Monday, March 21, 2016

The Underwriting Staffing Challenge

Our firm, Capstone Search Group, has taken over the underwriting recruiting for Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance’s Human Resources department. On their behalf we are seeking Commercial Multi-line Underwriters in NJ, PA, CA, IL and VA. This is an example of one Client Company looking for alternative ways to resolve their talent shortage.

The insurance industry has been impacted in many ways by the last few years of record unemployment rates, company downsizings and lay-offs.  The industry now faces a new challenge: an emerging talent crisis.

Starting around 2008 companies slowly stopped hiring new talent which no longer placed new blood into the training pipeline. Developing the next generation of underwriting talent was absent. Fast forward to 2015/2016 and we are now experiencing the trend everyone has been talking about, the baby boomer brain drain. 

This phenomenon has created the most competitive recruiting environment the industry has ever faced. Nowhere is this lack of talent felt more than within the underwriting function.

Developing the next generation of underwriting talent has become a priority for many insurance carriers. In addition to help soften the impact of the shortage of talent, companies are looking to alternatives such as implementing interim staffing strategies to meet immediate needs.

The demand for underwriting talent has skyrocketed in recent years as insurers look to improve profitability. Based on a 2013 study by Deloitte, a growth rate for insurance underwriters of nearly 6 percent through 2020 and add in a replacement rate of 32.6 percent (well above the national average for job openings resulting from retiring workers or other permanent vacancies) and it is clear that the underwriting function faces a dire need for talent. Unfortunately, the supply of insurance underwriters fails to keep pace with the increased industry demand.

Underwriting ranks in the top three functions where companies are most likely to increase staff. As the demand continues to grow, the recruitment difficulties facing organizations will only intensify.

Today’s young professionals are drawn to careers in industries that have been more aggressive in their recruitment efforts and are often perceived as more attractive or glamorous. In order to combat this, insurers must focus on proactively engaging and educating students on the opportunities they may have within the underwriting industry. Social media sites and other forums that young professionals frequent must be used to help this education process. On campus career fairs must appeal to the young professionals coming out of college. Through initiatives such as these insurers will be able to successfully combat the skills shortage and attract young, fresh talent to the underwriting field.


Beyond the development of the next generation of underwriting talent, many organizations have immediate needs to address. The key lies in rethinking current workforce strategies. Contract Underwriting Professionals can help ease the work load.  There are many Underwriting professionals available ready to meet the growing demand. Traditionally these professionals have been relied upon to fill unexpected vacancies or to assist with short term projects. However, they present a unique solution to the growing skills gap, with insurers turning to these professionals as trainers or as a complement or even supplement to their traditional permanent employees.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Must Read: What Everyone Needs to Know About Social Media (BONUS!)

Bonus Part-Four: How Should Managers Manage Social Media

I promised a three part series on what everyone needs to know about social media, but because this is such a timely a relevant topic with an impact on virtually anyone and everyone today I am providing a BONUS fourth part to the series which examines how managers must manage social media.

Here is a look back on the previous three parts:


Few things in business and society have been untouched by the social media revolution, one that is not even a decade old. Many organizations have been responding to that new reality, realizing the power and the potential of this technology for corporate life. Shaping their enterprise social media strategy has become part of the job responsibilities for the corporate leader. 

This change has created a dilemma for senior executives: while the potential of social media seems immense, the inherent risks create uncertainty and unease. These new media communications can let internal and privileged information suddenly go viral. Social media encourages unscripted conversations that travel various paths across management hierarchies.

Capitalizing on the transformational power of social media while mitigating its risks calls for a newly required skillset for leaders. The dynamics of social media increase the need for qualities that include: 

  • Strategic creativity
  • The ability to deal with a corporation’s social and political dynamics
  • Design an agile and responsive organization


Executives must understand the nature of different social-media tools and the dangerous forces they can unleash. Here are 5 tools:

  1. Creating compelling contentThe tools for producing and sharing rich media are in everyone’s hands.  As video communication rises in importance, effective leadership will increasingly require creative skills and the ability to create compelling stories and to turn them into media products.  To thrive in the world of social media, leaders need to acquire a mind-set of openness and imperfection.
  2. Leveraging DistributionBusiness leaders have traditionally disseminated information along a controlled chain that begins after the development of a formal creation process.  While traditional distribution pathways won’t disappear, social media revolutionizes the standard information process. Social communication makes distribution the starting point and then invites company audiences to create new meaning. Messages are rebroadcast and repurposed at will by recipients who repost videos, retweet and comment on blogs, and use fragments of other people’s content to create their own mash-ups.
    Leaders need to master the interplay of two: those of the traditional channels, which follow the logic of control, and of the new channels, where it is essential to let the system’s dynamics work without too much direct intervention. Since executives won’t be able to govern or control a message once it enters the system, they must understand what might cause it to go viral and how it may be changed while spreading through the network. The ability to influence the way messages move through complex organizations becomes as important as the ability to create compelling content.
  3. Managing communication overflowSocial media has created an ocean of information. We are drowning in a never-ending flood of e-mails, tweets, Facebook updates, RSS feeds, and more that’s often hard to navigate. As a first step, leaders must become proficient at using the software tools and settings that help users filter the important stuff from the unimportant. But playing in today’s environment requires more than just filtering skills.
    In the social-media realm, information gets shared and commented on within seconds, and executives must decide when (and when not) to reply, what messages should be linked to their blogs, when to copy material and mash it up with their own, and what to share with their various communities. The creation of meaning becomes a collaborative process in which leaders have to play a thoughtful part, as this is the very place where acceptance of or resistance to messages will be built.
  4. Driving strategic social-media utilizationIn most companies, social-media literacy is in its infancy. Excitement often runs high for the technology’s potential. But without guidance and coordination, social-media enthusiasm can backfire and cause severe damage.
    To harness the potential of social media, leaders must play a proactive role in raising the media literacy of their immediate reports and stakeholders. Executives should become trusted advisers, enabling and supporting their environment in the use of social tools, while ensuring that a culture of learning and reflection takes hold. As a new and media-savvy generation enters the workplace, smart leaders can accelerate organizational change by harnessing this digital expertise.

