Posted by: yacmichigan | May 28, 2015

Why Hiring Millennials is a Win-Win

When Bruce Winterburn, vice president of industry relations at Vertafore, bought a small-town independent agency a few years ago, he installed his 24-year-old son Cam as the principal.

The agency, which was 80 years old and had attritted down to a quarter of its original size, has since enjoyed incredible success—even though the team “didn’t do anything tricky other than bring in fresh insight,” Winterburn says. “This is where millennials can really have a positive impact—their ability to be a trusted advisor and consultant and build relationships in established communities.”

Gen Y staffers have a lot to offer your agency. But attracting them to the insurance industry is no easy feat—and retaining this job-hopping demographic requires a sharp shift in agency culture.

What Millennials Can Do for You

Millennials often bear the blame for the demise of the local relationship due to the perception that they prefer online communication and instant access to a personal touch. But ironically, community building is actually a skill most millennials are born with.

“People point to the past a lot of times, saying ‘you can’t do that in this modern age,’” Winterburn says. “I call BS completely on that. It’s exactly the opposite. The youth are involved in communities that reach farther out than anything their parents could do.”

Thanks to social media, millennial communities are digital communities—but that doesn’t make them inferior. “Millennials build relationships in a way that is much more efficient,” Winterburn says. “They still need to be able to shake someone’s hand and look at them in the eye and come to work on time and do all of those things, but if you cover those basics, they also bring in this ability to establish relationships digitally—and they’re earnest, true relationships.”

It’s because the digital economy is constantly evolving—and millennials are right at the heart of it, Winterburn says. “They reinvigorate what has made independent agents important in the past: the ability to establish a relationship within a community,” he points out. “They greatly expand the definition of both community and relationship.”

“I think what they’re doing is they’re dragging us to think differently,” agrees Lynn Harper, service manager at SilverStone Group, an independent insurance agency in Omaha, Nebraska, who participated in a panel called Generation XYZ during Vertafore’s NetVU conference in April. “Obviously they’re more prone to use technology. They dig in.”

Considering the wealth of progress millennial employees can bring to an agency, buying into stereotypes about this demographic of potential hires can therefore be a big mistake.

“When you hear these negative statements, usually it’s someone in my demographic who’s making them because they really just don’t appreciate how culture has changed,” Winterburn says. “I’m vice president of industry relationships for a billion-dollar insurance software firm and I will argue that my 21-year-old college daughter can influence more people instantly than I can.”

“We hear the common set—they don’t have work ethic or things of that nature, and it’s comparatively not true,” Harper agrees. “You just need to know what drives them, what motivates them, in order to get the job done.”

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