New labor platforms enable insurers to take advantage of a blended workforce—internal and external workers—to fill their talent needs.

Insurance is on the cusp of a skills crisis as it struggles to attract “born digital” professionals to join the industry. The industry also faces the retirement of a vast part of its existing workforce over the next few years. The Insurance Information Institute, a US-based industry association, estimates that half of the country’s insurance workforce is aged 45 or above. A quarter of them are expected to retire by 2018.

Squaring up to this growing skills challenge will demand creativity and commitment. Insurance organizations must reimagine their workplace practices for a generation that expects to find collaboration technologies at work and that is open to freelance and portfolio careers. New labor platforms and collaboration tools offer insurance carriers a means to do just that.

23 percent of insurance executives currently view freelance workers as a seamless part of the workforce.

Some insurers are leveraging technology solutions that efficiently match the supply and demand for people and skills. When State Farm wanted to determine if dashboard cameras could detect driver distraction and alert the driver, it crowdsourced machine learning solutions through a contest on the Kaggle platform. Other insurers such as Allstate and AXA have also used Kaggle.

On-demand labor platforms like Freelancer and Gigster, which also provide online work management solutions, enable insurers to virtualize part of the workforce. And Upwork is a platform that enables insurance carriers to complement their long-term traditional workforce with the borrowed skills and experience of external workers. Of Fortune 500 companies, 100 are already using Upwork.

Insurance business platforms. From legacy models to a corporate marketplace.

Nearly 30 percent of insurers in our survey are already using such platforms on a large scale or broadly across their businesses and another 48 percent use them in select business areas. Insurers who are not yet using platforms can test the waters without making major changes to their existing management models, perhaps by placing an emphasis on areas where skills are in short supply such as analytics and digital customer experience.

This will suit the pace of evolution in a conservative industry where organizations have tended to be structured around specialist disciplines such as underwriting and claims and have retained their line-of-business siloes. From these experiments, insurers can begin to transform their workforces more broadly.

By efficiently planning, managing and overseeing the remote execution of work, and taking advantage of platforms to do so, insurers can leverage both internal and external workers—continuing to draw on retired workers who wish to work part-time or pulling in the skills of high-end professionals as needed.

In my next post, I’ll examine how personalization technologies are propelling insurers forward.

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