Blending Generations: Why Millennials, and the Industry, Must Bridge the Gap

By Molly Strangstalien | October 30, 2019

Workplaces everywhere are becoming more flexible. People now work irregular hours, work from home, work out of state and even across oceans. This phenomenon is no surprise given the influx of new technology. The large number of millennials in the workforce is surely contributing to this new office outlook. Millennials are not only in the workplace; they are business owners and managers and involved heavily in decision making. In a technology driven world, they are at the forefront of change.

According to Inc.com, millennials and Gen Z employees will make up 75% of the workforce by 2020. Baby boomers are retiring, and the landscape of our offices is changing. Some leases require employers to pay per employee, rather than per square foot. Allowing work from home opportunities reduces costs and improves employee satisfaction.

Collaboration is on the rise, and the lines are blurring between those in charge and the people reporting to them. Employees are getting to make their own schedules and work around taking care of young families.

What does this mean for the insurance industry? How does this affect hiring managers, and how do insurance organizations develop people from a distance? How does the industry approach the idea that this ideology of flexibility and collaboration is entitlement? How does it manage this ideology and remain successful? What happens if the insurance industry stays in a zone of complacency and becomes stagnant? What about the clients?

In this last year, I have had to hire two retirement replacements. This was a challenge in multiple ways: I cannot replace the years of experience that will be leaving us, I am hiring in offices that are not close to me, and I have to view these positions through the eyes of the workforce available to me, rather than the employees that are retiring. This means that the other half of these teams, the agents, will be hit with some dramatic changes. The byproduct of this is no buy-in, and giant hurdles regarding trust, processes, and capabilities.

Part of this stems from millennial loyalty. If we are not challenged enough, if we are not being given learning opportunities, and if we don’t feel that we are given the chance to enact change – we will be looking elsewhere. Many hiring managers worry about the loyalty of a millennial. Onboarding and training costs are on the rise, so this must be controlled by taking a look at how we operate. We cannot change unless we change.

This may seem obvious to some, but it doesn’t make it any simpler.

How do you blend change and growth and keep a small team comprised of a millennial, and a couple of Gen Xers happy and fulfilled? How do you help them develop communication techniques that satisfy all parties – especially when there is a remote worker? This is no easy feat, regardless of the technology available to us. The issue becomes what drives each person. One person might be driven by the difference they can make in their community while another person might be driven by the service they can provide. They are the same goal, essentially, but they are not accomplished in the same manner.

As new agents are being trained, they do not have the same sense of urgency as their older counterparts do. This does not mean they lack service skills, rather, they have a different approach to meeting the need.

A millennial is not diehard when it comes to client requests. They will question things and look at different solutions. This is not typical in the insurance industry: we see a need for instant results and instant answers. As new agents are being trained, they do not have the same sense of urgency as their older counterparts do. This does not mean they lack service skills, rather, they have a different approach to meeting the need. Where an older agent may make a promise and then finalize that on the back end, a millennial will say, “Let me see what we can do for you.”

What does this mean? That young agent will work so hard to get that need met. They will collaborate, ask for help, and look for solutions. They are driven by problem solving and their ability to learn. Failure is not emasculating; it is an opportunity. This becomes both a blessing and a curse. While these traits are beneficial in the workplace, it is hard to mesh generational differences in the workplace. The problem becomes a battle of which method is the right one.

Is there a right way to serve our customers? Is there a correct way to interact with our coworkers? Why do we get so upset when someone else does something differently than we do? Change is hard, and a new generation busting into the workplace and essentially flooding it with new ideas is difficult.

Time is, of course, essential. However, gradual buy-in of collaboration techniques and team building skills help to bridge this gap. All parties, millennials included, must be willing to forge ahead with a goal of working together, meeting the needs of our clients, and facing the ever-changing dynamic of this industry.

Republished from Insurance Journal magazine.

About Molly Strangstalien

Strangstalien has been in the insurance industry for nearly a decade, and currently works for the thriving family owned insurance agency, Tricor, based out of the Midwest. In her current role she leads a small team of commercial insurance account managers.

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