What we're reading this week: Why insurance experts need to advocate for more academic programs to train the next generation of talent. To millennials, there is no such thing as a work-life balance; it's all about harmony. HR can help close the gender gap in tech roles and leadership. How you can fix a toxic workplace culture in three steps.

Here are the top news stories in talent & organization from this week.

Insurance industry needs more educational programs to attract talent

By the end of 2018 a quarter of the insurance industry’s workforce is expected to retire, while only 4 percent of millennials view it as a potential career choice. “We must advocate for and help build academic programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training opportunities that lay the foundation for success — as well as continue to teach insurance professionals throughout their careers. It’s up to us to shape a more vibrant future,” writes David Disiere, CEO of QEO Insurance Group, in this Insurance Thought Leadership blog post. While more academic institutions are offering risk management degree programs (1,870 graduates from 112 programs in 2010), Disiere argues that the industry could do better. “Our focus should be on building more academic programs to attract more students and better preparing them to join our ranks,” he writes. “Insurance experts can help academics design curricula explaining the richness and variety of the industry. The career can encompass many specializations, from sales agent to claims manager and underwriter to evaluation specialist.”

What work-life balance means to millennials

According to Ryan Jenkins, the author of “The Millennial Manual,” millennials have redefined work-life balance into “work-life harmony,” seamlessly blending their careers with life goals. In a blog post for Inc., he outlines the five main ways millennials are streamlining their personal and professional experiences. “Millennials aren’t driven by the thought of working hard for the next 40 years and then retiring,” Jenkins writes, explaining that they see “continuous reinventions and pivots” in the long term. Millennials use digital technology to integrate work and life and are fully engaged with the task at hand at a given time. “Millennials want work-life balance to be fluid, free, and flexible to prioritize whatever (work or life) is most important that day,” he writes, adding “a sense of freedom and flexibility” are crucial for the new generation of workers.

Closing the gender gap in tech

“Women within the tech sector in Silicon Valley make up as little as 11 percent of the region’s executive roles and a mere 20 percent of software development roles,” writes Navreet Singh in this WilsonHCG blog post. “The gap can and should be bridged.” Singh has a six-step roadmap to recruit more women into tech: 1. Uncover career aspirations (take the time to gain true insight into the different career aspirations, working styles, and personal goals of candidates). 2. Gather data (review recruitment ratios by gender, as well as analyzing diversity statistics and the sourcing tools chosen for recruitment). 3. Know the marketplace and competitors’ strategies (research and gain clarity around the markets in which we recruit, as well as what our competitors are doing to attract women). 4. Know and openly discuss your brand (present what the organization has to offer in terms of benefits, cultural perks and career paths). 5. Strategic marketing, precise messaging (market with carefully written, accurate job descriptions, career pages, social media language, benefit documents, and so on). 6. Avoid unconscious bias (start the conversation around diversity and inclusion, listen and learn from your people as well as the talent landscape and, however small, take action today).

Three strategies to build a better workplace culture

Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workforce shows that 67 percent of workers, or two out of every three employees, are disengaged. What’s the number one reason for workforce disengagement? “A toxic culture,” writes Shaara Roman in an op-ed for TalentCulture, “defined by fear of speaking up, abundance of rules and hierarchy, top-down communication and silos.” She recommends three strategies to fix a toxic workplace culture: 1. Show employees the “why” behind their work and give them the opportunity to innovate and own their contribution. 2. Foster a two-way feedback loop by sharing the “why” behind the decision and engaging their teams in sharing their ideas. 3. Create an empowering culture, by valuing differences and creating an open, transparent environment for people to share ideas and debate openly.

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