Deanna Mulligan retired in October after 10 years as CEO of Guardian Life Insurance, a policyholder-owned company that last year recorded $1.7 billion in annual income. She has been a regular on Crain’s Most Powerful Women list since 2011 and in 2019 was the only female CEO among the city’s Fortune 500 companies, though Coty’s new CEO, Sue Nabi, joined her this year. Mulligan’s new book—Hire Purpose: How Smart Companies Can Close the Skills Gap—warns that shortcomings in employee training could leave millions of jobs unfilled by 2030.
What drove your decision to retire from Guardian?
When I became CEO—well, president—almost 10 years ago, I said 10 years was my outside limit of how long I wanted to stay. I think that’s a long time for someone to lead a big company, and it’s great to make room for someone with new ideas.
It’s been a challenging past six months. How did Guardian manage the transition to remote work?
Our former offices at 7 Hanover Square had a 5-foot wall of water wash through the lobby during Hurricane Sandy. We were out of that building for nine months. We did not have a backup plan then but made it through. I said we could never have this happen to us again. So we brought on a chief information officer, and one of his first jobs was to make us location independent. It took five years and a lot of training, but we were ready to flip the switch this time, which we did March 10.
Pivoting to your book, what is the skills gap, and how big is this challenge?
The world is changing rapidly, and the skills companies require from employees are changing rapidly. The estimates of how many people will need to be reskilled are anywhere from 30 million to 80 million people.
How does Guardian help employees learn new skills?
It’s important to develop a learning culture inside an organization. We have invested a lot in education and training. We have a pilot project right now to help front-line employees—who would normally be answering telephones or processing claims—become coders and work in our IT department. It opens up a whole new world of career possibilities for them.
When Crain’s profiled you most recently for the Most Powerful Women list, you were the only female CEO among New York’s Fortune 500s. Why do you think it’s so rare to see female leadership at top companies?
I think this is changing. There are many more female Fortune 500 CEOs now than when I became CEO 10 years ago, for example. And in New York City, we have the example of Jane Fraser, who has just been elected CEO at Citi. You’ll see even more from financial services companies in the future. Many studies have been done that show having a diverse board, diverse leadership and a diverse workforce lead to better results.
Source: Google | Insurance News