Insurance Is the New Kale? Not So Fast

An industry publication recently published an article that said insurance is “the new kale” because the one-time ignored garnish today is sought after as a healthy must-have in the form of everything from salads to snacks. The suggestion is that the insurance industry needs to reveal its superpowers and embrace digital processes like social media to attract millennials.

The story was emailed to our summer intern class, and their well-thought-out responses may surprise agencies looking to attract younger people.

Several talented students participated in a nine-week internship program across various regions in the country. During that time, they had the opportunity to meet with team members at every level, focus on professional development and explore all aspects of our company culture. We use our internship program as an opportunity to identify sharp minds and set them on the path for a successful career after their graduation — potentially with us.

Talent shortages exist at all levels in the industry. According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day and are retiring.

To make up for the impending gap, the industry must search constantly for the best talent among younger generations. But is embracing social media the answer?

Here’s what our interns said:

Should insurance companies utilize social media to attract millennials?

Marisa Lagos, Rollins College: “I don’t think that social media alone will help attract younger employees. It is necessary for a company, but more has to be done if you want to be seen as a desirable company and industry to work in. When using social media, posts should focus on your employees and clients as people. For example, show how you protect and support your clients and how you’re involved beyond helping when something goes wrong.”

Jacob McKay, Liberty University: “I think that whether or not a company uses technology is pointless in attracting good, young talent. I look at the lack of use in technology as opportunity; that’s what drives me personally. Good, young talent will bring that aspect along through being hired.”

Stephanie Zhang, Emory University: “The company website is important, but social media like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are equally important because they demonstrate the nontransactional part of a business. They show the culture and values of the company.”

What advice would you give companies to attract talent?

Cara Johnson, University of Central Florida: “Focus on human connection. Not only do we need to attract the right people to work in the industry, but we also need to grow the human connections we make with clients. I believe this is the aspect of insurance that needs more focus on technology, rather than using it to draw young people for work, because keeping clients happy is what drives the company forward and sets the company apart.”

McKay: “When it comes to looking for a job, I think most of the people insurance companies are trying to attract are ‘driven’ young people, not just young people in general. I think technology is very important, and it is an aspect that will help attract more young people, but I think it’s important who you attract. I want to see a company that sees potential in me and has a plan for me to use my skills and assets to the best of my ability.”

Zhang: “The insurance industry is a fairly old one, which is what makes it so hard to change the misconception of it being boring. Leaders need to let college students and younger generations know that the insurance industry is not all about knocking on doors and selling insurance. It’s also very much about building trust and authentic relationships with people.”

Do you think insurance is like kale?

Johnson: “Kale is a fad that was brought to light because of some well-known fitness and health advocates who have built up their social media presence, but the insurance industry is not that simple. While kale is not necessary and many people (including me) maintain my well-being without eating any, most people do actually need insurance to fulfill their need to feel secure and prepared for the unexpected. This has always been the case.”

Lagos: “Insurance is not kale because it is needed by people. While kale is nice and it is good for you, it is not necessary for you to have a safe and successful life.

Daniel Arth, University of Georgia: “I think one hidden gem that most people see as a negative is that the insurance industry is old-fashioned. By that I mean that we prefer face-to-face interactions if we can, or talking to people over the phone and getting to know our clients personally rather than doing everything just to increase our popularity. Embracing the old and being adaptable to new trends, I think, is how the insurance industry will become the ‘new kale’ but also keep its moral values.”

What are millennials looking for in an employer?

Victoria Cascaes, IOA Intern Mentor: “Millennials are looking for insurance benefits, the ability to work from home, flexible hours, and paid time off in addition to being paid wages that are competitive. We want to be able to live comfortable lives, and we want to be able to have lives outside of the office. We want to have our lives inside the office be as meaningful as possible. That doesn’t mean we’re expecting to get paid to play video games and beer pong; we are much more intelligent and responsible than the media gives our generation credit for. We understand that work is just that, work. It’s not always going to be fun and exciting. Some days it will be mind-numbing and annoying. But we want to work for a company that makes those days worth it.”

The term “war for talent” was coined by McKinsey & Co.’s Steven Hankin in 1997. Today, there is a constant battle to recruit and retain talented employees. It’s striking how much of a productivity boost a business receives from top talent.

A recent McKinsey study found that in jobs with low complexity, high performers are 50 percent more productive, and in very highly complex jobs, they are 800 percent more productive.

Because business leaders know that talent is valuable but difficult to obtain, you may think they would be expert at finding their next recruits. However, they often don’t understand the demographic groups they are catering to.

When recruiting top millennial talent, social media may be an obvious resource. However, it should not be the lead recruiting tool. Instead, talk to millennials and learn what they are seeking in an employer.