The Advantage of Mentoring in the Insurance Industry

The Advantage of Mentoring: A retention strategy for the industry

February 2016    |    By Margaret Parent

Mentoring ADVANTAGE: A CIP Society resource for the industry

Some would say that today’s workforce challenges are a perfect storm. With two big groups of workers on the move –boomers moving into retirement and millennials entering the workforce – the workplace will never be the same again. And just as the boomers changed the workplace and changed the way we work when they entered en masse, so too are the millennials – and then some!

Changing demographics of the industry’s workforce: 
The Insurance Institute’s Demographic Research report (2012) indicated the proportion of boom, bust (gen X) and echo (gen Y or millennials) in the industry in both 2007 and 2012. In particular, the share of millennials in the industry experienced a significant shift between 2007 and 2012 (increasing from a very low 12% to a healthier 27% share of the workforce), thanks to employers doing some good recruitment of youth into the industry. 

Mentoring Advantage Comparison Chart

The chart below includes the cohort share for the key industry occupations. When we look at the Claims roles, for example, we can see that the boom cohort share of the workforce decreased from 50% to 36% between 2007 and 2012, and (as per the general labour market and boomers aging to between 51 and 70) will likely decrease further by 2017 to less than 27%, perhaps even as low as 12%. Meanwhile the echo (millennial) cohort increased from 12% to 30% between 2007 and 2012 and will likely increase to closer to 50% of the workforce by 2017 (as this cohort ages to between 22 and 27) – quite possibly a flip of our 2007 proportions. That’s a big change in a short 10 year timeframe.

 Cohort 2007 Cohort 2012 
Occupation Boom Bust  Echo  Occupation Boom  Bust  Echo 
Actuarial 14 43  43  Actuarial  10      30  60
Underwriter 48 35  15  Underwriter  38  33  28
Claims 50 36  12  Claims  36  33  30
Broker/agent 48 37  10  Broker/agent  35  32  31
Information technology 52 40  6  Information technology  42  43  15
Sales & service  32  44  22  Sales & service  27  35  38
Management 70 26  1  Management  51  42  7
         Risk management  48  38  15

The need for new tools to address this changing workforce

With the influx of new entrants to the industry and the exodus of mature workers through retirement, the industry needs new tools to ensure an engaged workforce going forward. Mentoring can be such a tool.

First, the boomers:
As experienced and longstanding workers leave the industry, there’s a real risk that organizations will lose institutional memory, years of expertise and experience, the relationships that have sustained client and/or account retention, business acumen and critical thinking.

Today’s people managers need to find ways to teach the skills that are hard to teach through traditional training – such as team building, leadership, and ethical decision-making skills. Mentoring, with its unique focus on relationships, can be an effective way of transferring those skills.

Next, the millennials:
Much is being touted about the behaviours of millennials and their demands on the workplace, such as, their need for instant and continuous positive feedback and recognition; their expectation of flexibility and accommodations; their questioning of processes and functions; and their search for autonomy and meaning in work as they seek to ‘follow their passion.’
Mentoring, with its unique opportunity for providing one-to-one feedback, context, relevance, and big picture, industry perspective, can be an effective way to meet the expectations of this emerging cohort.

For Industry organizations:
Mentoring is an important strategy that can meet a variety of workforce challenges, including knowledge transfer, employee engagement, retention strategies and succession planning.
Mentoring programs provide employers the opportunity to tap into their own pool of experienced professionals, helping to stabilize the work environment in these times of change —up to 22% are set to retire between now and 2022, according to the Institute’s demographic research study.

With these changing demographics and a younger employee profile, employees will want to, and need to:

  • build skills and accelerate learning
  • transfer knowledge
  • enhance professional ethics
  • broaden scope and awareness of issues and implications
  • guide critical thinking and decision-making


Findings from a recent CIP Society Survey of members (2014), confirmed what mentees are looking for from a mentor. Those who responded that they wanted to be mentored rated the following areas as ‘important’ to ‘very important’.

