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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

Hey Boomers: Better Get Better at Communicating with Younger Generations

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It’s no news that the life insurance industry is struggling to replenish an aging sales force and that recent college grads show little interest in the industry as a career choice. This is happening even though many recent college grads are having a hard time landing a career-oriented job upon graduation.

Employment rates for new college grads have fallen sharply in the last couple of years. A 2011 study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University revealed that just 56% of 2010 college grads had held at least one job by the spring of 2011, when the survey was conducted.

This leads me to another study, just released, that is billed as “the first comprehensive, quantitative study of generations in the insurance industry” — the Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit.

“Despite a phenomenal 100% placement rate for risk management and insurance majors, college graduates simply do not gravitate toward insurance careers,” says Jim Hackbarth, CEO of Assurex Global, a premier network of independent insurance, risk management and benefits brokers. “Thanks to negative perceptions about the profession, a lack of awareness about rewarding careers and a limited pool of trained talent, graduating students fill no more than 15% of the industry’s hiring needs.”

Hackbarth also said that the tendency to overlook insurance careers by both the Millennial Generation and Gen-Xers “creates an enormous challenge for an industry that anticipates a 50% workforce turnover in the next 15 years.”

The report says insurance brokers, agency owners, industry executives and managers — who at this point are still primarily boomers — must make a strategic effort to establish programs, services, cultures and communications vehicles to help bridge generation gaps in the workplace, understand and respond to employees’ social and professional needs, and start younger employees — from recent college grads through Gen X — on the path to organizational leadership and business ownership.

While the report says about 44% of Gen Xers and Millennials who currently hold industry sales positions say they are “extremely interested” in agency ownership, only about 25% of them believe there are mechanisms in place to allow them to become owners. Consequently, few are prepared to step up and take over for retiring boomers. The study says it is essential for employers within the insurance industry to adjust their policies and procedures and enhance their communication and culture in order to attract, nurture and grow the next generation of leaders and owners.

“Entrepreneurial Millennials and Gen Xers who are interested in establishing careers that may one day lead to insurance agency ownership are encouraged to contact independent brokers in their own backyards and around the globe,” Hackbarth says. “Independent, privately owned insurance brokers understand the drive to be your own boss and are committed to passing ownership of their firms from one generation of employees and managers to the next.”

If they really are committed, many of them need to do a better job of showing it.


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