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Scratching the Millennial Itch

"If we hire young professionals, we're just training them for their next employer - they are JUST going to leave after a year or two."

Sound familiar?

This is a common sentiment among many agency leaders. Hiring young professionals definitely comes with its own set of challenges. But then again, so does hiring any generation.

Now "Generation Z" is emerging - this is just a fancy way of saying "millennials on steroids". They are going to have all the same "techiness" and aspirations, just more so. Agencies, and the insurance industry as a whole, have to figure these people out since soon enough they will be the only people left to hire. It's still a relationship business, and if we don't have people we won't have relationships. We have to find them, train them, get them productive, and ultimately keep them around, as fast as possible.

As an agency leader, and by no fault of my own, a millennial (although an old one by most standards), I have experienced both sides of this coin. As a leader, I've hired nearly 60 millennials, providing training and/or mentoring in some form or fashion to nearly all of them. As a millennial, I've worked at a large organization that didn't quite understand what I/we were after. As an agency leader I was required to reconcile the need to bring in young professionals while understanding the financial realities of a growing agency.

As a millennial employee, what I really wanted was a strategically meaningful and stimulating challenge to sink my teeth into, real unfiltered and applicable feedback about how I could improve myself as a professional, and at least a couple mentors who were willing to consistently invest in my development as a person. Although I loved the people I worked with, these psychological needs, or wants, did not feel as though they were consistently met. And, at the time, I don't think I could have even articulated these needs.

If and when a company, insurance agency or not, provides all three of these consistently, great people don't leave. Why would someone disrupt their life if they felt they were being truly challenged, developed and appreciated? They wouldn't, and they don't. In contrast, the people who stay in spite of these shortcomings are generally not the future leaders and visionaries that will propel the agency into the future, let alone the ones that can help an agency adapt to the evolving landscape of our industry.

One thing is for sure, time for millennials is measured similar to dog years. For every one year that goes by for a "normal" person, seven long years has gone by for a millennial. It might be the speed of technology, the concept of instant gratification, or other factors, but whatever it is, a year doing the same things certainly feels like an eternity for a person who is used to learning at the speed of Google and Wikipedia.

I recently spoke with a successful management consultant. He walked me through the process whereby he can learn the basics of a new industry in three days. Using the internet, databases, and other strategic frameworks, he is able to speak intelligently about any new industry in just three days. Of course I questioned this, but after thinking about how myself and fellow tech-savvy millennials approach new topics and challenges, this isn't that surprising. What does this mean for how we hire and challenge new people in our industries?

The internal structures of agencies have to adapt to this reality to attract and keep great millennials, and just as important, to keep them engaged, i.e. continuing to create value. The good news is, the very changes that agencies need to go through to adapt to the best new employees are the same changes that will actually make agencies more responsive to clients, more efficient at everything, and will drive more profitable growth, all by developing the value-generating, relationship-building masters of tomorrow using the latest technologies and strategies for risk management and benefits management.

Developing the institutional capability of finding and developing the best young professionals is the single most important skill set that an agency can master. With the best people, everything else takes care of itself. Without the best people, nothing takes care of itself.

Atlante Partners helps agencies find and develop young professionals in concert with agency leaders who know our business and can mentor the up-and-coming generation of insurance professionals and leaders.

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