Curiosity Leads the Way
Internships within the insurance industry can be hard to conceptualize.
The complexity of issues and procedures can’t be learned in a summer, but interns want to feel engaged in their work—no matter how temporary—and organizations want to gain value from their new employees. So how do you strike the right balance between engaging your interns and overwhelming them?
The Council has found success by encouraging interns to follow their own curiosity into some of the industry’s bigger, and sometimes thornier, issues. Every summer The Council welcomes roughly 20 interns from assorted majors, universities and even countries. “Our recruiting approach is simple: find college students with a basic willingness to contribute and an eagerness to learn,” says Julia Ruiz, The Council’s senior director of leadership and management resources. “I tell every intern you’ll get three times as much out of this as what you put in. They are equally as accountable for their experience here as we are as their employer.”
In addition to working on daily tasks within their assigned departments, Council interns tackle an end-of-summer project based on broad issues facing the industry. The interns work in groups to research an issue and present new solutions to the problem. While The Council uses the content and data presented by each group internally, the projects are intended to expand the imagination and skills of each intern as they inch closer to joining the workforce after college. The Council’s hope is that the interns learn about insurance by employing their own curiosity.
“The Council’s program focuses on a few key areas—understanding how a professional office environment operates, building confidence in one’s ability to think and ask questions, exposure to the insurance industry we serve, and exploring this great city,” Ruiz says. “While these interns are here to work—and get paid for it—I do think it’s important to, in return, invest in their personal professional development, whether we’re hiring them or not. We spend a good amount of time with them on presentation and communication skills, résumés and LinkedIn—how to build relationships.”
To tackle their projects, this summer’s interns were split into four groups to address shifting market trends within The Council’s core focus areas of talent development, market intelligence, networking/engagement, and advocacy. Here’s what they came up with.
For addressing talent development within the workplace, one group of interns was challenged to use and explore the new trend of game-style learning. The goal was to analyze and assess how the new game-learning program Triskelion teaches its users to improve time management and personal productivity. The team tested this new learning style and saw how it could resonate with a younger workforce. “We discovered that by the year 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce,” says Tiara Hollins, a 2019 summer intern from Morgan State University, “and that 25% of insurance employees will retire within the next three years. We believe that The Council, as well as Council members, can bridge the gap between the industry and the upcoming generations by implementing gamification learning programs when training new employees and interns.”
The group noted that personalized videos, online quizzes and, most of all, mentorships are also good tools for growing new talent. No matter who you are trying to train, technology will have a lasting impact on your younger workforce.
Learning a new technology is sort of like learning a new language—knowing the proper rules and configurations similar to grammar. Council president and CEO Ken Crerar referred to the interns as part of a “bilingual” generation.
Echoing that, Hollins says, “We want to be a part of something that is relevant, purposeful, and high-tech. If insurance companies want to recruit and keep our attention, they’ll have to learn our language.”
The market intelligence team focused on visualizing market conditions through data imaging. Focus areas included healthcare, insurtech, cyber, and global business, with an eye toward how data fits into each market’s workflow.
The group found it important to ask, “What story does this data tell visually?” Their project emphasized that data are only useful if accurately represented to an audience. The group identified key characteristics that presenters should consider when sharing new figures and statistics.
“The most efficient way for members to grasp this information is by integrating data into visual dashboards to date market conditions,” says 2019 summer intern Michael Bone, from California Polytechnic State University. “This is because as human species we retain 10% of the information that we read and 30% to 50% of the information we see. Another key point of our presentation is to promote the change in culture around incorporating technological advances to streamline business operations.”
The team also focused on the importance of data collection and how to improve survey response rates. “Another idea we had was to gain a better representation of the market through communicating the importance of the survey, analyzing the best distribution methods, and stressing the value to member firms,” Bone says.
Networking has drastically changed in the past decade. The networking and engagement team of interns discussed the huge impact of social media and how the brokerage industry can grow with it.
The group observed that millennials are generally using social media professionally in three fundamental ways: creating connections, pursuing job opportunities, and sharing learning tools. “Our generation is using technology and social media to network more and more each day,” says Delaney Phillips, a 2019 summer intern from the University of Mississippi. “We are familiar with these online platforms and prefer to network on social media. LinkedIn has become a vital resource to millennials, with over 87 million registered, accounting for 37% of total users.”
The interns presented a LinkedIn cohort page for past and future Council Foundation scholarship recipients. “In order to keep the page active, we stressed the importance of creating a space where people had questions to respond to and foster this sense of community The Council does so well with its member firms,” Phillips says. “This page would be a place where group members would be able to post their own content and even promote job openings within the insurance industry.” By creating this page and connecting scholarship recipients, the interns—and The Council—hope to create and incentivize continued engagement with the insurance industry.
The role of advocacy and the work of The Council’s government affairs team remains a key priority for the organization and its members. And truly effective advocacy requires an engaged membership. But it has been a challenge to engage millennial employees among Council member firms. “We were tasked with generating ideas that would engage millennials to be more involved with our political action committee,” says 2019 summer intern Baxter Robertson, from Texas A&M. “We proposed the implementation of a virtual CouncilPAC Giving Day, when firms could compete based on firmwide participation of giving.”
As millennials become an ever-larger component of the workforce, it is important to take into account their heightened news and media consumption when trying to get them more involved in advocacy, says CouncilPAC manager Gracie Gerlach. “With the automatic and not always accurate news outlets comes a lot of uncertainty and distrust,” Gerlach says. She referred to a particular finding in Deloitte’s 2019 Global Millennial Survey: “Millennials and Gen Zs may appreciate government as an institution, embrace its promise, and look to it for leadership. But they’re frustrated with inaction and, as a result, have pretty low opinions of the people who comprise government.”
“Therefore,” Gerlach says, “it is imperative for CouncilPAC to rewind this bitterness and instead ingrain a positive energy around members of Congress.”
While it is no secret the insurance industry struggles with attracting young talent, creating internships at your company—especially if they are paid or offer school credit—is a great way to introduce new young talent into your business. Interns can also be a great resource for recruiting when your company has an opening. The Council reaches out to past and present stellar interns when it has an entry-level job opening that needs to be filled. Ruiz, who came to work at The Council in 2009, got her start as a Council intern. “My first job assignment after being hired full-time was to formalize our own intern program,” she recalls. “Intern to intern manager, just like that. Having a young person coordinating the experience and being their point of contact is key to the program’s success.”