Area that potential mentees would like help with: Percentage who rated that area as ‘important’ to ‘very important’
Technical knowledge/insurance skill development 91%
Strategic thinking/big picture thinking 90%
Problem solving 84%
Career advice 83%
People management 83%
Character, social and leadership development 80%
Educational tutoring/education and training success 75%
Ethical decision-making advice 69%

Organizationally, strategies that engage mature workers in mentoring relationships with new entrants and younger employees, can serve many goals. Not only does the relationship facilitate the mentee’s learning and the mentor’s transfer of knowledge, but it may also enable mature workers to be removed from day-to-day functions, thereby enabling others to move into those functions or roles; creating a succession pipeline in advance of retirement.

Mentoring relationships benefit mentees, mentors and organizations:
Sometimes mentoring is confused with training, coaching, onboarding and orientation.

Mentoring is best defined as: a voluntary professional relationship whose primary purpose is professional development. Mentees look to the mentor – an experienced, knowledgeable, trusted professional – as an advisor who can help them develop personal skills or competencies that will help them achieve personal and career goals.

Mentoring differs from coaching:
When we think about coaching (in business or sports), coaching is about an expert (coach) helping a person (coachee) develop or refine a specific skill – in a business context, it’s a job-related skill. The purpose of coaching is normally to improve job performance or for individual skill development. The coaching is driven by the coach, who directs the learning, the process and the amount of time required, appropriate or allotted. Once the skill is learned or the level of competence desired is achieved by the coachee, the coaching typically ends.

From an organizational point of view, the coachee’s supervisor and the organization are looking to benefit as much from the coaching as the coachee. Depending on the organization and/or the skills development required, the coach may be the supervisor, or someone else in the organization, or an outside source.

In contrast, because a mentoring relationship is based on trust and openness, a manager should not act as a mentor for someone who reports to them. Mentoring is typically driven by the mentee and it focuses on career development, leadership development, and the transfer of knowledge, which is less transactional and potentially longer or ongoing. At most, a mentee’s manager may be told about a mentee’s goals and objectives regarding mentoring, but the mentor should not provide details to the mentee’s manager about the mentee’s progress.

Mentoring differs from training:
Training focuses on teaching work-related skills or processes. Though training can be one-on-one, it is usually a group activity, with all participants learning the same thing.
Mentoring is intended to foster professional and personal growth of an individual (the mentee) that goes beyond learning a particular job or work-related task or skill.

Mentoring differs from the buddy system:
A buddy system is basically teaming an experienced employee with a less experienced employee (typically a new employee or someone new to a particular function or group) to show the new person how things are done within the organization or group. A buddy relationship is short-term and is focused on familiarizing the new person with the organization’s processes and hierarchy – there’s no expectation of emotional engagement between the two. The only requirement for being a buddy is knowledge of how the organization runs. Mentoring is a longer-term relationship with the goal of helping the mentee achieve personal and career development.

Effective Mentoring:
For mentoring to be effective, best practices suggest that relationships should have the following characteristics:

  • The relationship is intentional – the mentor and mentee agree to the relationship
  • The parties approach each other as professionals
  • The parties have mutual respect for each other
  • The parties are able to give and take feedback
  • The parties communicate openly and honestly
  • The relationship is founded on mutual trust and a guarantee of confidentiality


When mentoring relationships are supported with resources, with SMART goal setting and appropriate matching to meet those goals, and when both parties are working to make it as effective as possible (as above), then there are many benefits to be gained by the mentee and the mentor.

Mentees may experience the following benefits:

  • Increased self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Increased self-awareness of their values and goals
  • Satisfaction from committing to personal and professional growth
  • Constructive feedback regarding various skills
  • Commitment to holding themselves accountable
  • Development or refinement of interpersonal skills
  • Strong support network
  • Lasting friendship


Mentors may experience renewed energy, professional stimulation and personal satisfaction knowing they are an agent for change in someone’s life.

