When you think of the insurance industry, the words “cool” or “sexy” might not immediately come to mind. Unfortunately, that perception has hindered many young, talented workers from seeing the value of insurance as a career path, and the industry recognizes something needs to be done.

It’s no longer enough to simply provide stable job opportunities; it is now crucial to find a way to make insurance relevant to a new breed of employees. More diverse than ever before, the next generation of workers differs with regards to age, gender, cultural backgrounds, skill sets and working styles. Studies have proven that they crave innovation, independence and flexibility, gravitating toward companies like Google and Facebook that have built empires around those same principles.

While the first step is to attract that top talent, the changes the industry needs to make do not end there. It’s not just about finding the right talent, but accommodating that talent when they arrive. How do we make insurance relevant and exciting to this incoming class — a workforce that is also more diverse than ever before?

One of the biggest reasons behind why the industry needs to attract fresh, diverse talent is because it will soon be losing of a good chunk of its workforce. According to a survey from The Institutes, 50 percent of current insurance workers are nearing retirement age while half of the total workforce will consist of millennials by the year 2020. Of this group, only 5 percent are interested in an insurance career and an overwhelming 44% thinks the insurance industry sounds “boring.”

Millennials, or those born between the years 1980 and 1996, are currently the largest generation in the U.S., even surpassing the baby boomers.  According to a recent outlook from Applied Systems Inc., there are nearly 77 million millennials in the U.S. with an average household income of $60,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They are also the most educated generation, with nearly 1 in 4 holding at least a bachelor’s degree. They are motivated, bright and hungry for jobs that can give them purpose, and are increasingly less of a monolithic force than previous generations. They will undoubtedly become the largest customer base as well, so having employees of the same generation and mindset will be invaluable. It’s important to note, however, that millennials come from a variety of backgrounds, ensuring that no matter what insurance does to attract and retain them, diversity has to be top of mind at all times.

While insurance will need to focus on the overarching goals that millennials have, the different skills sets and cultural backgrounds they bring to the table must be addressed as well. Why is a diverse workforce so necessary? Consider the following:

  • Minority groups accounted for 87 percent of the national population growth between 2000 and 2010.
  • Based on current projections, the U.S. will be a majority-minority country by 2042. That means that the majority of residents by that year will be comprised of racial or ethnic minorities, as opposed to white non-Hispanics.
  • By 2028, 75 percent of worldwide discretionary spending will be controlled by women.

What do these statistics mean for insurance? Well, having a diverse workforce means your company will be better able to meet your customers’ needs that also include a diverse mix of life experiences, backgrounds and skill sets. The country’s largest generation grew up in the digital age, in which the world has slowly become smaller and smaller through the proliferation of technology. That means that millennials aren’t just more diverse in terms of backgrounds, but also in their ways of thinking. They’ve grown up in a world where everything they ever wanted to know was completely accessible — and they expect that the industries they choose to work in to embrace that fact.

According to Vertafore’s 2014 Young Professional Survey, 51 percent of millennials rate technology as “very important” to keeping them in the industry. Conversely, technology jobs within insurance continue to be the most in demand and are expected to grow at an extraordinary rate, with almost 75 percent of carriers expected to increase their tech staffs over the next 12 months.

With a view into the type of talent we need to recruit, the next question is what changes need to be made in order to accommodate this highly connected, diverse and tech-savvy generation? The answer lies in utilizing technology such as big data and analytics to help bring insurance into the 21st century. Even more importantly, there is an opportunity for tech-minded talent to help make the industry more nimble, efficient and able to create an engaging customer experience that allows insurers to attract and retain the best risks.

Insurance is playing catch-up in convincing the brightest talent that this is an industry ripe for innovation, especially as it pertains to the millennial generation. Weaving tech into the everyday analysis on how insurance is run is the key to keeping this diverse and dynamic workforce. While insurance may not have been “cool” for some time, there are ways to make it an attractive option by focusing on what the diverse millennial generation wants and needs — the ability to innovate and use technology to improve people’s daily lives.