Why insurance needs to "think millennial" in 2020

If you think we've done enough as an industry, you may be left behind

Why insurance needs to "think millennial" in 2020


By Clare Wakeford

Millennials now makes up a third of the global workforce. They are not just our future customers, but also our future leaders. We’re beginning to see an increasing number of brokerages embrace the digital world in order to appeal to an emerging customer base; and it’s fantastic to see rising stars coming through the ranks into leadership positions – from an HR and people perspective, that is naturally where my interest lies.

But I’m here to tell you that if you think we’ve done enough as an industry, you may be left behind. It will be the brokerages that wholeheartedly instigate millennial thinking across every aspect of their business who really take the industry by storm over the next five years.

What have millennials ever done for us?
A report by Manpower Group (Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision) on how millennials work busts a few of the myths some of us might hold – that they’re lazy, job hopping, flaky individuals who are best avoided in a grown-up working environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the report states, millennials are ‘training for a career ultramarathon’ that many of them expect may last until their dying day. They’re intensely focused on their career and willing to work hard and change pace and path to achieve their goals; and often expect to move forward with the same employer.

Committed, agile and loyal when offered the right opportunities: sounds like the ideal employee, right?

Grow your own workforce
What is critical for our industry with its niche requirements, is to consider exactly which skillsets are essential and what can be achieved through training – and also, to be realistic. Not many young adults fresh from their ‘A-levels’ are likely to be able to walk into an underwriting or broking sales position without any allowances for growth.

The next step is understanding how to then go about attracting younger employees into the industry so that you can ‘grow your own’ future workforce and identify potential successors. It goes without saying this doesn’t happen overnight, investment is needed and the key is really planning for the future.

Millennials’ top three priorities
Alongside working with a business that aligns with their values (more on that in a moment), there are three areas highlighted in Manpower’s report that are incredibly important to millennials: money, security, and a healthy work / life balance. I’ve also found that they have a preference for active learning and social activities. Personal fulfilment and a meaningful job in a friendly organisation are crucial: they prioritise support, appreciation and flexibility.

Completing a benchmarking exercise is a good way to ensure that your salary package is commensurate with what is offered elsewhere, including outside of the industry. Being generous with annual leave entitlement will also go a long way. But when it comes to job security, this is all about something more ephemeral: building trust.

The younger generation need an employer who they can trust with their career prospects; and who will place their trust in them in return. A great way to show that you are trusting as an employer is to seriously consider how you might implement agile working within your business. Allowing your people the freedom to work remotely where appropriate generates a huge amount of trust from both parties and shows that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is.

In terms of whether millennials will trust you, a lot of that will depend on your values and whether you practice what you preach.

Make your mission count
To appeal to the younger generation, it’s helpful to think about how you can weave ‘millennial values’ throughout your organisation; but make sure that you do so in a way that feels authentic. Things like Corporate Social Responsibility; Diversity and Inclusion; and a holistic approach to wellness are all hot topics for millennial businesses, but a token gesture isn’t enough.

How can you embed this in your policies and procedures? What can you do that will make a genuine, positive impact on your people? Remember that your existing workforce are your best ambassadors for new recruits too – if they are excited by their career, the buzz in the office will be tangible when a potential new hire walks in. To use what is very much not a millennial reference – it’s that ‘X Factor’ that you’re looking to achieve. Make millennials feel intrigued by your business and want to be part of what you’re doing next.

Six tips you can implement right now

  • Offer more access routes into your organisation. Consider if work experience placements, apprenticeships and graduate schemes could work.
  • Technology is significant for millennials, so consider your IT, communication channels and platforms. Are they slick, flexible and user friendly?
  • Think about a recognition scheme – the little things mean a lot.
  • Consider your new starter experience. Making the transition between education and employment can be a struggle for some; peer support can be particularly helpful, for example putting a ‘Buddy’ system in place for new starters.
  • Set clear objectives. Young people specifically benefit from clear direction, including regular feedback, opportunities for upward communication and guidance on which skills they can develop on the job.
  • Allow your people the chance to network with colleagues. Get them involved!

Engaging with millennials means engaging with new ideas and working ahead of the curve. It’s time to invest in the future of your business.

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