The Next Generation Adjuster: Millennials

By Stephanie K. Jones | October 12, 2012

Although the birth date range for millennials, sometimes called Generation Y or Gen Y, varies, a Deloitte Consulting LLP report puts the range between 1982 and 1993.

Despite the recent economic downturn, industries across the board are looking at this generation, now mostly in their 20s, as the source for new blood and new ideas to replace workers who are beginning to age-out of the workforce in droves.

In its Gen Y report, Deloitte found that when it comes to employment, millennials differ significantly from Generation X in that Gen Y values “long-term career development within a single organization.” The older generation, on the other hand, is generally noted for its “employer infidelity.” Deloitte added that in return for such loyalty to an employer, “Gen Y demands variety in experience and learning opportunity.”

What Millenials Want

Two organizations headquartered in the Midwest, The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII), have undertaken projects to both identify what millennials want and create awareness of and an interest in the many opportunities offered within the insurance industry.

The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation has published a study on how to recruit millennials into the insurance industry. In terms of what this generation is looking for in a work environment, Griffith’s “Report on Existing Millennial Research,” a whitepaper published in November 2011, found that among other things:

  • Millennials want meaningful, satisfying and challenging work they will enjoy.
  • Millennials appreciate collaborative work environments.
  • Millennials seek employers who demonstrate social responsibility through workplace efforts.

Not surprisingly, Griffith found that this generation excels at multi-tasking. As the Griffith report put it: Millennials are “extremely comfortable with technology and have the ability to use multiple devices simultaneously.” They also use “media as a primary forum for communication and informational purposes.”

Acknowledging millennial employees’ comfort level with technology, Halogen Software Inc. created Feedback Central, a new feature within its performance appraisal software that allows for crowd sourcing feedback. The program is icon-driven — something that appeals to this new generation of workers used to social media. According to Donna Ronayne, vice president of marketing and business development, it’s a way to create an environment of immediate feedback to recognize and reward employees.

Griffith discovered one surprising gem of information that runs contrary to the general assumption that most people have a negative view of the insurance industry. “Gen Y basically doesn’t have an opinion yet at all,” said Jason Terrell, director of Insurance Education Institutes for the Griffith Foundation. “So there’s an opportunity to influence what they think. Once we can expose them to the industry, get them beyond that it’s just sales and realize that it’s a much larger industry, then we can see that needle starting to move.”

Dave Coons, senior vice president of The Jacobson Group, an executive search and staffing firm for the insurance industry agrees. “Young emerging talent needs to be educated as to what the career opportunities are in claims.”

What Motivates Millenials

Terrell also said Griffith’s research shows that the primary motivating factors for millennials are “the same things that everybody else is looking for, such as stability, salary, being able to provide for their family.”

Mitch Wilson, vice president of information and education at the OII, said his organization also has found through feedback from nearly 1,400 Ohio teachers who offer some form of insurance education or financial literacy instruction that salary is definitely a motivating factor for young people, but not the only one. Flexibility in the workplace, as well as the feeling that they are being appreciated for their contributions, also comes into play.

“They also, many of them, want to know that what they’re doing … is making a difference. They want to make sure that they are part of the picture of just really making things better,” Wilson said.

Good Outlook

Wilson said that outlook meshes well with the property/casualty insurance industry which is all about helping individuals put their lives back together after a loss. “Something horrible has happened and you’re helping them. We feel that that can be a good fit with our industry,” he said.

A study by McKinsey & Co. and The Risk Foundation found that despite challenges — such as a poor reputation among the general public and lack of awareness among young people about careers in insurance — the industry has several things going for it.

The report, “Building a Talent Magnet: How the Property and Casualty Industry Can Solve Its People Needs,” noted several causes for optimism. One is that “the industry’s risk management jobs have the qualities — stability, a good work/life balance, intellectual challenge, strong professional development possibilities, and the chance to make a difference — that young job seekers want.”

The industry also is poised to take advantage of layoffs in other financial services organizations such as banks and positioned to access “a pool of talent more receptive to learning what a career in insurance has to offer,” the McKinsey report stated.

In addition, the insurance industry has scale: it employs more than one million people in the United States.

“Finally, in the battle for talent, the industry has a hidden resource: a strong network of schools of risk management and professional associations that can provide a platform for launching an effort to re-make its image,” according to the McKinsey report.

This article was originally published in the summer issue of Claims Journal magazine.

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