|Tackling the recruitment issue

Tackling the recruitment issue

young office workers

Tackling the recruitment issue

28 February 2024

How AXA is getting ahead of the game with its training and development programmes

The media is awash with headlines about the number of job vacancies in the market and the apparent unwillingness of the younger generation to fill them.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics though, some of the heat seems to be coming out of the recruitment market. The number of vacancies in October to December 2023 was 934,000, a decrease of 49,000 from July to September 2023.

But employers are still struggling to fill roles and it seems insurance is faring no better than other sectors. Many have tried to explain this by arguing that today’s younger talent is ‘entitled’ or even ‘lazy’ and young people’s demands are out of kilter with reality.

However, as Ken Wright, Head of Broker Development at AXA Commercial, argues, their values and expectations are simply ‘different’ to those doing the recruiting, which is an age-old issue that Aristotle highlighted as far back as the 4th Century BC.

“It’s not that the new work generation are any less capable than their predecessors – they just have different formative life experiences, external influences, skills and values. These will, however, also mirror those of our collective customers of the future, so ultimately to simply dismiss their viewpoint will be to ignore future customers too” he warns.

Likewise, Sam Ridgewell, MD of Empower Development (a training firm specialising in insurance) says that the new generation sees things in a way that existing, older employees, simply don’t.

“There are a few key differences,” she says.

“We’re all just a product of our environment and that environment changes over time, so it’s natural that views are changing.”

And when people suggest the new generation are entitled and expect too much too soon, Sam counters: “We all benchmark against each other, but for previous generations there were fewer people to benchmark against. The new generation are on social media much of the time so there’s a much greater ability to benchmark. They know their worth.”

So, if this is just the reality of today’s recruitment market, how can the industry respond? How can it secure the talent it needs to manage the accumulating and worsening risks emerging across society?

For both Ken and Sam, the answers lie in collaboration.

AXA has been providing training to the broker community for many years, but understands that it must keep adapting that training to ensure it’s as effective and appealing as possible to new generations.

One of the latest iterations of that evolution is AXA Together, a training programme that brings both brokers and AXA employees together to learn from external and industry experts, as well as from each other. The aim? To develop future leader talent, but in a way that removes many of the historical and cultural barriers between brokers and insurers.

The talent programme consists of two residential 2.5 day seminars to maximise engagement, along with collaborative summer project work and regular check-ins.

“At its heart it’s about talent from AXA and our brokers working together, facilitated by AXA team members who are also starting to deliver their potential, to ensure they are relatable and authentic. This years' cohort, and those who follow, is the start of the next generation of senior leaders long-term network building,” Ken says.

“The next ‘us’ are already here, and we need to give them the space to develop. Greying temples like me are sharing our experience and knowledge of past seminars, but it’s the energy from the delegates, along with a new relatable AXA facilitator team, that are driving the design of this talent programme, and they’ll collectively build a future network in a way that suits them.”

He adds that the AXA Together programme is an attempt to deliver the same recognised high-quality training as the AXA Broker Leadership Bordeaux seminars, but in a way that rips up the typical ‘them and us’ approach to encourage joint working across the insurer/broker divide.

And Sam sees the same need. She argues that during the pandemic, the priority for most businesses was just to keep the lights on. And while most managed that, they deprioritised technical training and development for a couple of years, the impact of which is being felt acutely now.

“Businesses were operating, but they weren’t developing the people for future skills” she says.

“We’re fine at the very bottom and at managerial level in insurance, but as a sector we’re really struggling in the middle, the ones who would replace the current senior management. It’s more challenging to develop those skills that would previously have been learnt through osmosis, and the lack of face-to-face contact in offices continues to affect that.”

Ken concurs and suggests that the AXA Together programme goes some way to bridging that gap and accepts there’s an industry-wide need to address the neglected segment.

In her position, Sam has a view across the insurance industry, and the answer, she believes, is an industry-wide commitment from organisations to invest in early careers recruitment and development.

“We need to incentivise organisations to invest in their early talent without employee retention fears. In football, the Category 1 Academies that invest into the development of younger players are rewarded for their contribution. It’s a broader solution to a sector-wide problem, and we can do something similar in insurance. We have a collective problem, and we need a collective solution,” she says.

She admits that the realisation of this vision isn’t imminent, so in the meantime it’s left to individual insurers such as AXA to forge a path forward.

“We recognise that talent acquisition and retention is not only a real challenge for our brokers now, but it’s likely to expand in the near future, so we’re trying to get ahead of the game,” says Ken.

From supporting broker new starts through our Brokerwise Passport, launched at BIBA, right up to senior leader programmes, AXA Broker Development has created a dedicated training programme for each step in an insurance professional’s career.

And they’re getting creative with the style of training offered – online and classroom styles are still relevant, but have been augmented by immersive experiential events such as a recent canine security demonstration. During the day brokers were introduced to the following areas:

  • The need for additional security, what are the risks and how they can be mitigated
  • An introduction to our security partner, FRG, why we work with them and the benefits to our clients
  • How, why and when canine security and detection dogs should be used (including practical demonstrations)

“This is all about the future of training and how we, as an industry, need to change to deliver what current and prospective employees expect. We took a decision to stop and listen to those new to our industry, and not to dismiss their expectations as ‘different’. It’s also now not just about the knowledge transfer or training content. We see real value in who you learn with. Professional development is an industry-wide issue and, as such, we’re tackling it in a new collaborative, industry-wide way” Ken says.