Over the past decade, the Nigerian insurance industry has experienced more growth than it has in almost half a century. According to a 2015 PWC Report, Strategic and Emerging Trends in Insurance Markets in Nigeria, “the Nigerian insurance industry has grown steadily and this can be shown in the total premiums which have gone from about N75 billion in 2005 to over N300 billion currently. Foreign investors have shown a great interest in the Nigerian insurance sector through entry into the market. These include Sanlam and Old Mutual from South Africa and AXA from France acquiring a $246 million stake in Mansard Insurance. Progressivity can be seen in the introduction of new insurance products in the growing mortgage and housing sector”.

Compared to other emerging economies, this is still a far cry, with penetration rate being less than 0.1%. While we are working to catch up, the world, which is experiencing huge disruption by technology and innovation isn’t waiting. It has become imperative for a major, deliberate, disruptive and innovative intervention by various parties that play in this space. Lack of consumer education, lack of consumer trust, low penetration levels, low implementation of compulsory insurance, short supply of adequately skilled professionals, amongst others, have been identified by researches conducted by leading consulting firms as major challenges confronting the industry.

In proffering solutions to these challenges lie the major drivers for growth for the insurance industry – Innovation, Technology and People.

A lot of discuss (discourse) has been focused on innovation and technology, but little about the PEOPLE. The organisations that would sustain innovation are those that put its PEOPLE at the forefront of their innovation strategy.

The insurance industry, in particular, faces a significant skills gap. According to a 2015 Deloitte survey, only a third of insurance companies consider them ready or very ready with the skills and abilities required to meet their business needs. Skills shortages are a direct result of the industry failing to invest in the future. In order to drive sustainable growth, insurance companies must begin to innovate in this direction. The people that would drive innovation and technology should be equipped through investment in learning and development and an enabling environment for creativity to thrive – A Learning Culture.

A Learning Culture is a set of organisational values, conventions, processes and practices that encourage individuals- and the organisation as a whole – to increase knowledge, competence, and performance. A high impact learning culture directly impacts business results.

A learning culture goes beyond Training but it is a definite part of it. According to Jonathan Hart, Talent Development Manager, Gulfshore Insurance, Florida, “training is an important component of running an effective business. In order for employees to know how to operate technology, adhere to processes, and expand their knowledge on products or services – training is the primary driver in building these functional competencies. By providing formal learning opportunities you invest in the success of your business and show you are committed employee growth.”

As such, when building a Learning Culture, the following pointers should be considered as apt:

1. Create learning programmes that are inclusive: The C-Level suite executives, Senior Managers, Managers, should be visibly involved in and committed to building a learning culture.

2. Think Partnership: Get employees involved. Make them participate in planning their learning. It allows them align company objective with personal objective thereby enhancing commitment to learning. With commitment, they will not only want to learn and apply what they’ve learned to help their organization, they also feel compelled to share their knowledge with others.

3. Give room for mistakes: Tolerate, and even encourage, mistakes as long as they support learning and growth (as opposed to repeating the same error). Creativity does not thrive in a stiff and uptight environment. The critical element is to empower your employees to think in a certain way – in line with your culture. Amongst the skills, researchers have highlighted that would be relevant to the future workplace where Artificial Intelligence (AI) will render redundant a lot of roles, Creativity Skill is one. Others are Communication Skill, Critical Thinking Skill, Adaptability Skill, Computer Programming etc.

4. Reward Ingenuity: Recognise and motivate. Reward what you say you value. Learning cultures value “how” people do something as much as “what” they accomplish.

5. Make learning fun by combining different learning methods: We spend more time on our devices than we do interacting face to face. Adapt your learning programmes to align with these realities – mobile learning, e-learning, gaming etc.

Understand that if you want more innovation for your organization, you have to invest in people, and why you may ask? This is because, as Mehan Mehregany, puts it, “talent recognizes that, while learning is hard work, and the value is not quantifiable, it is the only way to remain valuable in an economy that thrives on innovation”. The more you invest in your people’s knowledge, the more innovation you can expect to reap.

Linda is a Learning and Development expert. She is obsessed about people and organizational development. She trains individuals to reach their full potential as well as perform exceptionally in their various professional careers .

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