Matt Hutchins, Managing Director, Head of UKI Insurance, introduces the second of five trends from Accenture’s 2016 Technology Vision. To outperform and thrive, insurers need to harness new technologies that will enable the right people to do the right things across the organisation. It’s all about building an adaptable, change-ready, responsive ‘Liquid Workforce’.

I’m using this series of blogs to draw attention to five technology trends that Accenture believes will transform every industry. Insurance is no exception. This time round, it’s the ‘Liquid Workforce’. We’re seeing insurers investing huge sums in digital tools and technologies. But on their own, these investments won’t be enough to realise their ambitious goals. Something’s being overlooked: the workforce.

Insurers need to start looking at technology as not just a disruptor, but an enabler for transforming their people, propositions and entire organisations. It’s an urgent priority. Under pressure to change their products, services and business models, insurers face a looming skills crisis. Right now, the insurance workforce is not fully prepared to meet the demands of a digital business. Still hierarchical, organised in silos and structured by rigidly defined business functions, it lacks flexibility, adaptability and youth.

We know insurers struggle to attract top young professionals. In the US, just two percent of recent graduates express any interest in working in the industry. There’s keen competition for digital skills from tech companies and other sectors. And there’s a yawning gap between what tech-savvy millennials want from a job, and what the older generation of employers is willing to offer.

It’s time for a change. To deal with what’s happening in the world around them, they need to start reshaping their people into a more liquid workforce – one that can drive and manage change. What does that mean? One example is underwriters teaming with data scientists to leverage new datasets inside and outside the business. Product developers becoming proposition designers, with a focus on developing and delivering the customer outcomes. New roles will have to be created. Innovation architects, for example, who can facilitate the disruptive business models that will set leading organisations apart.

Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2016 - People First: The Primacy of People in a Digital AgeIt is about much more than creating new roles within the business. We’re seeing a whole new attitude to work taking shape, with a huge increase in the number of people expected to be freelance by 2020. Research for our Technology Vision revealed that over 40 percent of the insurance workforce is expected to be freelance by 2020. New working approaches are essential. ‘Deep expertise for the specialised task at hand’ was only the third most important characteristic that insurance executives look for in their people. More important? The ability to learn quickly and proficiency with digital technologies. The emphasis is on flexibility. Leading insurers are looking for candidates who will evolve with their business and re-imagine the industry.

Technology may be driving many of these disruptions. But it’s also creating some of the solutions. Innovations like massive online open courses (MOOCs), for example, can provide scalable training on demand. Communication tools like Slack encourage collaboration. And predictive workforce analytics allows insurers to improve HR decision-making. As-a-Service workforce management solutions (like Workday and Salesforce), , also have a vital part to play by delivering key insights into workforce capabilities and readiness.

We’re seeing some insurers take a lead in workforce innovation. Allianz is one of many to have created an innovation lab to incubate ideas and pilot new approaches. China’s Ping An Insurance has developed an award-winning mobile-learning programme that can deliver hundreds of mobile training courses each year. Italy’s Reale Group has built a social platform that facilitates informal conversations across all its businesses.

So how can insurers start moving in the same direction? There are a number of priorities: make training a core competency, become more project-oriented, empower collaboration and new ideas, manage a distributed workforce, overhaul silos to create flatter, more fluid teams, and review incentives/compensation to attract top talent. Plenty of food for thought here.

Next time we’ll be looking at the third trend in our Technology Vision: The Platform Economy. Thanks for reading.

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