Why Knowledge Management Is Critical for the Insurance Industry
Finding, managing, and sharing information quickly has value for any organization, but especially in the insurance industry. Insurers offer a vast number of products and services, each with its own underlying complex legal agreement – the insurance policy. Buyers and sellers alike need to have confidence in the information available to them.
As IBM points out in a recent article on knowledge management (KM), “When knowledge is not easily accessible within an organization, it can be incredibly costly.” In insurance, that’s true on several fronts: wasted time, employee morale, claims payouts, omissions suits, and lost business.
Here are six knowledge management challenges unique to insurance:
The insurance industry is notorious for siloed information and policy documents that change constantly while previous versions remain in force. Employees must be able to navigate the latest policy documents and keep track of previous iterations and revisions.
The sheer volume of insurance documentation makes for a head-spinning experience for frontline staff who often have to sift through thousands of documents – including some 150-page manuals – in real-time.
Not surprisingly, this can spell information overload and search fatigue in both new hires and tenured employees.
One of the biggest challenges facing insurers in 2022 is the knowledge gap that occurs when experienced employees leave the industry before new hires can be brought up to speed.
Part of the problem is finding new hires. As far back as 2016, NPR reported that millennials “simply don't consider insurance as a potential career – or think it's boring,” after a survey found that only 4 percent were considering a career in the industry.
As a result, Deloitte’s 2022 Insurance Industry Outlook reports that as many as “43% of insurance talent respondents feel it’s getting harder to find skilled candidates” – despite plans to increase staff numbers as the economy recovers.
This challenge extends to frontline workers and customer support teams. As PwC notes, the problem “isn’t just about losing developers to Silicon Valley…. The industry [as a whole] is often seen as both limited and limiting by geography, incentives, career paths and more.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported high turnover in the labor market overall, with as many as 75.6 million hires and 47.8 million quits in 2021. In the insurance sector, an increasing number of employees are “exploring their options” and may not reveal their true reasons for leaving during exit interviews.
Not only does it take time to hire and train replacements, but the onboarding process may not take into account the underlying reasons for employee dissatisfaction.
In many cases, it’s the lack of access to insurance information at their fingertips – and a constantly-shifting landscape of policy documents and procedures – that makes it hard for customer support staff to do their jobs successfully.
Compounding the issue is the shift to remote work, and the fact that many employees don’t have any desire to come back to the office at all. This isn’t entirely unwelcome news for employers: Deloitte reports that only 3% of insurance companies foresee a return to full-time in-person employment.
Still, remote and hybrid work environments present some challenges, such as a lack of day-to-day access to colleagues and managers. Instead of turning to a coworker to ask a question, new hires have to rely on asynchronous communication methods like email and chat rooms – or attempt to look up the answer themselves.
This can lead to employee frustration and increased wait times for customers if the answer can’t be found easily and quickly.
The pace of change in the industry threatens to strain, not just the workforce, but legacy technology for information discovery, access, and storage which has proven inadequate to meet customer needs.
Today’s consumers and business are used to a Google-like search experience with instant results. But current enterprise search and discovery tools simply aren’t up to the challenge, and general knowledge management platforms aren’t designed with the insurance industry in mind. Insurers need to look for other ways to modernize their workflows.
Potential areas of innovation include artificial intelligence and the blockchain. Accenture reports that 80% of insurance industry executives have plans to use "distributed ledger technology” in at least one department, while McKinsey makes the case for building innovative products using an accelerator model.
Insurance customers have come to expect the same level of support from insurance companies that they’ve received in other industries that have more readily adapted to the on-demand economy.
Processing times for home insurance claims increased from an average of three days in 2020 to 18 days in 2021 – largely because digital claims systems weren’t ready for the demand, resulting in a backlog for human representatives to review.
Frontline insurance workers need to have instant access to critical information and be able to explain complex policies to customers in plain language. Although the first order of business of a knowledge management system is to make life easier for employees, at the end of the day, it increases customer satisfaction too.
In Part 2 of our Knowledge Management blog series, we’ll explore how insurance companies can use modern tools to address their knowledge management challenges.
Mitja Alexander Linss is the Sr. Director of Marketing at ProNavigator. He frequently writes about knowledge management, information discovery, artificial intelligence, and InsurTech.