Insurance organizations must reimagine their workplace practices for a digital generation that expects to find pervasive collaboration technologies at work. New labor platforms and collaboration tools offer insurance carriers a means to do just that. Some are already taking first steps.

Of the insurers polled in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017 survey:

  • Nearly 30 percent already use such platforms on a large scale or broadly across their businesses
  • 48 percent use these platforms in select business areas.

Why is it so important to start implementing these new platforms right now?

In Exponential Organizations, Salim Ismail notes that the large workforces that differentiated companies in the past have today become the anchors that slow information-enabled businesses down and reduce maneuverability. A large part of the problem, as John Seely Brown pointed out, is that the half-life of a learned skill used to be about thirty years; today it’s down to about five years.

This is true for the insurance sector where bureaucratic management models based on fixed roles and rules have long driven success. Designed for times of stable markets and long-term planning, these approaches inherently maintain the status quo and constrain innovation. Insurers are taking note.

Around 75 percent of the insurers we polled said corporate bureaucracies are stifling productivity and innovation, restricting their ability to evolve as fast as digital and non-traditional competitors and to keep pace with the changing needs of today’s digital consumer and employee. But overcoming the inertia is daunting.

Insurers are eager to protect their legacy revenue streams as well as insulate the core business from regulatory risk. New on-demand labor platforms and collaboration tools offer an answer, providing new models for innovation that give insurers the agility they need to rapidly build (or buy) and deploy capabilities in areas such as the Internet of Things, AI and blockchain.

What’s happening on the ground?

Companies are becoming increasingly savvy about using non-traditional employment agreements.  The general requirement is for everyday skills to deal with issues such as claims overflow, catastrophe or disaster recovery. However, there is growing demand for non-traditional skills: a dearth of new tech skills, such as use of agile development approaches, are seeing more insurers make use of a contract workforce for delivery. The emergence of on-demand platforms such as Kaggle and Catalant, which offer high-end professional skills, are also being viewed as an opportunity.

In addition, companies are exploring partnership models to bring needed skills on board fast and develop digital-age products. Insurer AIG has, for example, partnered with leading cybersecurity experts—among them K2 Intelligence for customised threat intelligence, BitSight Technologies to continuously rate customers’ cyber security posture, and RSA for cybersecurity maturity assessments—to expand the risk mitigation and prevention services it offers cyber insurance clients.

These new models are raising new questions, key among them: how do you make it all work, driving accountability and a consistent culture across a hybrid workforce?

With the nature of work and social contracts in flux in economies around the globe, the steps companies take today can help lay the groundwork for a future of people fully engaged in a productive, socially balanced digital economy.

What will the evolution from traditional to digital on-demand workforce look like?

To create a talent marketplace that the organization can leverage, change will be necessary at a practical and policy level:

  • To leverage a hybrid workforce, companies must embrace a spectrum of worker-relationship types in the open talent marketplace, from independent contractors, to full-time employees, and every variation in between.
  • New frameworks are needed to provide the flexibility to scale the current and emerging worker relationships, while optimizing the related mix of compensation, benefits, training, and community engagement.
  • Innovation strategies, such as partnerships with technology companies and the creation of innovation labs, will help insurers nurture the next generation of digital talent and solutions, build innovative digital-first products, and move into new markets.

These approaches will allow insurance organizations to attract young and digital talent, overcome resistance to change, accelerate digital transformation and address the ageing of the workforce.

In my next blog post, the final in this series, I look at how the on-demand workforce is helping to drive and enable innovation and strategic growth within the insurance sector.

For more on Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017 trends, read Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017, and our take on the impact on of these trends on the Insurance sector. 

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