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04:05 PM
Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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How Insurance Companies Can Attract Top IT Talent

It is getting harder for insurance IT organizations to attract the best and brightest technology talent, but there is no need to concede to other industries.

Are you spending more time than you'd like trying to fill open technology positions? If so, join the crowd — IT staff and engineers are the No. 2 and No. 3 hardest jobs to fill in the U.S. (behind skilled trades), according to new research from ManpowerGroup. The workforce solution provider's seventh annual Talent Shortage Survey found that 49 percent of U.S. employers are struggling to fill mission-critical positions within their organizations. The reasons cited for these difficulties include a lack of available applicants, applicants looking for too much pay and applicants with a lack of experience.

To a great extent this appears to be a matter of the laws of supply and demand. A recent Wall Street Journal article described how students at prominent colleges and universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Brown, USC, Cornell and the University of Michigan are being wooed aggressively by established technology companies and start-ups, as well as venture capital firms and recruiters. These suitors are "taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up," the article reported, adding that the lures range from generous salaries, signing bonuses and equity grants to "free limo rides to bars, $500 cash giveaways and raffles for iPads."

How can insurance IT organizations compete with that? It must be particularly frustrating, considering that investment in new technology initiatives is up at many carriers at a time when the industry is embracing some of the hottest trends, capabilities and tools, including analytics and business intelligence, mobile, gamification and the cloud. Yet just when pursuing leading-edge solutions is no longer discretionary for insurers, it may be harder than ever to attract the "best and brightest" to the business.

Fortunately, it looks as if insurers no longer are willing to be also-rans in the competition for top IT talent. Insurance & Technology has looked at a growing number of carriers that are adopting out-of-the-box approaches to recruiting, developing and retaining the kinds of skilled and motivated employees who are essential to helping insurance companies meet the competitive and regulatory challenges of the 21st century. They can't just passively concede to other industries or businesses that are perceived — and, frankly, that have done a better job of marketing themselves — as cooler or more glamorous. To attract the next generation of IT talent, insurers will have to replace (no offense intended) Hartford or Des Moines mind-sets with a Silicon Valley point of view.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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