Today’s insurance labor market is colored by the rapid graying of the workforce. The industry’s growing retirement rate and burgeoning skills and knowledge gap are creating a candidate-driven market. As many positions held by long-tenured professionals continue to go unfilled, insurance firms have increasingly turned to Millennials as a workforce game-changer. However, the youngest Millennials are now 24 and have already joined the workforce. While retaining them will continue to be a challenge, we need to turn our focus towards attracting the succeeding generation.
Poised to be the next group of highly desired talent, Generation Z (born after 1995) is graduating college and gradually entering the labor market. These emerging professionals make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population and contribute $44 billion to the national economy, according to Mashable.
It is a mistake to treat Gen Zers the same way we treat Millennials. While Gen Zers do share many similarities with Millennials, they have distinctly different motivators and ambitions. The industry was late to the game when it came to attracting Millennials. We cannot afford to waste any time in recruiting this new source of fresh talent. How can organizations effectively appeal to the newest generation now entering the workforce?
Understand Generation Z
Most Gen Zers were raised by skeptical Gen X parents and came of age during the recession, seeing their parents lose their jobs and sometimes their homes. This loss of stability fostered their survival instincts and shaped their demands. These young professionals, like Millennials, continue to look for social value in their work, but are more practical and concerned with their own personal well-being. Career stability and benefits are more important to them than corporate citizenship and social contributions. This doesn’t mean the industry should cease being good corporate citizens, but we do need to deliver a different message to Generation Z.
Traditional marketing strategies simply don’t work on this generation. Corporate recruiting promotions typically rely on professional models and stock photography to portray an idealized workplace. But Gen Zers cannot be fooled. Years of being the target of various multi-media campaigns and hours spent watching YouTube have fine-tuned their reality gauge. This generation commands authenticity from potential employers.
Gen Zers are more interested in learning what they can do in the company. These young professionals dream of running their own businesses, seeing entrepreneurship as a route to coveted financial security. Having witnessed their older millennial siblings’ struggles during their first decade in the workforce, Gen Zers understand they are not entitled. They prioritize pursuing a well-paid, stable career, rather than the mission-driven one Millennials demand.
Insurance industry careers meet this generation’s wish list. We provide a stable, financially rewarding work environment for our employees – we are essentially recession-proof. Remember, though, they didn’t grow up wanting to work in insurance! Delivering our message authentically is key to attracting Gen Zers to our industry. We must encourage our current employees to tell their own stories using their own uncensored voices.
Additionally, unlike our message for Millennials, diversity should not be a promotional point. Gen Z’s classrooms have been multicultural and multiracial since they were in kindergarten. They do not notice the existence of diversity – unless it is missing. Gen Zers take diversity for granted and accept nothing but a diverse and inclusive workforce. Overall workforce diversity is not enough. If diversity is not reflected in your leadership, this group will not feel comfortable. The time for change is now.
Prepare to Accommodate
This emerging generation is very Millennial-like when it comes to technology. Both Millennials and Gen Zers had access to smartphones and other cutting-edge technology since their teenage or even pre-teen years and are more attached to them than their older counterparts. They are less inclined to tolerate outdated equipment and software. Whether or not an organization has modern digital platforms and equipment is important for Gen Zers as they consider potential job offers.
Insurance firms must start off by ensuring their technology meets Gen Zers’ expectations. Moving beyond legacy systems and closer to end-to-end modernization is key. While outdated systems are a deterrent for any potential employees, this is amplified for Gen Zers, who are accustomed to modern devices and platforms. Insurers must keep investing in upgrades to stay technologically competitive and to attract new generations into their organizations.
Flexible work arrangements are also essential in engaging these young professionals. Gen Zers likely took online classes at one point in their college careers and were used to getting their work done when and where they wanted.
Gen Zers are more interested in learning what they can do in the company. These young professionals dream of running their own businesses, seeing entrepreneurship as a route to coveted financial security.
They expect the same from their workplaces, demanding more flexible work hours and work-from-home options. Some have already embraced this trend, but we need to make fluid work conditions a permanent, industry-wide standard. Though Gen Zers will be fine with coming into the office for training and team meetings, they will look for more accommodating industries if we force them to come into the office every day just to complete routine work.
Create Stand-out Benefits
Creative and appealing benefits will set your organization apart from others. Casual dress codes and fluid work environments are simply not enough. Millennials and Gen Zers are compelling employers to think beyond the obvious perks to more unusual and creative benefits.
For one, insurance organizations can start assisting Gen Zers with the tens of thousands of dollars in student loans they acquired getting their degrees. Although many companies offer tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing a master’s degree or a certification program, paying off undergraduate degrees is a much more immediate concern for most young professionals.
Offering pet insurance or promoting a pet-friendly work environment helps attract pet-loving candidates, while paying for volunteer hours complements these young professionals’ desire to do good. Reserving boxes at local sporting arenas or distributing corporate passes beyond the highest levels of the company are other fun benefits you can offer to employees.
The most important change, however, should be transitioning to a buffet-style benefits program, where employees can personalize their own benefits. With a workforce spanning five generations, employees have a wide range of preferences. Allowing employees to choose their own benefit packages can certainly attract younger generations, while improving retention rates and employee satisfaction levels across the board.
In today’s corporate landscape, it is important that organizations keep an open mind and give employees as much choice as possible. Aligning with Gen Zers’ preferences will not only help tackle persistent industry-wide challenges, but will also earn them employer-of-choice recognition, allowing them to prosper for years to come.
This article was originally published in the Sept. 7, 2018 issue of Insurance Journal Magazine.
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