A whole new way of learning

Credit: Zurich/Getty Images

The insurance industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation and there is a big focus on technology and how to address changing customer needs. And while this is of course important, the vital role of people should not be forgotten. The insurance industry is still, and always has been, a people industry and relies on attracting and retaining the best talent available.

Training and career development play an important role in ensuring that insurers have the best people working for them in order to provide the best service to customers. To remain competitive and have programmes working as they should, insurers need to ensure that their employees have the knowledge and training to deliver value and quality service to customers.

Digital natives
The insurance industry is facing the challenge of keeping up with the expectations of employees when it comes to accessing learning. More than half of today’s workforce is made up of so-called ‘digital natives’: millennial and Gen Z workers who grew up with the internet, mobile devices and all things digital. And regardless of generation, we are all increasingly used to accessing information anytime and anywhere.

Therefore, the challenge is to find a way of learning that helps employees to stay relevant and current, cuts out complexity, and is customer-focused, simple and innovative. It is about addressing the modern learning needs of the workforce. Any learning tool also needs to take into account the time pressures they are under. A recent study by Deloitte found that a typical learner at work has 21 minutes a week for formal learning, so it is a constant battle to find time for training when there are so many other priorities. So, the easier, shorter and more focused learning interventions are, the more they resonate with people and the more interested and engaged they are in the process.

There are a number of issues with the old style of training and career development in the insurance industry. Firstly, accessibility to information is often difficult and time-consuming, and with the shorter attention spans in the modern world and the busy nature of work, people can give up and not even try to access the information if it is not simple to do so. Employees rarely have the time anymore for an afternoon seminar, or even the process of logging into an intranet to search for information.

The solution is to offer training that employees do not need to look for, and to make it easy for them to access the information, for example through just one or two clicks on their mobile phones. After all, texting is a distribution channel that people are very used to in their day-to-day lives.

SMS delivery and chatting
The simplest tool on a phone is messaging. It is very intuitive to use and does not require any registration or downloading. A training service can be provided by subscription so that the user can simply decide whether or not to be part of the training. And then the ‘learning nuggets’ can be sent to subscribers’ phones as a text message and they just have to click a link. The format of the learning itself is conversational, so people are learning by chatting to someone just as on WhatsApp for instance.

As for the content, from a corporate point of view, it is very flexible and can be whatever the insurer wants it to be in terms of the content it delivers. The only restriction we at Zurich have found is that it is not suited to macro learning, which is the long, strong and deep learning that is required, for example, for onboarding. But it is particularly suitable for micro learning, which is about keeping employees current and updated for their ongoing career development.

Employees are interested in getting the latest updated information but, at the same time, they are also looking for exposure to topics that are not directly related to their job but which are interesting and perhaps have the potential to offer new opportunities in terms of career development in the organisation.

This is a very new and innovative way of providing training for employees and requires expertise from outside the insurance industry. In rolling out our own solution, we worked with a startup company to provide the specific technical knowledge. And it requires time and collaboration to convince people of its value.

But the initial feedback has been very positive. Employees that signed up to our service said it was easy to access, simple, mobile, topical and relevant, and provided short and concise learning. It is undoubtedly the way forward, and the risk and insurance industry as a whole will need to adopt new learning solutions such as this if it is to attract and hold onto the best talent.

Contributed by Michael Blattner, head, global commercial insurance academy, Zurich Insurance Group