The insurance industry currently faces a crisis: 4 million baby boomers retire each year, and less than 5% of millennials are interested in filling their shoes.
To fill the talent gap, insurance groups have stepped up to the plate with Insurance Careers Month: a month-long event aimed at educating the younger population on the benefits of a career in insurance. Partners behind the initiative include InVEST®, Hamilton Insurance Group, Lloyd’s, March & McLennan, MyPath, PCI, Valen Analytics and the Jacobson Group.
“In 2015, we collectively decided to make this initial effort more actionable and impactful to the industry,” says Kirstin Marr, vice president of marketing for Valen Analytics, who noticed a universal urge to attract new talent among insurance businesses and teamed up with a handful of other organizations to make moves as early as 2014.
Together, they created the social media campaign #TalentTuesdays. A year later, the group decided to progress even further. “That’s how Insurance Careers Month was born,” Marr says. “We thought that by claiming a time on the calendar, we could drive collective action.”
Insurance Careers Month focuses on three benefits in particular, coined “the career trifecta”: stability, rewards and endless opportunity. But according to a report from Applied Systems and InVEST, more than 60% of millennials are not familiar with the insurance industry’s career opportunities.
February’s month-long movement offers plenty of resources for individual companies and organizations to get involved: posting on social media, attending career days at local high schools and writing blogs. Here are a few tried-and-true methods of appealing to millennials during this inaugural month:
Meet them where they are.
Derek Ross, president of Kulchin Ross Insurance Services, LLC, and champion for InVEST in the Los Angeles area, recommends the proactive approach of visiting students in school, from career fairs to in-class presentations. “The only way we’re able to get that message out is to penetrate the schools in a charismatic, enthusiastic way,” says Ross, who was drawn to an insurance career in just that way. “I found out about the insurance business at the career education center at my high school—been part of it ever since.”
Relatability is an essential component of this strategy. Boyd McGehee, president of Talladega Insurance Agency and chairman of the National Board of Young Independent Insurance Agents of America, says young people who are already in the insurance industry are key to recruiting even more young people.
“I would have given anything to have experienced that as a college student—to have seen agents succeeding that weren’t much older than I was,” McGehee says. “It’s hard to put yourself in a 66-year-old person’s shoes. But to see yourself in the shoes of a 24-year-old who’s really getting it—that’s effective.”
And don’t rule out social media as a means of connecting with millennials—after all, they’re digital natives. Lindsey Shank, a 17-year InVEST volunteer and vice president of BB&T Insurance Services, Inc., points out that a lot of agencies’ efforts are “still being done at networking events, but the push of social media for people to get their name and agency out there is incredible. It’s changing the way business is done and how you prospect and network.”
Highlight the industry’s capacity for change.
Part of the challenge of recruiting millennials is tackling the stigma surrounding insurance agents and the industry as a whole. “Millennials still think of our industry as old, boring and not innovative,” says Jennifer Andriany, program director at InVEST. “They consider a career in insurance to be the old, pesky, door-to-door salespeople they never wanted to be.”
When recruiting, it’s important to cater to individuality by ensuring millennials that, no matter where their interests lie, there’s a fit for them in the industry. McGehee sees big potential in the future of independent agents as a diverse group of people.
“What I love is that you’re starting to see more women, more Hispanic people and African-American people coming to this industry,” McGehee says. “Sometimes people are wary of insurance. The more cultured this industry is, the more trustworthy it’ll become.”
Extend your efforts beyond February.
Andriany hopes the movement won’t end on Feb. 29. “After Insurance Careers Month is over, the group will be using the gained excitement and exposure to have millennials currently working in the industry engage their peers and promote insurance careers,” she says. “Industry groups are encouraged to use the increased attention to create new internships or fill those already in place.”
Once millennials have their feet are in the door, most of them don’t step back out. According to Vertafore’s Millennial Revolution survey, work-life balance and technology are what young professionals value most about their insurance careers—and more than three-quarters see it as a lifelong job.
Ross is one of many agents who gives younger generations the opportunity to experience agency life for themselves through internships. “The goal,” he says, “is that these interns graduate and go to college and they’ll think of the insurance industry as a back-up plan, or even an initial plan.”
McGehee and fellow Alabama state association members raise money for a college student with an insurance-related major through a program called Excalibur. “We decided to give it to someone who’s more serious in their career than a 17-year-old,” he says.
Make it personal.
For Shank, it’s all about telling your story. “It’s that relationship aspect—being active within your community, and specifically, if there’s a high school or college where insurance is offered, network with those students and answer questions,” she says. “Give them the real-life examples of what it looks like to have a career in insurance.”
Chase Hicks, a high school senior InVEST student, plans on pursuing a career in insurance thanks to those who gave him a firsthand account of what it’s like on the job. “All the insurance professionals who come to our class all stressed how much they enjoy the variety in their jobs,” he says. In particular, he likes the idea of “helping the insureds in positive ways and playing a role in getting people back to the same financial state they were in before the loss occurred.”
Regardless of how you decide to address the talent crisis this Insurance Careers Month, awareness is key—and it’s important that a millennial’s knowledge of insurance comes directly from the people who know it best.
“I will not let them fail,” Ross says. “They’re the future of our industry.”
Jordan Reabold is IA assistant editor.