    To achieve this goal, leaders must become tutors and strategic captains of all social-media activities within their control, including the establishment of new roles that support the logic of networked communication. Organizational units that leverage the new technologies in a coordinated and strategically aligned way will become more visible and gain influence in a corporation’s overall power dynamics.
  5. Staying ahead of the curveThe next generation of connectivity will link together appliances, cars, and all kinds of objects. As a result, there will be about 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020.3 This transformation will open new opportunities, spawn new business models, and create yet another major inflection point that leaders must manage.
    It’s imperative to keep abreast of such emerging trends and innovations—not just their competitive and marketplace implications, but also what they mean for communications technologies, which are fundamental for creating an agile, responsive organization. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Must Read: What Everyone Needs to Know About Social Media (Part-Three)

FACEBOOK GUIDELINES

Watch your grammar
Using poor language or speaking badly about people or constantly complaining will not win you any points with hiring managers.

Don't showcase your “party on” ways
Recruiters and hiring managers understand that people have social lives, so the occasional drinking picture is okay. What's not okay is drug use or other illegal activities portrayed right on public Facebook profiles.

Follow companies you want to work for
Following companies that you want to work with is a very good way to stay in tune with the job market and stay visible to that employer. Sharing articles of interest will also get you noticed as someone the recruiter would want to work with. It means you have your finger on the pulse and you're passionate about the industry.

Don't display extremist beliefs
Extreme religious or political expressions, including bigotry (even if it's in jest), are red flags. Add to the list, tactless humor. These may seem obvious, but the Facebook environment lends to its users a false sense of privacy.

Build your brand
Don't forget that your Facebook profile can also help you build yourself up. By posting professional type photos of yourself and your status updates depict your enthusiasm and involvement in your career will be beneficial to you.

Don't badmouth your boss, company or your job
Candidates need to be very careful about what they post on Facebook or any social media site. Don’t complain about your boss or current company and don’t post about how bored you are at work.

Don't stretch the truth about your social media skills
Stay honest about your social media skills.  For example, a digital media professional that has nearly no Facebook friends, never posts and looks to have no understanding of the social network leaves a hiring manager wondering about their true understanding of social media.


 I have decided to add a bonus to the three-part series on social media. Watch for it next week!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Quick Tips for Job Interviewing in Public Place


There are many reasons why an employer will choose to conduct an interview over lunch such as:

  1. Perhaps the hiring company does not have a local office.
  2. A hiring manager may not want office staff to know the company is hiring for a particular position.
  3. Both parties may be pressed for time and unable to sacrifice office hours.


For whatever reason, employers may ask to interview you in a public place — say, a restaurant, coffee shop, or even...a bar & grill. If you ever find yourself preparing for an out-of-office interview, here are a few tips:

Wear your interview suit. Just because you may be meeting at a coffee shop doesn’t mean you should dress down. Treat it as a normal interview and dress up (click here for tips and examples for job interview attire).

Double check the location. If your interviewer asks to meet you at a Caribou Coffee and you realize there are three in a ten-block radius, make sure you have the right one.

Watch what you order. Don’t order anything that’s messy. You don’t want raisins from your bagel sticking in your teeth or spaghetti sauce on your shirt. You also shouldn’t order the most expensive item on the menu.

Be prepared. Have a copy of your resume, a pen and paper, your portfolio—whatever it is you normally bring to an interview. You should also prepare as you normally would for an interview, such as: do the appropriate research on the company, rehearse answers to common interview questions, etc.

Don’t drink alcohol. If your interview is at an establishment that serves alcohol; do not to drink even if your interviewer orders a beverage.

Be nice to your server. You’re being watched, so it’s important to treat people with respect and kindness. This includes tipping appropriately.

Offer to pay.  Offer to pay—most (normal) interviewers will step in and offer to pay on the company credit card, or at least split it. Just go with whatever they’re insisting—whether it’s to go Dutch or for them to cover the bill.