Taking a Page from the Insurtech Playbook

How Insurtechs Can Help Attract Millennial Talent to Agencies, Carriers

The rules of the game are changing for companies wishing to attract top, young, qualified talent. Millennials, Generation Y, Gen Next, Boomerang Generation, or whatever label 20- and 30-years-olds receive, have very different ideas about what they want from their employers. Many will sacrifice salary for more freedom in working schedules and the right culture. They see through insincere messages and over-rehearsed corporate speeches. They want to be part of something and able to contribute to a company’s larger vision. For insurance — which has long been viewed as a traditional industry — appealing to this demographic can be difficult.

Enter insurtechs. Though these startups are seen as tough competition for agents and carriers, disrupting the industry with technology and new business models, they have done something really important for the sector: attracting young talent to the field. And the industry needs their help. According to a survey from The Hartford, only 4 percent of millennials were interested in pursuing a career in insurance.

Insurtechs are helping to change the industry’s perception. Once considered a risk-averse, steady, predictable career path, insurance is transforming into a sector that is technology-focused, fast paced and filled with innovation and new ideas. In order to continue to grow and survive, independent agencies need to capitalize on the industry’s new reputation and use it to attract young professionals to their organizations.

For independent agencies, appealing to young industry professionals is a double-sided imperative. They need the next era of agents to succeed the older agents who are approaching retirement age. But even more importantly, younger agents will give the agency an advantage to attract new customers from the millennial market.

It’s clear that the average 20- to 30-year-old has different priorities from other generations, preferring experiences to tangible items, sometimes postponing starting families until later in life and dispensing with the need to own a car because of ride-sharing. Having young agents on staff can help agencies hone in on the specific insurance needs for this demographic.

Often built around start-up cultures, insurtechs can have a natural advantage in hiring. The latest technology and the promise of participating in a company that may revolutionize an industry can be big motivators. But that doesn’t mean insurance agencies don’t have great tools at their disposal to attract next generation talent.

Here are four things independent agencies can learn from insurtechs when it comes to hiring and retaining new employees.

1. Embrace new gadgets.

Millennials were born into the digital age. Many in this demographic never knew a world that did not include the internet. If an agency’s processes rely on antiquated systems, paper forms and sending policies through the postal service or even fax, next generation workers can be turned off.

While the agency doesn’t have to be as state-of-the-art as Google, it should have an agency management system that is up to date and can easily manage its workflow. Create a website that is interactive and well-designed. Try to incorporate as many cost and time saving tools that are available, such as claims download, eDocs and Messages, and e-signature. Also, be open to adopting new technology. The agency can even offer newer team members a chance to participate in the digital transformation. For example, establishing and growing the agency’s social media presence can be a great–and fulfilling–role for newer employees.

2. Focus on innovation.

Showing interest in innovation and offering employees opportunities to contribute to the agency’s transformation can entice millennials to join the organization. New generation workers don’t only want a job, they desire opportunities to effect change within the businesses they work. Participating in labs run by carriers, hackathons and industry organizations and initiatives like Agents Council for Technology (ACT), Associations & User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE) or the Insurance Digital Revolution can demonstrate the agency is open to change and the prospect could play a role in leading the digital revolution.

3. Keep them in the loop.

All employees look for transparency from employers. But many next generation workers demand openness. For some businesses, that can be a difficult shift. Though the agency doesn’t have to share every detail of business plans with all employees, giving people context is critical. When business decisions are made that impact the workers, they should be communicated clearly.

Agencies should be transparent about their business goals. Share the direction of the organization, encourage feedback and listen to the team’s opinions.

Don’t just be open when the news is positive. No matter how difficult the situation or awkward a confrontation, employees should never be guessing about the agency’s future or their role within the organization. For example, perhaps the agency is going through a restructuring. Inform employees about these decisions and explain the reasoning behind the moves.

4. Offer a higher calling.

The agency has to stand for something more than revenue and the bottom line to attract millennial prospects. The most recent generation of talent is socially conscious and wants to support and work for organizations that give back to society. Providing an opportunity for employees to connect with the community can make the organization stand out.

Often built around start-up cultures, insurtechs can have a natural advantage in hiring.

For example, the agency could have an open policy for volunteer events, allowing employees to propose which charities to support and which service activities to participate in. Enable everyone to take part in these events-even during workdays. Getting out and helping those in the local community can not only improve the agency’s culture but also solidify its position within the neighborhood.

Young talent is vital for continued growth of the independent insurance agency, and insurtechs may hold the answers. A focus on technology and reinvention of processes make them attractive companies for millennial workers. By embracing the elements of insurtech work culture, agencies can engage a younger employee demographic and evolve their organizations to attract the next generation of insurance customers.

Walker is the managing partner at Smart Harbor. He oversees the strategy, development and delivery of the company’s technology solutions and analytics platforms for the insurance market. He is currently an advisory council member for the Insurance Digital Revolution, an industry organization focused on advancing digital technology adoption among independent insurance agents.