“The insurance industry is not particularly attractive to the so-called ‘millennials’—people who turned 21 in 2000 or later.”
That’s what my co-author, Rob Salkowitz, and I said in a recent article in The New York Times. We were talking about the aging workforce in the insurance industry. By some estimates, more than half of US life insurance agents are above the age of 45, while almost 70 percent of claims adjusters are at least 45 years old.
While the problem of an aging workforce is not unique to insurance, it is more of a problem because of the industry’s hierarchical structure and perceived lack of glamour. And, as the workforce gets older, the divide between current workers and the workers they need to attract grows.
What millennials want
The insurance industry was built on an apprentice structure, with a long learning curve and promotions that are commensurate with time spent in the industry. As a highly regulated industry, the rules and regulations are stringent. Contrast that with the millennial expectations of the workforce, which includes rapid feedback, flat organizational structure and dynamic options for career development.
Further, the digital divide is proving to be challenging. Millennials have grown up in a digital culture, constantly connected to their peers and sharing information. This has resulted in a demographic that is increasingly collaborative and team-oriented. Due to the ability to be connected whenever and wherever they are, they seek flexibility in work schedules and locations.
Most of all, though, the digital divide has changed the expectation for how and when information is shared. With the advent of smartphones and social networking, millennials are connected all the time, and expect a workforce that allows equally flexible access and connectivity.
Integrating millennials into the current workplace
The trick, then, is two-fold: attract millennials to the industry while continuing to engage older workers. As much as the industry needs millennials, millennials need the expertise and experience that older workers bring.
As a first step, managers can encourage communication between the IT department and human resources. By opening a dialogue between the two departments, they can come up with a cohesive approach to attract and retain an enthusiastic, technology-savvy workforce of younger workers.