An Aging Workforce Crisis

The number of professionals in the insurance industry aged 55 year and older has increased by 74 percent in the last ten years, according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Nearly 25 percent of industry employees will retire within ten years. This crisis demands that companies increase the appeal of jobs in the industry for both the recruitment and retainment of the modern millennial workforce.

As the workforce is aging, methods of training in the industry are becoming antiquated as well. Modern training and development methods are required to attract this modern workforce, yet two-thirds of companies described their capabilities of delivering mobile learning or using advanced media as “weak,” according to this Deloitte survey.

A New Approach to Training

In 2016, a major U.S. health insurance organization collaborated with NovoEd to pilot a new leadership development initiative to modernize leadership development and retain  millennial employees. This initiative started with both newly hired millennial employees as well as senior experts in the company, enabling cross-generational knowledge sharing. This new approach used a blended methodology, with both in-person and online components.  The training was divided into two phases: (1) an in-person experience, involving experiential, collaborative group work, and (2) an online experience, where the participants could continue collaborating despite their diverse geographic locations.

Phase 1: Experiential In-Person Learning

Over a two-day period, the company brought together marketing team members from around the country to review and discuss trends in technology, insurance, and public health. Some of these trends included increased customer knowledge of personal health data, increased need for empathic communication in an increasingly impersonal world, and an increased value in openness and transparency of information that was formerly inaccessible. One topic discussed was the trend toward salary transparency on sites like Glassdoor.

After the analysis of these trends, the facilitators embraced an experiential learning paradigm and encouraged participants to form teams with geographic diversity. These teams engaged in collaborative activities to begin designing solutions to the future challenges in relation to customer acquisition and retainment. These activities included developing future customer personas, brainstorming a list of possible solutions and organizing them based on effort and impact, and finally, determining how to implement a solution by incorporating the appropriate stakeholders.

Survey results from the workshop indicated a high level of satisfaction from participants with the both the knowledge gained from the industry trends and the overall experience of the workshop. The organizers recognized that this could not be a one-time event. In order to continually engage the community and apply modern learning technologies, the trainers shifted to the second phase of the blended training initiative: sustained engagement online.

Phase 2: A Virtual Community of Practice

Over the next six months, the company established a community of practice where the insights and action plans developed during the workshop could be shared within the community. This not only inspired other participants, but held everyone accountable. Participants took on moderator roles to ensure the virtual community would stay up-to-date on industry trends, be notified of live webinar events, and provide feedback and support regarding implementing the design solutions.

As the new solutions were implemented, the participants shifted in their role from learners to presenters within the community. The participants who successfully applied their new strategies and action plans volunteered to facilitate live webinars to share best practices and encourage the rest of the community to innovate in their own offices. Some participants even led separate workshops for additional staff outside of the community of practice.

Conclusion

Utilizing this two phased model of leadership training, this company was able to achieve its objectives.  They modernized the learning experience to accommodate all generations and digital experience levels. The program increased industry knowledge of their employees based on post-workshop assessments. Finally, the program empowered employees to innovate and address future challenges, which will continue long after the program ends.

Innovative programs like these not only help companies stay abreast of industry trends, but also improve employee retention and engagement, as they show a willingness to embrace the future of the millennial workforce and their needs for modern leadership development methods.