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Why insurance staff need rewarding Finance chiefs see muscles flex

What with the continuing spate of scandals in the financial services industry, the casual bystander probably does not find it surprising that half of all employees in the insurance business are disappointed with their careers. But their bosses are surprised.

Eighty-eight per cent of senior insurance personnel are confident that their organisation is either "definitely" or "probably" living up to their staff's expectations, according to a survey by Jonathan Wren & Co, financial recruitment consultants .

Moreover, about two-thirds of bosses surveyed for the report published last month thought that their staff spent less time planning their careers than five years ago.

But the study found that 90 per cent of staff in fact spend more time thinking about and planning their career paths than five years ago.

Such a variation of opinion suggests that this is an industry with plenty of opportunities for specialists in internal communications to make hay.

After all, there must be plenty of other areas of misunderstanding in organisations where about half of staff believe that their employers have the power to reward them financially for outstanding work and pretty much the same proportion of managers say they have "little or no flexibility" to increase salaries on the basis of productivity.

More importantly perhaps, such realisations indicate a morale problem that is probably beyond easy fixing. Jonathan Wren's Andrew Hurren says: "The survey confirms our experience over recent months that employers urgently need to be more concerned with the career aspirations of their employees if they want to retain and expand their staff." Mr Hurren, the consultancy's account development director, adds that employers can no longer expect the most ambitious people, who also possess the necessary qualifications and experience, to join them "just because of who they are".

Instead, they need to realise that they must sell themselves to applicants because such people are now in a position to pick and choose among employers.

"Generally speaking, employers in the financial services sector had an easy time recruiting in the early to mid-1990s," he adds. "At that time, people working in the insurance industry were happy just to have a job. Not any more.

"This change in the insurance employment climate has caught employers by surprise. They have become complacent about the need to satisfy their employees' aspirations. If they do not change their attitude, however, their businesses are bound to suffer"

Roger Trapp