Identifying and recruiting the right resources and retaining them for a fairly long period for consistent business growth remains a challenge for the insurance industry in India ever since the sector was opened up for private players. The industry is basically a people-intensive one and no amount of mechanisation of the business processes can reduce the manpower requirement.
At the time of liberalisation, there was no potentially floating population of experienced hands in the market. The experienced employees belonged to the public sector and they were in no hurry to jump the fence, being happily wedded to the organisation for life.
A few who wanted to cross over were deliberately avoided because of the view that the experienced hands from the PSUs would bring along with them complacency and inhibit innovations; hence, for a very long time, they experimented with talent drawn from diverse fields like pharma, telecom, retail, mutual funds, NBFCs and the banking industry. But even after 12 years, the companies find themselves in a tight spot on talent management.
Today’s scenario is characterised by a lack of any identifiable group of people passing out of educational institutions as suitable for the industry, untrained or undertrained people manning various business functions, deficit of leadership talent at the middle level and a void at the senior management level due to talent gap for providing ready successors. In this business, the recipe of success is selling more every year and conserving the business already acquired.
It is much different from marketing consumer durables, electronic gadgets, etc. In fact, it is a far more difficult business in selling as well as retaining. Unless both these functions are discharged effectively, success will continue to elude the companies. For the current sluggishness in the sector everybody is pointing towards the slowdown in the stock market, frequent regulatory interventions, delay in product approvals, uncertainty regarding tax laws, etc.
But the factors that prompted the government to open up the sector 12 years ago — and the business potential that was seen then — continue to exist even today.
Hence, there is a need to introspect for finding other, and maybe, real reasons for the slowdown. In this context, I believe that there is a need to review the human resource management of the insurance industry urgently.
Very high attrition at the lower levels in the field force resulted in youngsters losing faith in