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How to Optimize Your Investment in Human Capital.

Byline: Ira Ziff and Anuraag Sunder

How to Optimize Your Investment in Human Capital

Executive Summary

Rewriting job descriptions to clearly reflect desired business outcomes is just one of the steps insurers can take to attract and retain top talent, according to recruiters Ira Ziff and Anuraag Sunder. Here, they present a value map to guide insurers in crafting their revisions, also offering advice to expand the size of the potential talent pool and fixes to the candidate screening and assessment process.

Are you struggling to find and retain top performers? Are your employee engagement and productivity rates not as high as you'd like?Are you concerned that you're not attracting enough diversity talent?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're in good company. So, why - with all the technology available at our fingertips - is it still a challenge for so many hiring managers and HR professionals to find and keep great talent?

There's a lot of talk these days about talent not being "future ready" - that they lack the skills and experience to help companies not only succeed in today's hyper competitive landscape but also be prepared to tackle tomorrow's challenges. For example, a recent article in Harvard Business Review references a recent Gartner study that identifies trends that are rendering traditional recruitment tactics obsolete. One of the trends is that "the skills needed in many roles have an increasingly short shelf life, owing in part to more-frequent and disruptive technological breakthroughs." ("( Reengineering the Recruitment Process," Harvard Business Review, March/April 2021)

We believe that the problem goes beyond the obsolescence of skills and that there is a smarter way to identify top talent who can hit the ground running and demonstrate their potential to deliver in the future.

There are three reasons why companies fall short of hiring the best available talent.

The first reason is because of poorly developed candidate profiles and job descriptions. In 22 years engaging in executive search, it's rare to find a hiring manager who can create a clear profile of their ideal candidate.

Job descriptions lack clarity on how a role will actualize the firm's objectives and don't speak to a candidate's aspirations because they are typically cut and pasted versions of other job descriptions. At some point, these job descriptions and their associated job ads become generic and therefore attract generic candidates. This often leads to a recruiting process that mistakenly aligns candidates to a list of overly broad job functions that have little relevance to the business objectives the hiring manager is seeking to actualize. It's no wonder that many employees say they left a role because it was nothing like the role for which they thought they were hired.

The second reason is the candidate acquisition process. Most recruiting efforts, whether they're conducted by in-house staff or external search firms, tend to tap into a small subset of the potential talent pool. Ads are typically seen by a small number of people; and one-touch channels - such as LinkedIn postings or blast emails - are often ignored.

To top it off, companies feel a false sense of security when they receive an avalanche of resumes - until they discover that they're the wrong candidates.

The third reason is the assessment and screening process. We were shocked to find out that over a 10-year period, 30 percent of the candidates we placed in a Fortune 50 company had been overlooked by their system. In fact, they had even interviewed two of them before we brought them back into the mix and got them hired for the same role.

Because most candidates lack strong resumes and interviewing skills, top-performing, high-potential candidates will be overlooked if they are not screened and assessed properly.

So, what's the solution? Here's a three-point plan to optimize your investment in acquiring a more diverse and talented workforce.

1. Create a high-definition job description that speaks to the aspirations of your applicants and clearly reflects your desired business outcomes. Think critically about what success looks like in this role and how you want the employee to contribute value to the bottom line. Value translates to increasing, saving, mitigating or changing something that impacts the company, a client, a team or other stakeholders. These four value categories can be broken down as follows and are illustrated in the Value Map graphic:

Increase is built around how a role will impact sales, profitability, productivity or the brand.

Save is all about lowering costs, whether it's operating overhead or the cost of a lost client.

Mitigate is about reducing various financial, operational or reputational risks.

Change is about transformation - whether it's systems, processes or people.

For example, if you're looking to hire an underwriter, imagine that you're writing a year-end review for this role and ask yourself, "In what three ways did this employee exceed key performance expectations both quantitatively and qualitatively?"

Here are a few outcomes that you might consider for this role:

* Improve underwriting profitability or quality, expand market share, or break into new territories (increase).

* Reduce underwriting expenses, facilitate efficiencies with a new process, or drive productivity by achieving more with less or by leveraging risk management tools (save).

* Prevent a high-risk client from being onboarded or maintained in a portfolio, avert a service problem from damaging the company reputation, or identify new risk factors (mitigate).

* Improve underwriting decisions by active collaboration with reinsurers, producers or internal analytics and claims teams, or transform cross-functional communications processes to accelerate decision-making (change).

In defining soft skills or attributes that help fuel success in a role, think about how they need to be leveraged to accommodate the ever-changing business environment. Avoid listing generic attributes like collaborative, team player, creative, good communicator and the like. While these skills are critical, if used alone they could be misleading.

What's more telling is the outcomes that you want those attributes or skills to deliver. Take "communications." It could mean empowering team members, building consensus around an idea, diffusing conflict, promoting a brand, engaging a customer and myriad other results. So, unless you define it more specifically, you might end up with the wrong type of communicator.

Here are a few sample interview questions that can be used for an underwriting role:

* Analytical. How have you made vital business decisions by gaining real-time operational intelligence from structured and unstructured data?

* Communicator. How have you used the power of persuasion to build consensus around a new idea?

* Problem Solver. How have you examined the root cause of a disappointing outcome and provided actionable remedies?

* Adaptable. How have you responded and adapted to environmental changes and technological disruptions?

1. Increase the size of your potential candidate pool by leveraging technology to rapidly access your competitor's workforces and other industry resources, and then deploy a multitouch, multimedia outreach campaign.

It may take five or six touches to get an applicant's attention. By expanding the breadth and depth of your search, you will access the most diverse assortment of candidates. This is how we've achieved a 30 percent hiring rate of diversity talent.

1. Since candidates tend to undervalue themselves both on resumes and in interviews, use the value metrics to prepare a standardized set of interview questions that can be utilized by everyone in the recruiting process and help candidates articulate their credentials. "Lead the witness" to get them out of the prepared Q&A mindset so they can access the unrealized strengths that lie just beneath their consciousness. This will ensure that every candidate has an equal chance of advancing their candidacy and enable you to rank those who are best aligned with the role.

This three-point strategy will not only accelerate the hiring process, it will also increase diversity and retention rates and ultimately drive better recruiting outcomes.
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Author:Ira Ziff and Anuraag Sunder
Publication:Carrier Management
Date:May 25, 2021
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