It’s around this time every year that I force myself to recite the old adage, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” 

As we close out 2018, we must start the process of thinking (differently) about the new year ahead. I’m always struck by organizations that want to improve their end results but are not willing to change the way they do things. It’s time we change that way of thinking, particularly when it comes to solving one of the industry’s most looming challenges: the talent crisis. We need to quit just talking about it and finally start acting on it.

According to our recently released Q3 2018 market index, “recruiting and developing talent” remains among the top organizational priorities for your firms. We all need talent to remain competitive, so I know the challenge in front of us is not from a lack of trying to recruit the best and brightest. But perhaps we need to look beyond the obvious and explore other pools of candidates who may have the attributes but not all the skills or the confidence to apply.

Whether it be persons with disabilities, veterans who have been out of the workforce for an extended time, stay-at-home parents, freelancers in the gig workforce, or other untapped groups of professionals, there are thousands of skilled and experienced individuals who could turn the tide in our respective organizations if only given the chance.

And that brings me to our feature on Gallaudet University’s risk management and insurance program, which is creating new opportunities for both students and the insurance industry by providing exposure to an impressive source of talent eager to join our industry. Located in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet is the premier institution of learning, teaching and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. As Gallaudet’s RMI program (led by a former Gallagher vice president) has grown and internship opportunities for students have expanded, so too has students’ interest in the brokerage business. I highly encourage you to read the story.

A few years ago, the global tech company SAP set out to tap into the abilities of a very talented yet underrepresented segment of the workforce—individuals on the autism spectrum. Finding success, SAP’s now internationally recognized program, Autism at Work, employs more than 140 individuals in 12 countries.

Then there’s the Starbucks on H Street NW (just a few blocks from Gallaudet), which opened its first “Signing Store” earlier this year for the deaf and hard of hearing. Of the location’s 25 employees, 19 of them are deaf, and the other six are proficient in American sign language.

Similar examples are all around us. And it makes sense—hiring talent with different viewpoints, experiences and intellectual skills fosters diversity, and study after study has found that diverse businesses tend to perform better.

Among other things, the challenge of leadership is to be bold. As we dive into 2019 with fresh ideas and (hopefully) some creative, out-of-the-box thinking, remember that, while keeping up with changing business models is hard, it shouldn’t be scary. There are populations out there poised to make an impact on our industry, and the opportunity for organizational growth from these efforts may far exceed your expectations.

There’s a lot of talent out there. Go out and get it.