3 ways insurers can close the digital skills gap

Register now

For a digital insurer to meet the needs of customers and deliver services as needed, there needs to be knowledgeable, skilled people to build and manage sophisticated applications, algorithms and analytics. However, most executives and managers don’t have a firm understanding of the types of skills available to their companies, and there isn’t even a firm definition of what constitutes skills gaps in the context of corporate computing.

That’s according to a recent survey of 600 managers and professionals from Comp-TIA, the tech industry trade association, which finds the technology skills gap is getting more dire. Nearly half, 46%, report that the skills gap situation at their organization has grown in scope and depth over the past two years.

The CompTIA study’s authors state that “skills gap” has become somewhat of a catch-all term to describe a range of workforce concerns. There’s no single definition as to what constitutes a skills gap, but the authors take a stab at it, defining it as “the variance between the performance employers desire from their workforce and what workers can or choose to deliver.” There is an entire constellation of challenges and considerations that get linked to this variance, including “labor supply gap, pipeline gap, pay gap, location gap, or generational gap.” Millennial workstyles may even increase perceptions of skills gaps, they add. For insurers, the definition should be clear and simple: if your IT department is overworked, and new initiatives – such as cloud integration or IoT analytics -- are taking too long to come to fruition, you probably are suffering a skills gap.

At the same time, only one in three organizations indicate they have a formal process and resources in place to address skills gap challenges, the report adds. The remaining two-thirds of respondents report having only an informal process or no process at all in place.

The CompTIA authors make several recommendations to help close this gap, including the following:

Provide better ways to provide on-the-job experience, such as internships or apprenticeships. This may help insurers gain greater exposure to area colleges and universities, thus providing opportunities to “sell” employment opportunities to a generation enamored with Silicon Valley-style startups or consulting gigs.. At the same time, it’s important to remember formal educational programs cannot keep up with changes shaping the insurance technology landscape. For example, how many colleges near you offer courses in cognitive computing or data science? It may be more instructive to enable as many employees or potential employees as possible (regardless of age) to learn on the job, while delivering new levels of services and capabilities.

Offer or support certifications or credentials to validate skills and knowledge. The insurance industry actually is very good at encouraging credentialed career advancement, especially to insurance professionals such as underwriters. This mindset needs to be extend to IT and digital development.

Develop better assessments and methods for evaluating the skills of job candidates. Reviewing resumes is archaic and misses the deep learning applicants are capable of achieving. Likewise, the current system of performance reviews – often only conducted once a year – is not enough to help determine where skills need refinement or can best be applied. What is needed – and technology can help deliver – is an ongoing system of skills assessment, even on a real-time basis, when managers can see where gaps may be developing, and apply the proper levels of guidance and training to set employees on the right course.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.