverse workforce
More than any other industry, the insurance sector is experiencing more pressure to embrace diversity in the workplace. Many have felt that while companies talk about diversity, opportunities haven’t been equal for all. HR professionals have to start recruiting people from diverse backgrounds in order for the insurance industry to stay relevant, innovative and progressive.
In the impending era of human–machine collaboration, many aspects of how employees currently work will drastically change. Jobs, organisations, management practices, and many other aspects of work will have to be thoughtfully and deliberately redesigned. Though these changes bring ambiguity, they are exciting for insurers, employees and customers alike. With rapid, unpredictable and profound transformation underway in the industry, the issues HR must face have increased manifold and call for rapid involvement. There is a need for HR to create new models and strategies, to be able to evolve and adapt to such changes.
(The author is chief people officer & CISO, Apollo Munich Health Insurance.)