The Generational Hand-off in Insurance

Now is the time for carriers to find out what they want the future of their companies to look like, and that starts by gaining a better understanding of what make millennials tick.

(Image credit: Dollar Photo Club.)

With 8,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, carriers have an urgent need to find ways to attract millennials to the insurance industry and fill the positions left open by retirees. To make things worse, insurance also has the reputation as an industry that lacks excitement and discourages innovation. The road to transform that image and bring young professionals to the industry has many challenges. To overcome them, insurers must be committed to fundamental cultural and business process changes within their organizations to be more in line with millennial interests, preferences and personalities. Only then will they be able to catch this generation’s (hard-to-get) attention and retain them when they do become involved.

There are several approaches that carriers can use to achieve that. First off, organizations must improve legacy systems that hinder productivity; they must also have an onboarding approach that includes a focus on unique benefits and philanthropic programs. In addition, executives must take a close look at the corporate culture as it relates to mentoring and training, workplace values, and physical environments. Millennials have shown a tendency to grow and learn most from environments that encourage teamwork and communication.

All of this must be supported from the top and permeate the organization to ensure compliance. Millennials are the next generation of employees and it is necessary to share the knowledge from one generation to the next, but to do it in a way that is relevant and interesting to them. Otherwise, we risk losing out on knowledge that was not properly passed on, which affects the health of the carrier and the overall industry.

Bringing in new technologies

Generation Y has grown up with technology all around them; at a young age, they witnessed the evolution from VHS to Blu-ray, from home phone internet connection to free public Wi-Fi, from cellphones to smartphones. When asked in a 2014 Nielsen survey about what makes them unique 24 percent answered that ‘Technology use’ comes first. Their ability and comfort with technology also makes them feel positive about how it affects their lives, according to the survey, with most citing that it makes their lives easier and brings them closer to friends and family. But Millennials aren’t just using technology for social networking. They use it to interact online with companies they deal with in many different ways—to shop, buy, sell, communicate, etc. For them, the digital world is a world of endless opportunities.

Many top insurance companies have taken note of that and are starting to implement tech strategies to engage with Gen Y in the hopes of attracting them and boosting employment. MyPath is an example of such an initiative. The project—which includes the involvement of well-known insurers and agencies such as Liberty Mutual, State Farm, and USAA—constitutes an online platform that helps students and other young adults seek career options in insurance and risk management. It is intended to provide information about the insurance and risk management industries, as well as job offers that are in line with what Millennials want – stability, flexibility, upward mobility and the ability to make a difference.

Onboarding for retention

Key benefits such as stability and flexibility should be showcased during the onboarding process, if not during the job interview. If a carrier is open to flexible work hours and schedules, this should be discussed upfront. This type of personal approach is crucial when it comes to enticing millennials. As Emily Tracey, an analyst at LIMRA, states: “The ‘cattle herding approach,’ in which carriers recruit tons of people and let the stronger survive and the other ones leave, doesn’t work. That’s a turn-off for young advisors.” If their early experience with a company is chaotic and ineffective, they will not feel ownership nor loyalty, and thus be more willing to move on. Making an effort to personalize interactions during the recruiting and onboarding processes will make an insurance company look human, creating a sense of community and team support. Millennials crave a workplace that equates to more than just a salary. They want an environment where they are an integral part of a team that is working toward an overarching goal. That kind of atmosphere elicits high team performance and individuals that actively participate in the growth of the company.

Moreover, philanthropic programs are one way to show the real people behind an insurer. Companies such as Aviva Canada (Markham, Ontario) are working toward creating positive social changes while providing opportunities for employees to engage in charities and social causes they care about. Some of these initiatives include starting a foundation that gives back to community, making donations to causes that employees support, or building teams to clean up parks and public areas. For millennials, making a difference in the world is a valuable part of why they will be invested in a company and its future.

Shifting corporate culture

Effective mentoring is the key for young professionals to be successful in any industry, but is especially important in insurance. The training structure of this industry is based on a long learning curve and promotions acquired over time. However, beyond formal training, pairing them up with older employees will help them learn directly from senior employees who have invaluable real-world experience and knowledge on how to build strong, long-lasting relationships with clients. To start, carriers must educate their senior employees on their crucial role as mentors; they should understand that they are an important part of a generational hand-off to millennials who will benefit from their expertise and experience.

Physical environments are also important to encouraging collaborative work and a group atmosphere. Working more than 8 hours a day in cubicles, separated from colleagues by greyish partitions, is not appealing to millennials. Instead, wide open spaces, where desks are disposed in such a way that advisors have the opportunity to share and communicate with others, can contribute to the creation of a workplace that has a culture of knowledge-sharing, teamwork and strong communication.

That brings up a final point. Other than their propensity for technology, millennials’ tendency toward transparent communication might be their most distinguishing characteristic. Technology has brought many different ways of communicating with each other—mobile devices, emails, SMS, social media, video chat—and millennials have mastered them all. They are also not just connecting with their friends and family, but have the capability to connect with the whole world right at their fingertips—and it is clear that millennials are taking advantage of it. Insurance companies must do the same if they want to attract and retain young talent.

When recruiting, carriers must promote job positions on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn rather than rely on applications simply through their website. They can also implement user-generated reviews and testimonials since reviews are seen as a trustworthy way of getting to know companies from an impartial third party. Within an organization, Gen Y expects the same kind of connectivity they are used to outside the workplace: rapid feedback in a flat organizational structure that values employees’ opinion and contribution. It is a matter of communicating with them where and how they want to be communicated with.

Now is the time for carriers to find out what they want the future of their companies to look like, and that starts by gaining a better understanding of what make millennials tick. There is no doubt that attracting them to the industry and passing along key skills and information is crucial to the success and future of insurance companies. A recent study from Vertafore (Bothell, Wash.) found that 82 percent of millennials are “optimistic” or “very optimistic” that the insurance industry will evolve to attract the next generation of insurance talent—so let’s not let them down.

Francis Dion // Francis Dion, CEO and Founder of Xpertdoc (Montreal), has more than 20 years experience managing IT services, developing software and providing process improvement training and consulting services. His experience spans technology, process management, human capital development and entrepreneurship. He has been directly involved in multiple implementations of document output and customer communications projects at major U.S.-based insurance companies. Under Dion’s guidance, Xpertdoc has grown into a leading provider of document management and customer communication solutions.

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