FM Global invested in recruitment, training

Attracting young workers to the insurance industry is a growing challenge, but FM Global is not planning to trip on the talent gap.
With lower-than-average turnover rates, the Johnston-based industrial and commercial property insurance firm targets new hires through extensive employee training and education, investment in technology and creating opportunities for variety of jobs, said Enzo Rebula, the company’s senior vice president of human resources.
These measures combat the Bureau of Labor Statistics projection that by 2020 enough insurance professionals will have retired to create an estimated 400,000 positions across an industry that most millennials think is boring, despite not knowing much about it.
“We’re able to invest in training, we’re able to invest in technology,” Rebula said. “All of those things come into play [in retaining employees].”
A 2012 study by The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation found that 52 percent of millennials surveyed did not want to work in the industry because they didn’t want to sell insurance. About 44 percent said the industry sounds boring.
“They know very little and what they do know is not always correct,” said Anita Bourke, vice president of nonprofit The Institutes, which analyzed insurance job- market projections during development of a website that tries to educate millennials about the industry. “They may have a very narrow view of what the insurance industry is. … I think it’s not as exciting in their minds as tech, entertainment, some other things they could think of.”
Millennials tend to want to make a difference, to help people, to achieve balance between work and personal life and to have job availability and stability. Most millennials don’t realize that the insurance industry can provide all those factors, said Bourke, who led development of the MyPath website.
Insurance protects people, allows them to take risks and innovate, Bourke said. The field also offers a wide range of careers, including niche markets like risk management for entertainment or sports industries. “What they don’t realize is almost any interest that have is in insurance,” Bourke said. “[And] the industry offers stability that many other industries do not.”
While projects like MyPath push millennials toward insurance as a viable career option, individual companies like FM Global, one of the largest of its kind in the world, closely monitor their own performance in filling the talent gap. FM Global’s yearly turnover rates tend to stay between 5-6 percent, Rebula said – significantly better than the national industry average, which is closer to 11 percent, according to 2012 data from Compdata Surveys. Ongoing education – also a valuable draw for millennials – is prioritized at FM Global. The company hires from 300-400 new employees each year from some 30 countries, about half of whom are engineers.
Karen Freedman, vice president of enterprise learning at FM Global, runs employee-development programs. She said the initial 18-month training period for newly hired engineers includes a three-tiered class, mentorship, shadowing and drills at a 12,000-square-foot training facility located in Norwood, Mass., called SimZone.
Other departments also have in-depth training programs, and FM Global has received recognition, including a BEST Award from the national Association for Talent Development group.
“If we invest all of this time and money and resources into these engineers, we want to keep them,” Freedman said, adding that the average service length for an FM Global employee is 14 years. “We would love some people to stay a lifetime.”
Rebula said that while extensive training is an incentive for potential employees who want to be invested in, it is also a way for the company to control its product. “They’re the front line of our relationships with our clients,” he said.
Freedman said that in-person training and the organization’s business model as a whole give young hires strong relationships within the company and the feeling that they are doing something to help others.
“It’s easy for these young engineers to see how they are making a difference with our clients each and every day they go out there,” she said.
The company has prioritized investing in technology by maintaining and updating its Web presence on its own site and those that potential employees might use (such as Glassdoor), and by initiatives that include a plan to buy tablets for all engineers. These steps and the ability to provide extensive training programs speak to FM Global’s success, Rebula said.
“You can’t do that if you’re not doing well financially,” he said. “Our performance … has enabled us to invest in our employees.”
FM Global also tries to improve retention by creating flexibility for movement between positions, ensuring some jobs offer variety during the day – splitting time behind a desk with face-to-face meetings in the field – and making schedule and location flexibility available by allowing some employees to work from home. It’s also built relationships with universities by offering about 40-50 internships each year.
All this isn’t to say that FM Global doesn’t face recruitment hurdles. Recruiters have to compete with companies like IBM, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. Strategists study large-scale data and try to get ahead of trends. Despite the enormous investment in training, some FM Global employees still leave to take other jobs. Rebula’s department constantly monitors employee retention, however, and said as long the turnover rate stays between 5-6 percent yearly, they are in a good place. If it goes higher, however, he’ll revisit strategy.
“It’s still a challenge for us,” he said. •

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