Insurance Industry Not Alone in Missing the Mark with Millennials

By | November 19, 2015

Could it be that the property/casualty insurance industry has company in not feeling the love of millennials?

Yes, it could.

The Hartford has released new research that shows key industries driving the U.S. economy, including retail, construction and manufacturing, are failing to attract a major generation of leaders – the 80 million U.S. millennials (ages (ages 18-34, or those born between 1981 and 1997).

“The results reveal a quiet crisis – a generation of leaders who aren’t interested in many businesses that drive our nation’s economy,” said Lindsey Pollak, The Hartford’s millennial workplace expert.

A vast majority of millennials (80 percent) consider themselves as leaders today and want to be leaders in the next five years (69 percent), according to The Hartford’s 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey. However, only seven percent of young leaders in the third annual survey said they are interested in working in construction, retail or manufacturing.

That’s quite a jump in leadership among millennials. The Hartford’s 2014 survey found that 34 percent of the millennials surveyed said they were business leaders at the time, while 59 percent said they aspire to be leaders in business in the next five years.

In the 2015 survey, arts and entertainment topped the millennials’ work wish list, with 40 percent of Gen Y survey participants saying they want to work in this industry. Second on the list was education at 36 percent, and technology at 36 percent.

Low Insurance Rating

Other industries that rated low on the Gen Y work wish list are insurance, which four percent of millennials said they’re drawn to, and wholesaling and utilities at three percent each.

“At The Hartford, we are working hard to make sure Millennials know that insurance offers a variety of career paths such as tech, big data and marketing, as well as flexible work and leadership development,” said Susan Johnson, head of diversity and inclusion at The Hartford. “We don’t want to miss out on future leaders simply because of misconceptions about the industry.”

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. census data, more than one-in-three American workers today are ages 18 to 34, and they now represent the largest share of the country’s workforce.

As for insurance, almost half of today’s insurance industry professionals are over age 45, with 25 percent of the industry expected to retire by 2018. There will be 400,000 open positions by 2020, by some estimates.

The Hartford’s Pollak believes millennials can help close the leadership gap by widening their career searches and exploring jobs, salaries and benefits before writing off whole sectors of the U.S. job market.

The top way to recruit Gen Y employees is providing a variety of career opportunities, according to 46 percent of the survey participants in the Hartford’s national poll. Additional recruiting tips from millennials include offering:

  • Flexible work schedules (43 percent)
  • Benefits, such as health, life, and disability insurance (40 percent); and
  • Career advancement and leadership opportunities (33 percent).

Those preferences of millennials are similar but not exactly the same as The Hartford’s 2014 survey:

  • Flexible work schedule (58 percent);
  • Merit-based salary increase every six months (41 percent); and
  • Insurance benefits (38 percent).

The Hartford’s 2015 survey was of 797 U.S. consumers, ages 18-34, who have at a minimum attended some college. The online survey was conducted in August 2015.

Around the Industry

In a related survey, insurance technology provider Vertafore sought to determine the role technology plays in attracting millennials. Vertafore found that while technology is not an incentive when it comes to attracting and retaining millennials to the insurance industry, it can provide overall job satisfaction in terms of flexibility and career growth opportunities.

Some in the insurance industry have been sounding an alarm for awhile over the industry’s need to attract young leaders.

At the International Insurance Society’s Global Insurance Forum in June, Brian Duperreault, Hamilton Insurance Group, described the industry’s inability to attract “digital natives” into the fold “an existential threat,” according to a report by Carrier Management.

“For someone whose whole career has been dedicated to an industry that promises to protect, that really hurts,” said Duperreault. “At the very least, we’ve done a terrible job in helping people to understand the value in what we do.”

Duperreault, who has called millennials the most diverse and most tolerant generation, urged insurers to collaborate to find a solution. “We’re not strangers to bold moves. Innovation isn’t a foreign concept, but collectively, we don’t seem to know how to crack this nut,” he said.

Some insurance companies and organizations are trying.

How to Interest Millennials in Insurance Careers

One idea is MyPath, an online platform designed to help students and other young adults explore their career options within insurance and risk management, being rolled out by The Institutes, the Pennsylvania-based risk management and property/casualty insurance education organization.

The Institutes President and CEO Peter Miller thinks the insurance industry has what millennials are looking for, but the young adults don’t know it.

“When you ask about insurance, what you find out is [millennials] don’t know anything, or what they think they know is incomplete or inaccurate,” Miller said. He said young adults want a job to have stability, flexibility, upward mobility and the ability to make a difference.

“The good thing for the insurance industry is those characteristics that millennials want in a career map well in our industry,” Miller said last year when MyPath was launching.

Steven D. Linkous, president and CEO, The Harford Mutual Insurance Companies, told an insurance conference early this year he thinks millennials can be attracted to the mutual insurance structure of companies like his, where they can engage the community to “make a difference.”

Christopher J. Swift, chairman and CEO of The Hartford, spoke at the same conference, the Property/Casualty Joint Industry Forum. He said each generation is different as to what motivates them and that millennials “have a tremendous thirst for information and knowledge and want to know how things work.”

Millennials are also more likely to embrace corporate efforts in social responsibility, Swift said. “They are interested in time off and in working in urban areas with mass transit and reasonable commutes,” he said, “and companies that hire them need to be aware of those things.”

According to multicultural marketing expert Kelly McDonald, who spoke to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America last April, attracting young people to the workforce is linked to recruiting in a more multicultural society and serving a more multicultural customer base.

In terms of recruiting, the younger generation likes cities and likes a progressive work environment, McDonald said. They like “green and community values” in the businesses they patronize — which she said is a reason they should also like independent agencies that are involved in their communities.


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