One thing I have always admired about the insurance industry is the ongoing commitment of many companies to the continuing education of its employees. Insurance companies actively sponsor and make time for employees to achieve or move to the next level of their certifications.

When I served as director of a professional management association, a disproportionate number of members partaking in our conferences, seminars and professional development programs came from insurance carriers. There has always been an inherent recognition that insurance is a people business, and the more well-trained and motivated employees are, the better for the company and its customers.

Still, insurance companies are not immune from the growing shortage of scientific, technical, engineering and mathematical (STEM) skills that is throttling companies' abilities to move into the digital age. While the scientific and engineering parts of STEM aren’t necessarily an issue for insurers, the ability to nurture and draw IT and data analysts is a pressing concern. Insurers are in a race to digitize just as quickly and effectively as other organizations. But it takes skilled professionals to make this a reality.

Accenture just released a survey, based on input from more than 400 executives, which finds close to half already are feeling the pinch in terms of available tech skills.

The costs of an inability to find talent are tangible. Two-thirds of respondents say they are losing business to competitors, and a similar number see their businesses losing revenue as a result of their inability to effectively respond to new opportunities in the digital marketplace. Additionally, a majority of respondents—53 percent—say their time to market is impeded as a result of skills shortages. 

In response, 51percent intend to boost their in-house training budgets over the coming years. More than one-third admit that they have not been investing enough in training in the past. This new wave of training is taking many forms—42percent already use mobile delivery for training, 35 percent use social media and 27percent even use massive open online courses, usually offered at no cost by leading universities.

Accenture advises companies to begin the training investment process as early as possible in the process—reaching out to colleges and universities, for example, to identify and acquaint potential talent with the opportunities they may offer.

Of course, digital technology is a two-edged sword. Talented professionals are needed to make a digital strategy a reality, yet, at the same time, digital resources make it easier to identify and train prospects. Training no longer needs to be limited to sponsored classes—it can be an embedded process that employs social media and online collaboration that reaches out to wide groups of employees.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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