To catch a millennial

We've been talking about millennials since before the millennium even began. Now, it's time for the industry to do more than talk. It's time to act.

An incomplete list of things millennials have allegedly killed: napkins, handshakes, working, print news, Big Macs, canned tuna, America. And if we don’t make a significant investment in recruiting, cultivating and empowering this pool of fresh talent and rising leaders, we may just find the risk and insurance industry added to that list, nestled uncomfortably between Applebee’s and romance.

Call it a fondness for tradition or an aversion to change, our industry has a longstanding reputation of being slightly stodgy. Conservative. Stuck. It’s only natural: our business is built on limiting exposures, reducing risk and an abundance of caution. But in an increasingly competitive job market, we can’t expect the next generation of talent to come to us; we need to be out there seeking the best and brightest. Business Insurance tells us up to 400,000 insurance jobs will go unfulfilled in the near future. Which means that millennials are our largest source of talent, our next generation of leaders and our biggest customer base — and our industry is behind in attracting them.

Making a difference. Meaningful work. Self-improvement.

It’s about the work. And so much more.

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of well-established companies in a myriad of industries attempt to draw younger employees by emulating the start-ups. Hip (do millennials say hip?) open-office spaces, a fully stocked beer fridge, ping-pong tables, you get the idea. Results have been mixed. Sure, these surface changes are great, but they don’t come close to addressing a defining basic need for this generation: the chance to make a difference.

“What they value is the chance to join companies that make a difference and where the work brings out the best in them.”

As explained in the Harvard Business Review, “Young people have lots of access to zombie makeup and cheap beer. What they value is the chance to join companies that make a difference and where the work brings out the best in them.” Those of us in the risk and insurance industry know what so many of these young people may not: that we can offer them ample opportunity to do just that. We’re right there with people during some of their toughest, most trying moments, and we help pull them through. Our industry touches people’s lives in a way that very few do. So how do we get millennials to look our way?

The benefits of good benefits.

From getting married to buying a home to starting a family, millennials are experiencing any number of major life benchmarks — and companies can help their employees achieve these big goals. Student loan debt remains a significant drag on this generation. Have you implemented a tuition reimbursement plan? How about instituting employer-sponsored 529 plans to help them save for their children’s education?

Even smaller investments in employee satisfaction can make all the difference. Flexible working environments, with the ability to work from home or on an alternative schedule, can be the catalyst for better productivity. Studies show that work-at-home employees stay longer, take shorter breaks, have fewer sick days and use less time off. Some socially minded companies are instituting PTO policies that allow and encourage employees to engage in community service; others are offering fully paid parental leave. Benefits that go beyond the traditional health and retirement packages show younger employees you’re interested in more than what they can bring to your organization — that you’re interested in caring for the whole person, not just the parts you see from nine to five.

The power of positivity.

So will implementing these changes in your organization make you more attractive to younger employees? It will certainly help, but more critical is actually taking the time to invest and cultivate a dynamic workplace culture, one where employees, regardless of age or tenure, are given the opportunity to make a positive impact.

As it explored which brands millennials favored in 2018, Business Insider uncovered a unifying theme through the list: most beloved were the brands that stood for something. Nike revealed former NFL quarterback and social justice advocate Colin Kaepernick as the face for the thirtieth anniversary of their iconic “Just Do It” campaign. Target rolled out non-gender-conforming toy and clothing aisles. Patagonia took the government to task following the decision to drastically reduce the size of two well-loved national monuments. These brands each took a risk — and a stand — and saw a positive impact.

Now, are we suggesting risk and insurance companies should go out and become the face for radical, societal change? No. But there is inspiration to be found in these consumer-facing companies. Millennials are drawn to brands that think big, do right by their customers and seek to become part of the larger conversation. By pivoting from a focus on bottom lines, ROIs and costs, we can instead spotlight the human aspect of what we do — from the claimants we support to the communities we serve.

From social interaction to the digital experience.

With all this talk of shifting to a more “people first” approach, let’s not forget that millennials are also the first generation of digital natives. They expect a digital experience that’s reliable, intuitive and that cuts down on things like paperwork and wait times. Our industry, with its emphasis on documentation, lags woefully behind. For example, when was the last time you used a fax machine? When was the last time you even saw a fax machine? If you’re in risk and insurance, the answer may be “today.” For most millennials, the answer is “a what?” Technology and innovation have transformed the way we work, play and communicate. So why are so many of aspects of our industry still stuck in the twentieth century? Developing proactive solutions that meet customers and clients where they are is crucial.

“28 percent of millennials are smartphone-only internet users”

More companies have begun to offer digital experiences to better serve injured workers, but the process has been slow and inconsistent. Many online tools and portals are clunky, hard to use and not necessarily ideal for mobile use. Since more than 90 percent of millennials own a smartphone and 28 percent are smartphone-only internet users, it’s clear we need to invest more in IT and development to create digital experiences that will meet millennials where they are and empower them to achieve their goals more easily.

Putting it all together.

Brand loyalty is real, and millennials are big on it. But if you can’t combine the digital expectation with the human experience, they’ll quickly move on. We’re starting to see organizations in our industry making waves by building passion brands. Far from the impersonal image our industry has cultivated, we’re uniquely well-positioned to invest and be involved in the lives of our millennial employees — a huge group who also happens to make up our young customer base as well.

We’re talking about millennials for two key reasons: they’re our largest workforce, and they see our industry as unattractive. We must collectively care, and actively work, to change that image.

Let’s be clear on the value of our work. Of how we help others. Risk impacts everyone, injuries take people away from their lives and unaddressed exposures hurt organizations way beyond their bottom lines. Let’s band together to educate young people on the importance of our industry, and the potential they have to drive real, significant change with us. It’s why we exist: to help one another, to protect each other, to make life better for us all.



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Beverly Westover

Great article!!

Theresa Gavinski

SO incredibly true! The awareness that millennials are truly unique is the first step and York certainly has that covered! Love the new emagazine!

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