Mentoring can have the following positive impact on the mentor’s career:

  • New perspectives on the concerns and needs of different workers
  • Enhanced leadership skills
  • Expanded personal network
  • Expanded area of influence in the industry


Challenges in mentoring programs and relationships

Much of the research and examples of mentoring recognize the many challenges most programs and relationships face. Often there is some confusion around what mentoring is exactly. Many programs focus on the matching of mentors and mentees without appropriate goal setting, or tools or resources to support the relationship. Mentoring relationships may not always be effectively managed or meet the (differing) expectations of the parties involved.

Below are examples of common mentoring relationship challenges in the industry:

  • Trust
  • Unclear goals, structure or tools to start or facilitate a relationship
  • Lack of commitment/engagement (particularly mentees) or availability (particularly mentors)
  • Time allotment and consistency
  • Mismatch of skills sets
  • Managing expectations
  • Different communication and learning styles


Mentoring ADVANTAGE: Tools for the industry

To encourage and facilitate more mentoring relationships, the Insurance Institute’s CIP Society has culled best practices in mentoring and created Mentoring ADVANTAGE, an online resource, for mentors, mentees, and organizations.

The website includes information and tools that help HR and management to establish mentoring programs in-house and set organizational goals to determine the most appropriate mentoring model. As a result, organizations should have the tools they need to garner support for a mentoring program (including ROI), to enable participation, and to administer/monitor and evaluate a mentoring program.
The Society recognizes that many self-identified mentors and mentees engage in informal mentoring relationships and they may not have access to an in-house program. For those mentors and mentees, Mentoring ADVANTAGE offers information and tools to effectively establish and manage a mentoring relationship.

For mentees, there’s advice on goal-setting, identifying a potential mentor and addressing common relationship problems.
For mentors, there’s information on managing the relationship, including addressing confidentiality, and tips to help hone your mentoring skills.

Getting Started

If you’re new to mentoring, or if you are simply new to the resource, you may be asking yourself how you can get involved. Your first step is connecting with your organization. Mentoring ADVANTAGE’s primary objective is to support industry employers to help them establish effective mentoring programs within their workplaces, therefore indicating your interest to your HR department or organizational leaders may help initiate program development in your workplace.

Note: Facilitating mentoring within organizations has the benefits of minimizing conflicts of interest that may arise in relationships between mentors and mentees from different organizations, and has a greater potential for retention and succession planning within organizations.

For potential mentors and mentees looking to connect outside of the workplace, Mentoring ADVANTAGE has the tools and information you need to help give your new relationship direction (for example, identifying goals). The online resources encourage you to work your network – whether that’s participating in professional development opportunities, or in industry sponsored charity events – there are many ways to meet potential mentors and mentees.


Mentoring ADVANTAGE provides an excellent online mentoring resource for the insurance community with valuable mentoring information, tools and resources. The CIP Society is proud to be supporting greater mentoring in the industry with this important initiative.

The industry is encouraged to recognize the benefits of mentoring relationship for employee engagement and retention during these workforce challenges, and to implement in-house mentoring programs.

For more information, please visit the Mentoring ADVANTAGE website or contact us directly at

ADVANTAGE Monthly trends papers

This paper is part of an open online library of ADVANTAGE Monthly trends papers, published by the CIP Society for the benefit of its members and of the p&c insurance industry. The trends papers provide a detailed analysis of emerging trends and issues, include context and impact, and commentary from experts in the field.

The CIP Society represents more than 18,000 graduates of the Insurance Institute’s Fellowship (FCIP) and Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) programs. As the professionals’ division of the Insurance Institute of Canada, the Society’s mission is to advance the education, experience, ethics and excellence of our members. The Society provides a number of programs that promote the CIP and FCIP designations, continuous professional development, professional ethics, mentoring, national leaderships awards, and research on the issues impacting the p&c insurance industry in Canada.