It should come as no great surprise to the insurance and financial services industries that succession is a looming issue — one that statistically can’t be solved without tapping into the millennial generation.
One-third of producers are between the ages of 55 and 64, and 43 percent of advisors are within 15 years of retiring, according to Aaron Bartlett, an expert on millennials and technology in business who spoke this week during the 35th annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA) 35 in Dallas.
According to Bartlett, roughly 60,000 new hires will be needed annually to fill the talent gap left by the anticipated mass exit of retiring advisors. “This is why we must engage the millennial generation,” he said.
At 75.4 million people, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, millennials are not only the largest living generation today. They also are the largest block of the contemporary American workforce at about 53.5 million employed. Given these statistics, failing to adapt business processes, policies and environments to appeal to the wants and needs of millennials may leave companies out in the cold when they need to fill their employee ranks.
A shift in thinking may be difficult for companies that are comfortable with traditional values and practices cultivated and perfected to suit previous generations. Moving away from what’s tried and true can be difficult. It doesn’t help that millennials suffer from some negative perceptions in corporate America, such as the idea that this generation is especially narcissistic and entitled.
Okay, some stereotypes do emerge from kernels of truth. But with regards to millennials, forward-thinking managers would be well-advised to consider the context in which negative generational perceptions develop, and keep an open mind about how to harness those negatives and turn them into positives. This approach will serve companies well as they attempt to attract and retain younger employees, Bartlett said.
“What are some of your perceptions of millennials?” Bartlett asked his audience to call out their thoughts. Several attendees provided the polite point-of-view: Millennials are technology savvy and socially responsible. They also value group review and opinion.
Then there’s the other side of the coin. One attendee volunteered that millennials are job hoppers who have a “shortsighted view of long-term employment.”
That perception was reinforced recently by a Prudential study that found millennials view long-term employment as 18 to 24 months.
Bartlett chimed in that as the generation that grew up with social media, millennials also are often thought to have a short attention span.
Reared in the world of social media, most millennials have never used a rotary telephone. (Photo: iStock)
Let’s get better acquainted
The term ‘millennial’ was coined by William Straus and Neil Howe, who sought to redefine what had been known as Generation Y. Millennials are loosely defined as those born between the early 1980s to the late 1990s, although many different spans have been put forth.
See also: 17 ways to better market to millennials
Millennials have grown up with unprecedented access to technology. Most don’t know what life was like without personal computers, said Bartlett. Many have no idea what a rotary phone is.
Generally, millennials are characterized by strong civic-mindedness. They have elevated confidence and tolerance, but also a sense of entitlement and narcissism, according to various studies. Almost all millennials believe they can do something great, and many millennials value the idea of making a positive influence in the world over professional recognition.
Research also shows that millennials are the most diverse and well-educated generation in U.S. history, said Bartlett. Both male and female millennials value family and seek a personal life beyond work.
Despite their reputation for professional restlessness, studies also show that most millennials actually desire job security.
According to Pew Research, millennials value jobs that they enjoy above other characteristics including compensation. Second on the list of important career qualities for millennials is job security. And the third most valuable job quality millennials are looking for is flexibility to attend to family needs.
The Pew study indicated that compensation is actually the least important factor for millennial job seekers.
Any company looking to engage more millennials in career-track employment might consider a combination of the following strategies.
Millennials are confident and eager to succeed, so mentor them in their careers. (Photo: iStock)
A dozen ways to engage with millennials
No. 12: Provide regular, constructive feedback.
Millennials need to know that their work matters. The prevailing joke is that millennials are ‘the participation trophy generation,’ having always been praised just for showing up, not necessarily winning. Turn that negative perception into a positive by realizing that providing constructive, encouraging feedback when it’s earned motivates this generation to strive for even more successes.