Already, that’s causing some friction in the industry. A full 25% of survey respondents blamed a lack of work ethic among young people for their hiring woes, frequently using words like “entitled,” “lazy” and “irresponsible” to describe new employees.
Before insurance professionals can even begin to facilitate the knowledge transfer between these two disparate groups, they must first overcome those generational prejudices, says Dan Epstein, CEO of ResourcePro.
“I don’t for one second doubt that there’s a strong work ethic among young people,” says Epstein, who has helped bring 1,500 millennial employees to ResourcePro. “At the same time, I think the way they go about that may be a bit different, so we need to be more flexible about what time they arrive, what time they leave and how they’re dressed.”
Growing up alongside technology, millennials may require more access to cell phones and social media. This doesn’t make them disengaged employees, however. Millennial attitudes toward work and personal life have started to bleed together, facilitated by constant access to both friends and coworkers through email and smartphones. In other words, the producer down the hall surfing Facebook is also likely to be developing a new sales strategy at home during dinnertime.
Working with millennials may also involve providing greater guidance and more frequent feedback than baby boomers themselves received when first entering the industry. Epstein believes “flat management systems” that highlight transparency and open communication will be the most effective in attracting, training and retaining young hires for that reason.
“Having forums for established agency employees and younger employees and managers to talk about the business will make them feel valued, listened to and an important member of the team,” says Epstein.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of closing the industry talent gap is training and working with younger employees. Thanks to their tech-fueled, highly rewarded upbringing, millennials have a different outlook on work, life and career trajectory than older generations.