Guest Comment: Some small sparks of optimism in a hesitant insurance hiring market

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Motor insurance

The news is really mixed in the Australian economy. The Treasurer will tell you that our economic fundamentals are sound. Yet the Reserve Bank has cut interest rates to almost GFC levels. Wages are high, but so is the cost of living. Australians are saving rather than splurging, and the feedback we consistently receive from candidates is that they are nervous about their careers.

Good luck predicting the economic fallout of all I’ve just highlighted. But what this news is definitely creating is hesitancy in the hiring market. Insurance firms are taking longer to recruit and headcounts have been cut. Some major insurers are outsourcing functions overseas or shifting them out of New South Wales into lower-cost states.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in insurance. Skilled staff are still sought after in a few specific areas. This demand is less affected by budgets and plans set around the new financial year, and is driven instead by ongoing internal factors at individual employers, external regulatory issues, and the demands of the labour market.

Workers’ compensation

There is ongoing demand for workers’-compensation and personal-injury claims staff at mid and senior levels, particularly those with three to five years’ experience. Workers’ compensation is a legislated product and businesses are required to have it. Governed by WorkCover, agents and self-insured organisations are limited by this legislative framework. This means that budgets are tight with regard to salaries. Hence the challenge is how to attract experienced staff from other players.

Problems occur when people leave their jobs and leave high caseloads for their former colleagues to tackle. This is exacerbated by a candidate talent in this area. Yet employers routinely request experienced candidates who can hit the ground running because there is simply no time to retrain new people to meet WorkCover KPIs.

Motor claims

A recent and interesting development is an increased demand for experienced motor claims professionals. One reason behind this is that many of the larger insurers with commercial property teams are expressing a willingness to accept and upskill candidates with personal insurance claims backgrounds. So those with two to three years’ claims experience in personal lines enjoy relatively hot prospects if they want to move into commercial claims.

Overseas candidates

For the sought-after roles above, employers should take advantage of changes to immigration legislation that open up more opportunities for sponsoring staff from overseas. If you are a candidate from the UK, Ireland or South Africa, you may be attractive to firms in Australia because the insurance regimes in these countries are similar to here, and many employers in Australia are global players.

Salaries

And finally, the bottom line in many job offers: pay. If you’re in demand and choose to change jobs, you may not receive a massive increase despite the candidate shortage in insurance. Some jobs (like workers compensation) simply can’t sustain large salaries. It ultimately comes down to the skills, qualifications and experience you can bring, the value you can add, how much an employer can afford, and how desperately it needs the vacancy filled. Salary increases in general are a much more complicated issue than in pre-GFC times when there was more money readily on the table.

Liza Garrido, director, Enigma HR

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