Next Generation: 3 ways to ease generational conflict

Next Generation: 3 ways to ease generational conflict | Insurance Business America

Next Generation: 3 ways to ease generational conflict
As executive vice president of industry knowledge leader The Institutes, Anita Bourke is well aware of the challenges the insurance industry faces with regard to talent. While recruiting is a hurdle in and of itself, training and retaining young talent can be just as difficult and Bourke believes generational conflict between new hires and seasoned employees is “a tale as old as time.”

“The preconceptions one generation has about another are consistent over time—no matter which generations we’re talking about,” Bourke said. “Young people feel older folks are out of touch with the times; older folks feel that young people are entitled or lazy.”

However, Bourke says insurance agencies are not doomed to remain in this state of interruption and generational conflict. In fact, based on success stories within the industry, there are three sure-fire ways to ease the transition for new and existing employees tonight.

1. Community outreach
“The best way for millennials to realize that the older generations in the workforce have valuable experience and insights, and for older professionals to realize that this influx of young brings fresh outlook and enthusiasm is to consistently provide opportunities for the two groups to interact,” Bourke said. “Participating in networking events and career fairs is a great way to break the ice in an agency.”

While outreach to local colleges is traditionally used as a recruiting tool—and a great one at that—it can also be used to simply get agency members interacting with youth.

Delivering guest lectures, for example, has proven fulfilling for Altamont Capital CEO Brian S. Cohen, who says being around young people reminds him why he loves his career. It also helps shed some light on a misunderstood generation.

“There are two ways to look at young people: bright and passionate, or young and stupid,” Cohen said. “There are two ways to cut every person and how they’re viewed, and the more you interact with them, the more positive you feel.”

2. Facilitating mentorships
Mentorships during the first few years of employment are also essential for both new hires and industry veterans.

“We recommend establishing mentor relationships during the first year a young professional is hired,” Bourke said. “Whether it’s a formal or informal mentorship makes no difference—as long as they’re meeting regularly.

“Not only will the young professionals benefit, but owners may also glean valuable insight into what their millennial customer base is thinking and looking for in an agent.”

3. Accepting self-reflection
Noelle Codispoti, executive director of the Gamma Iota Sigma fraternity, gets frustrated when she hears stereotypes bandied about regarding any generation. For those who have spent longer in the industry, she says self-reflection is critical in understanding young people.

“We fail to remember that this generation is a product of what we told them. They didn’t all of a sudden create these traits and stereotypes,” Codispoti said. “They’re a product of what we created and to change that, we have to be the first in the industry to step up and say we’re not going to give them a bad experience and drive them to get another job in investment banking or accounting.”

As for young people? Codispoti urges them not to antagonize those with the power to shape their future.

“I tell them all the time, don’t play into stereotypes,” she said. “They know stereotypes exist, and I urge them to Google them and to figure out what they are, and to be mindful that people will perceive you a certain way even though you may not fall into those categories.”

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