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5 ways to give millennials a cause (and a company) to believe in

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I am a great believer in the good that our industry can and has done in the world because this is an industry that, by its very nature, helps individuals and brings them peace of mind.

We know that insurance provides security against life’s uncertainties for families, individuals and small businesses today and into retirement. And we know that’s true for people of all ages. But we need to find innovative ways to tell our story to a new generation, and to motivate younger workers to join us.

LIMRA confirms what we know, which is that millennials just don’t recognize the benefits and need for insurance. Last year, LIMRA found that 60 percent of millennials were more concerned with spending their money on Internet, cable and cell phones than on their financial futures.

So what are we as an industry to do as we seek to attract and keep these young people as employees and to introduce them to the peace of mind that insurance offers?

I believe the answer is deceptively simple: Give them a cause to believe in. Barkley, an independent advertising agency, finds that more than 50 percent of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support causes they care about.

At National Life Group, we’ve built our company and its culture around a cause, which is our values: Do good. Be good. Make good. Everything we do revolves around those six words.

Jackie and Kevin Freiberg are best-selling authors and business management consultants who recently published a new book, Cause!, which focuses on companies that have built themselves around a mission.

They highlighted cause-driven companies, including my own, because these are the businesses that engage their employees and their customers and, ultimately, perform better. And there is plenty of research to prove the point.

Former Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel worked with research firm Millward Brown to create the Stengel 50. After studying 50,000 brands, Stengel concluded that brands that focused on the cause of improving people’s lives grew three times faster and outperformed their peers. Over a 10-year period studied, an investment in The Stengel 50 would have been 400 percent more profitable than investing in the Standard & Poor’s 500 over the same period.

Other research supports the idea. Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer found that 84 percent of respondents believe that business can pursue its own interests while doing good work for society. And 92 percent of consumers want to do business with companies that share their concerns. In other words, customers really do want to work with a company that has a cause.

And the same holds true for employees. Deloitte found that organizations that have a strong sense of purpose are much more optimistic about their ability to stay ahead of the industry and to outperform their competitors. Deloitte’s research also found that when employees are engaged with their company’s culture and it aligns with corporate strategy and purpose, there can be as much as a 50 percent differential in performance.

There is powerful evidence from Deloitte that millennials gravitate toward companies that have a clear mission, something these young people can relate to beyond the quarterly P&L.

Deloitte found that 80 percent of the people who work for companies with a strong sense of purpose believe their organization encourages employees to innovate, while only 35 percent of those at other companies believe the same thing. There’s a nearly equal distribution when the question is about companies that encourage employees to take full advantage of developing new business growth opportunities.

Perhaps even more telling, 77 percent of employees at cause-driven companies believe leaders at their organizations seek out the ideas and opinions of employees. Only 19 percent of employees at other companies believe the same thing.

These are the employees we want to attract and retain and reward. These are some of the reasons that we are on a mission at National Life. We were honored to appear in Jackie and Kevin Freiberg’s book alongside companies such as Toms Shoes, Southwest Airlines and Lululemon.

We take our motto — Do good. Be good. Make good — to heart. Just as they have been for 167 years, employees here are engaged at every level of the organization. They’re empowered to make a difference with our customers, and together with management, they work in the community to make a difference.

The key for companies similarly on a mission is to make the cause clear, easily understood and a part of everyday life. Once we did that, our growth really took off.

I believe so strongly in the results that I encourage everyone in our industry to give it a shot. To that end, I offer these 5 suggestions:

  • Develop a clear, cause-driven mission.

  • Communicate that mission with your employees and give them the power to build on the mission. Reward and recognize them when they advance the cause.

  • Do the same thing with your community. Understand the needs of the people who live and work around you. And help them achieve their own cause. Our charitable foundation does that every day. And so do our employees when they take paid company time to volunteer for nonprofits in the community.

  • Blow your own horn. Tell customers about some of the things you support. Invite them along on the journey. And give them the tools to participate.

  • Stick with it. Everyone will recognize if this is just a marketing campaign. But when they see that you’re at it year after year, they’ll believe you — and beat a path to your door to do business with you.

We all know that there is great wisdom throughout our organizations. My experience is that you’ve got to tell employees that they’re valued, and that we need their passion and their counsel every day.

See also:

Millennials are unprepared for retirement

What is it with millennials and Bernie Sanders?

How millennials are redefining employee benefits

End of golden era for investors spells troubles for millennials