Ever since the beginning of time, cultures have clashed. The Romans clashed with the Celts. The Pilgrims clashed with the Indians. The Americans clashed with the British. However, clashes on a much larger scale are taking place today: The clash between the “millennials” and the “baby boomers” in the workplace is very real and is already here. This clash is referred to as an age generation gap. Baby boomers, aged 49 to 67, hold positions of high authority today in the workforce. Baby boomers everywhere are faced every day with a very tough decision: Should I hire a millennial? Unfortunately for baby boomers, they really don’t have a choice. Right now, there are about 80 million millennials and 76 million boomers in America. Half of all millennials are already in the workforce, and millions are added every year. Approximately 10,000 millennials turn 21 every day in America, and by the year 2025, three out of every four workers globally will be a millennial. Some experts predict as much as 36% of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2014.
Why do baby boomers have such a hard time giving in to hiring millennials? The reports are out, and the overall reputation of millennials in the workforce is not something I am proud of. Here is what baby boomers and other head managers think of millennials: millennials, ages 18 to 35, demand instant gratification and flexible work schedules, place personal pursuits over work obligations and remain connected to distracting online activities. They don’t buy into corporate financial goals, market positions or growth strategies; they buy into societal goals, environmental practices, cultures and public missions. Millennials expect immediate recognition and a trophy just for showing up to work on time. Unlike baby boomers, millennials are more likely to jump from job to job every few years or so. Millennials value not just their time off, but also the ability to control when they are on and off the job. The nine-to-five workday is fading while the demand for more than two-week vacations has doubled. Millennials expect the work place to be social, transparent and fun. Many millennials have no problem talking to their respected authorities on a first name basis. Millennials don’t take well to even the most positively presented constructive criticism, never mind any workplace disciplinary actions. Millennials tend to dismiss the older generation, quick to think that they know nothing, and that they could learn a thing or two from the younger generation. While baby boomers live to work, millennials work to live. In the eyes of the boomer, millennials have made themselves known as the “What’s in it for me?” generation.
So why should insurance agencies care about the millennials? The millennials are the future leaders of our institutions and our businesses. This might be a tough pill to swallow for any baby boomer. If managers can’t see the value and importance of hiring millennials, their business will fail quickly. Millennials are the first generation that is truly driven by technology. Social communication skills have never been more important to a generation in history. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are second nature. If you sit idly at your desk, ignoring the internet and the connection social media can bring to your agency, you will be left in the dust and your agency will fail. Consider this: Millennials grew up with computers, iPads and smartphones. Millennials will shop for insurance online and will gravitate towards those companies who reach out to them online. Do you think technology is going away? Millennials value relationships. The problem is that many independent insurance agents don’t know how to connect with the younger generation. So just how do you connect and establish a relationship with millennials? The answer is easy: online. Agencies must drop their “old-school,” “technology-is-evil” ways and establish a strong online presence with social media. Having a Facebook Page is not enough. Your Facebook Page should have pictures, insurance cartoons, insurance articles providing helpful tips on saving money for all ages, free quotes, contact information, frequent posts, giveaway opportunities and personalized posts congratulating clients on weddings, graduations and other special life accomplishments. A successful agency will realize that these online relationships are the type that millennials value. A successful agency will hire a millennial who fully understands how to connect with their peers online and will develop a strong online presence for the agency, setting it up for success for years to come.
Is social media enough? Will millennials come running to your doors ready and eager to buy insurance? If you guessed no, you have guessed correctly. Consider these facts: Just 5% of millennials and only 2% of students said they were very familiar with the insurance industry. In contrast, 78% of millennials, including 88% of students, said they were not familiar with the insurance industry. A successful agency will consider these numbers and realize the great opportunity to increase awareness of the types of careers available in the insurance industry. How do you increase awareness? In the school systems! Millennials are more highly educated: 54% have had some college education, compared to only 36% of baby boomers. We all know that kids are easily influenced by what they see on TV. I am also very well aware that independent insurance agencies do not have the same resources that Geico, Progressive and others have and use in their marketing strategy. For millennials who say they are not interested in working in the insurance industry, the top reasons given were that the person did not want to be selling insurance (54%) and that the insurance industry sounds boring (44%). These reasons both point to a need to educate millennials about the various interesting career possibilities in the insurance industry beyond just selling insurance. Independent agencies should attack early and often. Sponsor an event or activity in elementary schools. Get involved in career days in high schools. Be present at networking or career fairs on college campuses. Offer internship positions for students looking for experience. How do you get kids to realize that selling insurance is not the only job in the agency? Offer marketing and social media positions! We just talked about the importance of having a strong Facebook and social media presence. Who knows more about social media than a millennial? Maybe you do…good luck.
Millennials are outgoing, technology savvy, connected, dynamic and the most creative generation yet. If you aren’t convinced about hiring a millennial, you might just be headed for a world of hurt. Here are some more facts to consider: Are millennials driven by the money? Not necessarily. More and more, millennials are accepting less money and willing to make financial compromises just to find a job. According to a survey done by PWC.com, “32% had accepted a lower salary than expected, 17% were receiving fewer benefits than expected and 17% were working away from their ideal location. Overall, 72% say they had made some form of compromise.” Due to the economic downturn, millennials have placed more interest in progression within a company than they have in salary. “52% said that they felt this made an employer an attractive prospect.” There is no denying the ambition and optimism a millennial possesses. As connected as millennials are with their friends and colleagues, they are looking for that same experience at their workplace. Millennials seek to connect with the community they work and live in. By hiring a millennial, you give your agency the opportunity to socially connect with outer businesses and groups within the community. Connecting with commercial lines online is just as important as connecting with your personal lines. Not only will millennials help your agency connect online, they will bring their diverse social circles and networks to the workplace. Diversity is the key for every agency in the future. Millennials grew up in an educational culture of acceptance. The ability to connect and celebrate with all different cultures will bring a sense of unity between agents and clients, and the workplace will ultimately inherit this nature.
An organization’s future vitality is dependent on its ability to attract, retain, motivate and develop millennials. The most successful manager realizes the importance of closing today’s generation gap. The decision is ultimately yours. Millennials will continue to occupy an increasingly prominent segment of today’s workforce. The future of millennials is now. Negative stereotypes can adversely impact the willingness of a managerial leader to mentor or help a young person, particularly when the older employee views the younger employee as an economic threat. Successful agencies and managers must strategize how best to engage them and benefit from the contributions they will make.