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COMMENTARY: Attracting millennials to insurance industry requires new approach


As a member of the baby boom generation, I can see the dawning of a new “generation gap” emerging in the workplace.

With a “silver tsunami” threatening to significantly deplete the insurance industry's brain trust over the next few years, it is imperative for companies and organizations to recruit younger workers. Demographers project more than half of the workforce by 2020 — that's just six years away — will be comprised of Millennials, those born from the early 1980s to the 2000s.

How do we attract to an industry steeped in tradition and hierarchy a generation that seems to have a sense of entitlement nurtured by their “helicopter” parents?

Seth Mattison, a leading Millennial expert who spoke during the recent Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.'s Canadian Conference, suggests we unharness their seemingly boundless energy and innovative ideas by giving them opportunities to participate in projects that historically might have been above their pay grades.

“They want to be impactful and influential,” said Mr. Mattison, himself a member of Generation Y, often referred to as Millennials.

Millennial children have been teaching adults their whole lives, beginning with showing their parents how to program their VCRs to walking them through setting up Facebook accounts so they could stay connected with them after they went off to college.

“They've been the chief technology officers at home since they were 7 years old. They are used to having a seat at the table and a voice at an early age. Seventy-four percent believe they influence the decisions of those around them,” said Mr. Mattison, drawing from his research at generational human capital consultant BridgeWorks L.L.C.

Because of the pivotal roles they've played in their families during their formative years, they unconsciously overstep the barriers of traditional organizational structures, often thinking they can go directly to the president and CEO to express their ideas, he said. By contrast, we baby boomers, as well as members of Generation X, have been following chains of command in place for generations.

We can't expect this new generation of free spirits to just accept the way things have always been done when they've seen their peers do revolutionary things like overthrow governments with the power of social media, he said.

He said he is not suggesting that we totally abandon the “old way,” but that we regard with some respect this new way of thinking and communicating, especially now, during a time when we are experiencing rapid and radical changes in the world economy, the environment and in our society.

“Organizations today need revolutionary thinking,” he said. “You can tell them they may not get a (vice president) role in 18 months, but that they can still make an impact on the business.”

Put that in your next “help wanted” ad and you may pique the interest of some exceptional Millennials.