From the January 2010 issue of American Agent & Broker •Subscribe!

Adapt for the future

If there was ever any doubt about the need for our industry to change its ways, last year's interest in social media really drove it home. In the time it took to Google yourself, social networking went from a time-killer for teenagers to a force to be reckoned with, as businesses suddenly recognized that their customers were networking, and they'd better be networking, too. Either you had a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, or you didn't--and those who chose not to join the party ran the risk of missing out on marketing opportunities and more.

Discussion of this phenomenon seems to be a natural jumping-off point for this month's focus on recruitment and talent management. In a very real way, the social media revolution encompasses many of the points brought out in our cover story by Andrew Liakopoulos, principal at Deloitte Consulting. Based on extensive studies of Gen X and Y employees, Liakopoulos concludes that attracting and retaining this technologically savvy new generation of workers is critical for any industry that hopes to compete in an increasingly diverse global marketplace.

And these new employees simply will not settle for working in the same old insurance work environment that for years has given the industry its infamous "boring" reputation. Yes, they're motivated by salary and career advancement, but they're equally concerned with "flexibility, balance, respect and accessibility," Liakopoulos said. This translates to an environment that's diametrically opposed to the gray, button-down, white-male-dominated cube farms of the past--and too frequently, the present. Recent Deloitte studies show that many dissatisfied young workers in all fields are looking for better opportunities, in spite of the poor economy.

Still don't care? Then consider Gen Y as an insurance customer. A recent article in Credit Union magazine projects that at 75 million, Gen Y is not only the largest generation after the Boomers, but the wealthiest, boasting a collective annual income of up to $200 billion and an expected inheritance of more than $17.8 trillion. That's a lot of disposable income in play for a required product.

Granted, insurance by its very nature is a risk-averse industry, and changing ingrained attitudes and processes is unquestionably risky. Still, with a little planning and thought, even the most conservative executives and businesses are venturing into social networking and finding it to be a pretty convivial place. The same sort of thinking might serve them well in revamping their businesses to attract and accommodate the kind of talented and enthusiastic young people they'll need to lead their businesses into the future.

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