Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

OMG! You Work with Millennials!

The young work force has confidence, optimism and energy—along with ADD, refusal to pay dues and need for constant praise. But the insurance industry can’t avoid hiring new, young employees. Learn how to extract the best talent and turn your new hire into an epic win.

Are you having trouble collaborating with your young producer? Fail! And statistics prove it: Two out of three newly hired producers don’t last 2 years, according to the IIABA—and the total cost to the agency is four to six times the producer’s annual salary. 

The track record for bringing successful salespeople into the independent agency system is not very good, with only one out of every five hired eventually becoming successful producers, according to The Middleton Group.

Read the sidebar: "Millenial Generation Survey."

We all know that the insurance industry is aging. With an average age of 58 and nearly two thirds of insurance professionals older than 45, there is need for new blood. But the insurance industry can’t afford to continue to train new hires who quickly leave. 

Molding the gamer generation with practices and policies left over from previous generations won’t work. Millennials hold different values and possess distinct personality characteristics, which can be misconstrued as incompetence, boredom or laziness.

Related: Read the article "nGIinsights: How to Raise a Millenial" by Rachael Rizzi.

But perceiving millennials as lacking in loyalty and respect is inaccurate. Rachael Rizzi, commercial insurance broker at Orgill/Singer & Assocs., said employers need to understand: Millennials respect those with talent and those who have earned their positions—not those who have received titles simply from years of service or hours worked. 

Last month, AA&B published how to best recruit millennials (“Extreme Makeover: The Independent Agency Edition”). Now, learn what makes young agents tick:

  • Work/life balance. Post-World War II economic growth instilled an appetite for acquisition and comfort—second homes, classic cars, fine dining, art and the like. And furnishing that lifestyle required 50- or even 80-hour weeks. But millennials value salary and benefits less than older generations, according to the Millennial Generation Survey (MGS), and will sacrifice riches for a happy work atmosphere, increased vacation time and working outside the office. The younger generation does not want to choose between work and family and will compromise work aspirations to ensure a happy personal life.
  • Social situations. Young workers have a real desire to network, not only through social media, but in person with their peers. Unlike other generations, millennials will network with competitors, said Mary Ann Cook, vice president of knowledge resources at The Institutes.
  • Teamwork. The younger generation values affirmation from their peers, and as such, enjoys teamwork. More than 80 percent of millennials said that collaborating to solve problems is appealing, according the MGS. The younger generation recognizes that working together is more efficient that struggling alone, Cook said, in part due to millennials’ reliance on social learning.
  • Making a difference. Young agents grew up through 9/11, school shootings, Hurricane Katrina and countless other disasters. Millennials have an increased social awareness and recognize that community extends beyond their backyards. Through Facebook and other social media, Gen Y connects to tragedies from the experiences of “a friend-of a friend-of a friend.” News and information flows quickly through the Internet, so millennials think globally.
  • Technology. This is the first generation to grow up with computers in their homes and classrooms, cell phones and the Internet. Millennials easily learn new software and devices and have the know-how to find information more quickly and easily than previous generations.

Extract Talent

Now that we know how millennials think, let’s discuss how to take those characteristics and turn your new hire into an epic win for your agency.

Read the sidebar: "The Young Producer Study."

  • Change your mindset. Forget the stereotypes you hold about young agents—although technologically skilled, they do more than thumb through their Twitter feeds. “Doing things the way that worked for your generation is not the same way it works for millennials,” the 32-year-old Rizzi said. “Stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”

    Communicate respectfully and don’t be condescending—most young agents come to this field inexperienced. Give them access to information, as millennials want to know the agency’s bigger picture. “When millennials ask questions, they aren’t being insubordinate,” Cook said. “They just want to know why and what’s next.”
  • Offer challenges. While it may seem as though millennials lack employer loyalty, one hypothesis for job hopping is that millennials feel unchallenged in their current workplaces. According to Reagan Consulting’s Young Producer Study, young agents are adept at multi-tasking and thrive in and enjoy fast-paced environments. Meet with young agents and change their goals, train them in other departments or ask for their help in social media projects. 
  • Go remote. Working outside the office isn’t a new concept, but because millennials value work/life balance, they are more likely to ask for and enjoy working remotely. Jason Cass, owner of JDC Insurance Group, works in the basement of his home. The 34-year-old asks his clients to understand that because he works out of his home, they can’t come to his home and make a payment.

    “Not once has someone told me that they can’t do business with me because I work from my home,” he said. “Agents can’t get over that. They think consumers have those misconceptions.”
  • Embrace a cause. Just as young agents are interested in making a difference in people’s lives, they also are highly conscientious of the environment and other social causes. “They will band together at the speed of light to boycott both products and employers whose gains are ill begotten through exploitation or any perceived wrongdoing,” Rizzi said. Choose a charity and raise funds through contests, run/walks or casual dress days—but don’t pressure employees to participate, as that is a turnoff. Compliment your agency’s charity efforts by offering employees a day or two each year to perform service work for charities of their own choosing

    Insurance employers can also attract millennials by emphasizing how insurance protects clients from losses and helps rebuild lives after disasters strike.
  • Mentor. Recognize the difference between “mentoring” and “training.” Millennials want knowledge and wisdom, in addition to checklists and proficiencies. Give as much insight into philosophy, reasoning and failures as you would to skills and policies. Teach your new hires how to work smarter and harder—how to acquire and understand clients, their buying habits, needs and desires; their situations and how they manage risk

    Cass, the National Young Committee chairperson for the Big I, said, “We don’t want to know what to say on a cold call, I have consultants who can teach me that. We want to know how you left us with the greatest industry ever. Mentoring is taking an agent to lunch and asking about family and what kinds of business they want to write, where they want to be in 5 years, and letting me know that you went through the same trials as me.”

Related: See the slideshow "12 Best Young Agents of 2012" by Melissa Hillebrand.

When employers combine solid tools with education and professional development, millennials will prosper in the agency environment. “You cannot be without millennials in your workforce,” Cook said. “They are the key to the future and the key to now.”


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