The insurance industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of change. Within the next few years, nearly 400,000 employees are expected to retire, a massive number that promises to upend the composition of the industry’s workforce and leadership succession pipelines. At the same time, insurance companies are also experiencing technological disruption that is transforming the way they deliver services and fundamentally altering what people expect from an insurance company. These challenges demand a specific set of leadership qualities and skills.
Change can be difficult for organizations that are heavily dependent upon legacy infrastructure and business practices that were developed for a different market than the one they’re facing today. Many insurance companies fall into this category. Their aging technological capabilities make it difficult for them to deliver the services a new generation of customers expects.
At the same time, the industry struggles to market those same services. Millennials are the largest living adult generation, but they don’t have the same expectations and needs as the Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers who came before them. Insurance companies can’t force their existing structure upon that market; they must adapt to it.
In order to meet these challenges, the industry needs agile leaders capable of navigating the demands of a rapidly changing environment while still executing the strategies needed for long-term success. While building a pipeline of agile leaders will not be easy, there are a few areas companies can focus on throughout the leadership development process to ensure that their next generation of leaders possess the essential leadership skills to deal with an increasingly complex industry.
Focus on the Customer
The days of expecting consumers to accept the same products and services a company has always offered are long gone. Even in the insurance industry, expectations have shifted from where they were ten years ago. Today’s customers want simple, technology-based solutions that add value to their lives. Insurance providers need to be able to simplify people’s lives, not add additional complexity.
With their ability to connect to both employees and customers, agile leaders possess the leadership qualities needed to bring their mutual needs into alignment. By emphasizing customer focus, they can orient organizational strategy toward addressing their major concerns and developing the necessary infrastructure to provide a superior customer experience. On the employee side, consumer-focused agile leaders must work to shake up old habits and help people understand how to best meet the needs of today’s customers.
Be Ready to Change
A 2017 World Industry Report study found that 75 percent of senior insurance executives believed technology could help them meet market demands. Unfortunately, a separate study by PWC found that many of their companies continue to struggle with aging, underpowered infrastructure that can’t keep delivering the services customers want consistently. The next generation of insurance leaders must be able to adapt to these challenges, rethink strategic direction, and propel transformation and innovation.
Reacting to change effectively is one of the most important leadership qualities of agile leaders. In addition to looking at upgrading existing infrastructure, they may also have to devise other solutions such as leveraging third-party partners or investing in new mobile technologies that put the company in a position to compete in a fast-paced market. With a consumer-centric approach already in place, agile leaders can rethink long standing assumptions about how to deliver services in ways that meet changing needs.
Always Deliver Results
Ideas are great, but they don’t amount to very much without action. Effective agile leaders know how to drive performance and generate consistent, reliable results. They invest in the right accelerators and cultivate high-performance teams that are committed to creating value. If the ability to connect helps them to establish goals and the ability to adapt develops the path to get there, their ability to deliver makes it possible to execute those strategies.
For the insurance industry, that means bringing ambitious plans for leveraging technology and data into reality. It also means building the partnerships and systems needed to meet customers where they are. Agile leaders must be able to prioritize and deal with day-to-day challenges while still keeping the organization’s focus on a broader mission that will ultimately deliver value and build the relationships with customers to sustain long-term success.
Building a new generation of agile leaders with the leadership qualities and skills to fill leadership gaps is crucial to the future success of the insurance industry. As the demographic composition of the market shifts, companies will need to make a number of changes to remain relevant and continue to meet the needs of consumers. With leadership qualities that allow them to connect, adapt, and deliver, agile leaders are uniquely positioned to guide insurance companies through an increasingly competitive marketplace.