If you can’t find talent, build it. That’s what Jackson National Life Insurance Co. did. In 2008, the Lansing, Mich.-based company (ranked No. 1 in the United States in Variable Annuity and Individual Annuity sales) was growing quickly, but found itself facing labor shortages, particularly in IT and operations roles. Seasonal and weekly peaks in workload taxed the full-time staff.

To address that challenge, Jackson created its Strategic Support Program (SSP), which provides staffing support for business needs across the organization through opportunities created specifically for those who may want or need more flexible work schedules.

One huge talent pool for the SSP is Michigan State University, in East Lansing. “It has 50,000 students, and it’s only five miles away,” explained Dennis Blue, Vice President, Corporate Services, Jackson National Life Insurance.

The program has been a big success, and it has been extended to locations in Houghton, Mich. (in the state’s Upper Peninsula, home to Michigan Technological University) and Nashville, Tenn. “Approximately 520 SSAs (Strategic Support Associates) are working in the home office and East Lansing, as well as 22 in Nashville,” Blue said. “About 70 percent are current students or recent graduates, and we also have some retirees and people looking for part-time, flexible work.”

Corporate real estate (CRE) supported the program by creating cutting-edge workspace that would help attract young talent as part of a 230,000-sq.-ft. headquarters expansion. The workspace enables collaboration while reinforcing key corporate values such as sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

“We set up a peer group with the SSAs to make sure the workspace fit their needs,” said Greg Farhat, Director, Workplace Strategies and Delivery, Jackson National Life Insurance.