Selling millennials fresh from college on a career in insurance is no easy feat as companies in desirable sectors, such as technology, compete for the attention of new graduates and rising talent. However, once millennials are working in the insurance industry, they tend to have positive views on the potentials for a long-term career. According to Vertafore’s fifth annual Millennials in Insurance survey, 97% of this widely talked-about generation are optimistic that the industry will be able to draw in future workers, while 87% would recommend a career in insurance and 70% plan on working in the industry for as long as possible.
It’s not all smooth sailing for insurance companies. Getting millennials to stay in insurance requires a finely-tuned strategy that realizes the skills they have to offer and lifts the lid on the opportunities that exist in the industry for those who put in the time.
“With my first employer, I really was encouraged to learn the coverages and get designations, like the RPLU and the CPCU, which was huge because you need to learn the coverages before anything else. Where they fell a bit short was giving me the opportunity to actually demonstrate that knowledge that I’d accrued. It was much more the ‘wait your turn structure’ where you would get the chance to prove yourself as a broker only after a senior broker had retired and there was a spot to fill,” said Ian Bell, who is now a senior vice president at the property and casualty, and management liability wholesaler Socius Insurance Services.
In contrast, management at Socius stressed the importance of coverage knowledge, but also gave Bell the chance to prove his worth.
“They really recognized that age wasn’t an indicator of what I knew in terms of the industry or the coverages,” he said. “They saw instead that a hard-working millennial is just as valuable as a seasoned broker.”
Bell got started in the industry in the first place because his aunt owned her own retail brokerage and explained to him that there was a ton of opportunity in insurance, which he soon realized for himself and hopes that other millennials understand as well.
“You can really determine how successful you want to be. I think that’s what drives a lot of the top millennial performers to the industry,” explained Bell. “There’s a lot of industries today where you can work hard and know what you’re doing, and actually be as successful as you want to be, and I think insurance gets overlooked in that aspect.”
In terms of attracting millennials, that education component is important to reveal all the facets of the industry to this generation. Most people who aren’t in insurance or don’t have family working in the industry don’t know about the variety of professions you can have within insurance and that the jobs are way more exciting than what’s shown on television or in movies.
“Millennials just want a job that’s engaging, provides great opportunities for the future, and is lucrative, [and] the industry does all of those,” said Bell, adding that once a millennial is hired by an insurance company, the work to keep them there doesn’t stop. “In terms of retaining millennials, [companies need to] continually challenge them to prove themselves and to be successful. I know a lot of millennials that are drawn to the tech industry and I think that’s because when they look at tech, you can be successful from a very young age as long as you’re smart and hard-working and have some good ideas. Insurance provides that same set of opportunities as long as you have those skills.”
Another obstacle to overcome is the mix of generations that work for insurance companies today as recruiters look to replace a soon-to-be retiring workforce with new talent.
“There are probably five generations working in insurance,” said Jennifer Chapman, global talent acquisition leader at AXA XL, a division of AXA. “That creates a wide range of challenges and how you bring them all together.”
Putting all the focus on one generation is sometimes part of the problem.
“Millennials are so many times the generation that gets a lot of attention when it comes to generational issues at work, and it’s really easy for companies to assume they really need to go all in on the millennial recruitment process and the millennial talent. Consequently, I think they can ignore the older generations in the process,” explained Chapman.
Work-life balance is one area where millennials differ from older generations, and which can complicate communication between demographic groups.
“Millennials have learned to look for and almost expect an increased flexibility in the workplace. They know that many times companies are offering it,” said Chapman. “I think older generations don’t necessarily feel the same way – they are used to being in an office, they are used to having 13 to 14 hour weekdays. It’s bridging that gap that is really important when we talk about the generational conflict.”
Communication pipelines can sometimes get blocked because of the different approaches to work-life balance when, for example, someone that has worked in an office for 30 years all of a sudden has three graduates in their department that work from home three days a week. Chapman recommends companies focus on maintaining verbal and in-person communication between generations as a way to reach across the aisle, especially since millennials are one of the first true digital generations who conduct a lot of their communication electronically.
“I think that there’s a huge difference in their capability and capacity for communication outside of digital or electronic communication, so finding the balance between electronic, and verbal and in-person communication – [as] the styles of communication are very different – is critical,” said Chapman. “I think if you’re not effectively handling that in-person communication between these multi-generations, you will fail.”