In this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds and Azia Hurley talk about millennial employees at insurance agencies. By listening to this episode, you will learn:
- Why millennial and non-millennial employees sometimes don’t get along
- How a mentorship program is key to integrating millennial hires
- How career pathing helps millennial talent develop
- Other ways to motivate and incentivize millennial employees
We’re not the first to point this out, but the average insurance agent is almost 60 years old. Insurance agencies need to hire new people fast—and it is obvious that many of the new hires will have to be millennials.
Cue the intergenerational tension. The term “millennial” alone is likely to arouse strong feelings among millennials and non-millennials alike. Older generations see millennials as arrogant and overconfident; millennials see these critics as “entrenched” in their ways and unwilling to try out newer, faster, better ways to do things.
It is true that many insurance agents and brokers are stuck in outdated ways to do things. But let’s look at it from the point of view of the “entrenched.” Failure, which is practically revered in the startup world that is often associated with the millennial mindset (“fail fast, fail often”), can have cataclysmic consequences at an insurance agency. Imagine making “fail fast, fail often” the centerpiece of your insurance agency’s culture. It would be an E&O catastrophe after the other. If insurance agents and brokers sometimes appear reluctant to part from their process, they might have good reason to be.
Neither should millennials be the subject of unfair caricatures. It is not true that the majority of millennials are pathologically lacking in humility. If anything, incoming millennial hires at insurance agencies are quick to be awed by how little they know. They arrive at the agency with the best intentions, but the superior knowledge of their more senior coworkers intimidates them, and suddenly, they don’t know what to do.
Somebody has to teach them. In this episode with Azia Hurley, a millennial who is thriving in the insurance industry as an Account Executive at Insurance Group of America, we discuss how to bridge this generational gap.
Mentorship is key. Agencies have to start taking mentorship more seriously, and not in a nominal way: we’re talking full-fledged mentorship programs, whereby older and wiser employees are paired with younger, upcoming newcomers—who, in turn, introduce the mentors to progressive methods and ideas, so that the transfer of knowledge goes both ways.
Mentorship programs can also temper millennial restlessness. Millennials, like it or not, have a reputation for wanting instant gratification. Sometimes, they underestimate how long it takes to develop things, including their own careers. In fairness, nobody wants to sit in the same position for years without any idea of where they’re going. That’s why a mentorship program ought to double as a career pathing program, charting the potential progression of a millennial employee’s career. “If you fulfill these duties and responsibilities, you could expect to be here in 12 months; if you do a good job there, you could be here in 36 months.” This way, millennial employees know what to expect but also what is expected of them.
Implementing such a program won’t be simple. Not every employee can be a mentor or wants to be. Somebody has to sit down and sketch out what such a program would look like: who the mentors are, what the progression looks like, etc. But the results are worth it. Mentorship programs help your agency attract and keep top millennial talent—after all, would you rather sign with an agency that takes your future seriously or one that hasn’t shown the least bit of interest in it? Furthermore, your perception of millennials as thankless brats is likely to be overturned. To hear Azia put it:
“I’ve had some really great mentors. I’ve worked with a lot of really great people who have been in this industry for years. Honestly, I attribute who I am as an employee to a lot of those people. I wouldn’t know the things I know and I wouldn’t be the kind of employee I am without them, their knowledge, and their willingness to help me get to the next step.”
Millennials are the butt of many jokes, and they, too, probably have a good laugh behind their older coworkers’ backs. But this intergenerational tension is quickly ceasing to be a laughing matter. The world is changing, and insurance is changing with it. Technology is solving many problems, but it’s also introducing new risks. No single generation can figure out all the novelty on its own. Older people do not understand new technologies, as well as younger people, do. At the same time, historic principles of insurance do not go out the window every time obsolete products do. Millennials and the so-called “entrenched” have a lot to learn from one another and have to work together, for the good of the insurance industry and for the good of the world at large that depends on it for protection.
This is a challenge every agency must confront—and it has to begin with the agency. If the old-timers are really the adults in the room, they have to start acting like it and make the first move.
How about you? Are you looking for millennial talent to infuse your agency with fresh energy and ideas? Are you a millennial—or younger—looking for some guidance in the insurance industry? Whether you’re in the market for mentors, mentees, or just plainly helpful people, you can find them all in our Digital Broker LinkedIn group, a growing community of insurance agents and brokers who help each other out and get better together. Request to join and tell us what’s on your mind.
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