I've written on this before, and given the way the IT job market has been on overdrive over the past couple of years, it bears repeating. Insurers are going to have to double down on efforts to attract and retain technology talent, before they're absorbed elsewhere into the digital economy. Insurance companies aren't competing with other insurance companies for tech talent, they're competing with social media companies, software firms, media providers and systems integrators.

Most recently, Vanessa Zainzinger, writing in RealBusiness, drove home this point, citing a recent FreshMinds survey that found that today's graduates— presumably tech, but also possibly business majors—are bypassing more traditional organizations, preferring to work at “the most innovative technology and media companies.” Apple, Facebook and Google are mentioned as the prime examples of employers of choice.

There is a smidgeon of positive news in the FreshMinds survey, however: “Banking and finance was where the largest proportion of the recent top graduates ended up.” Given that this sector is a sibling—or perhaps cousin—to insurance, it suggests that organizations that can provide opportunities to work with cutting-edge technologies may indeed have an edge.

What else attracts tech-savvy professionals? Money is a given, of course, but they seek “learning and development opportunities,” as well as “long-term opportunities in their field.” (Which actually clashes with today's trend toward multiple jobs, employers and careers.) Interestingly, the report adds, the chance to work with “like-minded people” and “inspirational leaders” was deemed far more important than that the job offers “job security” or even “rapid career progression”

About 45 percent of the graduates surveyed also said they wanted to start their own businesses as well.

Reflecting the red-hot demand for IT talent, online recruiting firm Dice.com recently released salary ranges across more than 15,000 IT positions, observing that technology salaries in the U.S. "saw the biggest jump in more than a decade." Big data projects are having the greatest impact on the numbers, Dice finds.

Interestingly, recognizing that more young people need to be brought into the technology professionals, an industry group called Code.org recently released a video, “What Most Schools Don't Teach,” which features computer industry luminaries such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg discussing the personal satisfaction and development that software development brings.

The challenge for insurance companies is to offer a work and learning environment that will help retain top talent, while attracting professionals toward the industry, versus what is perceived as the more glamorous tech sector. Insurance organizations have an image as being conservative when it comes to technology, and this needs to be addressed. Insurance companies need to make just as much room for new ideas, innovations and cutting-edge technology as their financial services counterparts.

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 joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

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

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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