Technology is not an incentive when it comes to attracting and retaining millennials to the insurance industry but it can provide overall job satisfaction in terms of flexibility and career growth opportunities, according to a new survey released by insurance technology provider, Vertafore.
The survey looked at responses from 414 executives throughout the insurance industry – with 166 (40 percent) of respondents under the age of 40 – to determine how technology is shaping the younger generation’s decision to enter and stay in the insurance industry.
Guy Weismantel, vice presdient of marketing at Vertafore, says his firm’s goal was to “get in the mind” of young agents and find out what motivates them in their careers. Vertafore considers the number of young agent respondents to be a representative sample of the number of this age group currently in the industry.
“As a technology company, it helps us to understand how our customers work,” says Weismantel. “It is incumbent on us if we want to be known as an innovator that we understand the motivations of potential users of our products and how they use them in their lives as agents.”
Weismantel says the results were surprising, with only 51 percent of millennial respondents rating technology as “very important” to keeping them in the industry. More important than having access to the latest technology in an organization was work/life balance, with 78 percent of young agent respondents saying that was what would keep them in the industry, followed by enjoyment of work at 66 percent.
“Technology is important, but in an age group of people that grew up with it, it is expected… and less of a differentiator than we thought it would be,” says Weismantel.
The first-ever survey of this kind by Verafore was sent by email at the end of July and early August to multiple nationwide databases, including NetVU’s Young Professionals Chapter. The survey was administered and analyzed by Vertafore.
Ashley Brower-Whitney, vice president at Harbor Brenn Insurance in Petoskey, Mich., and a member of the NetVU Young Professionals Chapter that worked with Vertafore on the survey, says the results are in line with what she has experienced at her own agency.
“If you think about technology, it is embedded in [young agents’] lives. It won’t make them stay longer at a company but we do need to continue to innovate,” she says.
The survey results also indicated that job satisfaction among young agents was also very high, as 84 percent responded that they plan on staying in the industry for “as long as possible.” Insurance Journal’s Young Agent Survey released this past spring found similar results, with 86.3 percent of young agents considering insurance as a permanent career choice.
Weismantel says technology does help contribute to young agents’ feelings of job satisfaction, as they are often looked at to help push new technology and ideas forward in an agency and that plays a role in their overall happiness and feelings of worth in their career. 47 percent responded that they had the greatest chance of influencing “streamlining processes” and 37 percent said “adopting technology.”
“When you add in a younger person they apply a new way of thinking to how to grow a book of business or help it become more vibrant… the older generation is increasingly looking to the younger generation to help them do this,” he says.
Young agents indicated that being given the opportunity to impact an agency’s performance, having their ideas heard and a say in the approach to how the business is run were also big factors in the decision to stay on the insurance career path.
Young agents also appreciate the way technology has enabled them to have job flexibility in the insurance industry by allowing them to work from home or keep abnormal office hours, thus being able to manage that work/life balance they cited as being so important.
Brower-Whitney says in the 16 years she has worked for her family-run agency, she has found that the new generation doesn’t want their lives to just be about work, something that the survey results also reemphasized.
“The concept of the 9-5 business day is really gone and with technology in place you can have flexible work schedules and develop work from home opportunities without it costing a lot of money for the agency. It is a lifestyle benefit that employees are really enjoying,” she says.
Agencies should utilize technology in a way that will provide these opportunities, especially those that are looking to attract young talent, says Brower-Whitney. Insurance Journal’s “Young Agent Survey” results also cited having a flexible schedule as one of the things young agents “like most” about their career as an independent agent.
“If you put the right procedures in place and have the right people it can really be beneficial for the agency,” she says. “With the work/life balance being so important to young generations, there are opportunities here for agencies to really rethink how they do things.”
The survey results also found that young agents find Facebook to be the most valuable social media tool because of the enhanced customer relationship it can offer. 42 percent of respondents said they use the social media site more than once daily, compared to 69 percent who had never used Twitter, 64 percent who had never used Instagram, and 29 percent who had never used LinkedIn.
Weismantel said responses from young agents said helping people and being a part of their customers’ lives were part of what they enjoyed most about being in the insurance industry.
“Young agents see what they do as helping someone on the front lines or being there in those times when they really need someone to help, such as in the event of a flood, fire or death and there are few professions that have that ability,” he says. “I think that appeals to this segment of the population who want to make a difference.”
The survey didn’t specifically look at young agents compensation requirements or desires, but did ask them how compensation ranked in terms of the importance of staying in the insurance industry. Interestingly, it ranked below work/life balance and enjoyment of work at 54 percent.
Browers-Whitney says while compensation is important to any employee, there are many other factors that go into job satisfaction.
“I think there are a lot of people who look at the entire range of what they are getting out of this career and compensation is not the end all be all and it is not the most important thing for these young generations,” says Brower-Whitney.
Weismantel says the results of the survey should be encouraging to those in the industry who want to bring in more young people because the turnover rate once they are hired and trained is very low. For Vertafore, he says the results will help the company in its own product development and how it targets the next generation of agents.
“The number of agencies we work with is growing…there is a lot of opportunity and the barrier to entry is quite low – and technology has helped that,” he says. “Once the younger generation gets [in the industry] they want to be here. That’s awesome to see, I think.”