What Millennials Want—And How To Deliver

High salary. Impressive title. Respectable status. Sounds like a dream job, right?

Not if you’re a millennial.

A recent Applied Systems study found that “the things that interest millennials, that motivate them and cause them to stay with an employer, are very different than other generations,” says Michael Howe, senior vice president of product management at Applied. “The usual motivators for previous generations—money, status, title—go right out the window.”

So what matters to millennials, and how can your agency leverage what’s important to them in a way that solidifies your perpetuation plan? During a recent Applied webinar, panelists shared their insights on what Gen Y candidates want out of a job—and how agencies like yours are capitalizing on those desires to transform their businesses into the kind of workplace young talent wants to call home.

Community ties. “Millennials are very social by nature—and I don’t mean social in the social media sense,” Howe says. “They’re very, very comfortable working with others. They want to be part of a bigger group and feel connected to their colleagues. That’s relevant for the insurance industry because many agency roles are more of an individual pursuit.”

Harry Levine Insurance in Orlando and Winter Park, Fla. tackles that problem head-on by regularly participating in community events like Make-A-Wish Walks for Wishes. “I personally enjoy going out and getting to meet people in our community instead of just sitting behind my desk,” said Julie Levine, agency administrator, during the webinar.

For millennials like Levine, it’s not just about personal satisfaction—it’s about “understanding what’s going on around us in a very vibrant business environment and engaging with it in a hands-on way,” explained Jason Levine, vice president, operations, who served as chair of the Florida Association of Independent Agents young agent committee and was named YAC Agent of the Year in 2013-2014.

Do-good initiatives. “Millennials want to make a difference,” Howe explains. “They want to see some connection between what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and how that serves the greater common good. Feeling like what you do actually matters is the motivator that comes through the strongest in our survey results.”

During the webinar, Karyn Seibert Roeling, president and owner at Seibert Insurance Agency in Tampa, Fla., explained that her agency’s vast age range requires creative solutions for ensuring employee satisfaction. Initiatives have included everything from hosting barbecues at her house and running together in a 5K to collecting supplies for local schools and incentivizing the often awkward process of asking clients for referrals.

After asking the staff what would help motivate them to ask their clients for referrals, management agreed to donate a pound of dog food to a staff-selected local rescue for every referral the agency receives. “It lets the community know we’re here to support them,” Seibert Roeling said.

Tech-savvy investments. Millennials are undeniable “digital natives,” Howe says—and that has serious implications if your agency’s website consists of little more than your contact information and a photo of your staff smiling in front of your building.

Proving to potential millennial employees that your agency is committed to evolving and utilizing their unique skill set requires walking the talk. Seibert Insurance Agency, for example, has invested in sophisticated technology ranging from an automated marketing system that Seibert Roeling said delivers “constant contact” with the consumer to an interactive, responsive website—meaning it adjusts its look and feel depending on whether you’re viewing it on your smartphone, tablet or desktop.

“These days, people are looking for services on their mobile devices,” Seibert Roeling said. “It your website isn’t responsive, when they go to your website on their device, it just shrinks your website down really small. But if you go to mine on your cell phone, it looks cleaner—it has big font and all the things consumers want to see in a dropdown menu. It’s much easier to navigate.”

Hands-on learning. “Millennials are very much interested in getting new kinds of roles, seeing new experiences and rotating around into different jobs,” Howe says. “Their loyalty to the company and their willingness to stay at a company ultimately depends on if they feel like they’re growing and advancing their skills and getting new experiences.”

Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance, Inc., a large agency with locations throughout Mississippi and Florida, recruits young talent fresh out of college through its insurance development associates program. New hires rotate through each department of the agency: commercial lines, employee benefits, accounting, service and sales to learn how every aspect of the agency works.

That way, “you decide what you think you’d be best at,” said Annie Laurie Roberts, a customer service representative, during the webinar. “You get a mentor that trains you in what you think you’d be best at, and from there you go to your full-time position. It really helps students coming out of college when they don’t know exactly what they want to do yet.”

That’s because contrary to popular belief, “millennials are very ambitious and willing to learn,” Roberts said. “They’re easy to train, but they want instant gratification. I think if you have a career path set before them and give them goals to achieve, that helps them stay satisfied in their role.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.