By Meg Murphy
The insurance industry is on the brink of a talent crisis. The average age of insurance agents in the U.S. is 59 years old. Many will retire in the next decade, and recruiting younger talent is becoming increasingly difficult. Most people in the insurance business will tell you they “fell into” their jobs rather than having sought them out. In addition, fewer than 22 percent of insurance and financial service employees reported that they are “truly happy” at work. All of these factors lead to the perception that the insurance industry is one of the least desired places to work.
Why millennials don’t want to work in insurance
The insurance world can be difficult to understand. It is plagued by jargon and complex processes. These are among the factors making the insurance industry unattractive to millennials.
Millennials have been dubbed the “young invincible” generation. We’re generally healthy and came of age during a recession and therefore are used to living with less financial security. For us, paying for something we probably won’t use feels wasteful. We categorize insurance as another inconvenience that comes with adulthood. Why does this generation — my generation — have so little incentive to work in insurance?
- There’s no clear mission. Millennials work for a purpose, not a paycheck, and the industry is not communicating its unique and vital purpose.
- It’s too complicated. Insurance is highly regulated. The insurance industry literally deals with matters of life and death. The industry uses unfamiliar language to talk about scary life situations. It can be difficult to buy and manage insurance products. The steep learning curve, combined with a poorly communicated purpose, sets up a huge barrier to entry.
- Products are intangible and irrelevant. Insurance, as a concept, is tough for most millennials to wrap their heads around. It’s a promise, not a product, and it’s a tough sell. We don’t want to think about dying or getting sick, and we definitely don’t want to spend our hard-earned money on it. Insurance is not a product a mission-driven millennial will want to stand behind.
How to fix the industry (before it’s too late)
The insurance industry has an important purpose, but industry leaders must improve how they communicate that purpose. The industry puts far too much emphasis on individual products and how they work. However, there is no shortage of people with a mission to help others be healthier and to help change people’s lives for the better. The industry challenge is to find the men and women motivated to tackle the problems that insurance products can solve.
Industry leaders must examine their companies’ corporate culture and incorporate their corporate mission into everything they do. Having a clear mission is key to attracting people who are passionate about their work.
A great work environment also can help attract talent. Innovative companies are the ones that are most successful in recruiting younger talent. Younger generations don’t worry about work-life balance as much as we do work-life integration, so industry leaders must take care of their employees both inside and outside the office.
Further, millennials are ambitious and eschew bureaucratic corporate structure and information silos. We want to move up quickly and we will move on if we can’t attain career growth. This industry desperately needs an injection of fresh ideas and technology, and that comes with younger talent. Place young people in positions where their work is impactful, listen to their ideas, and make sure they know that they are heard and valued.
Insurance may not be perceived as an attractive industry for millennials, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. We need a branding refresh in this industry. The companies that best communicate impactful missions and build corporate cultures around those missions will be rewarded. In addition, companies that focus on their employees will find brand advocates within their ranks and candidates at their door.
Meg Murphy manages communications at Maxwell Health, an operating system for employee benefits. Meg may be contacted at [email protected]