Finance is “Fine” and Insurance is “In”

How to Make Your Organization Attractive to a New Generation of Leaders

Today there is a challenge that is facing the financial and insurance industries. It’s a challenge of a disappearing workforce coupled with the need to attract Millennials to industries with which they may not be familiar.

These industries are poised for a tremendous talent drain. For the insurance industry it is estimated that over half of the industry’s employees are 45 or older[i] and for the financial sector, the average age of financial advisors is 50.9 years[ii], putting thousands of seasoned professionals into retirement over the next decade. 

What’s worse, the efforts to recruit promising talent to replace them is hampered by both a greatly reduced number of recruitment and formal training programs and a “messaging” challenge with Millennials who, for a number of reasons, don’t even consider putting these industries on their list of viable career choices.

The financial and insurance industries are on top of this challenge and are actively campaigning to illustrate that their industries have great potential.

The facts are…

There are a variety of jobs and lots of room to grow. There aren’t too many industries that offer the pathways these do, such as sales, IT, actuarial, underwriting or claims to name a few.  From running your own business to forging a path with a large carrier, there is no shortage of opportunity, no limit on advancement and no boundaries on location.

There’s a tidal wave of opportunity heading toward the Millennials. The insurance industry is facing an estimated 400,000 new jobs needed industry-wide by 2020[iii], and the financial industry is facing a shortage of more than 200,000 workers by 2022[iv].  Both industries need smart, well-rounded professionals to fill the pipeline, and they need them now.

At the same time, it’s important to note that Millennials are bypassing the Gen Xers as managers. They are growing so fast that they are increasingly the population to promote. However, training them in the business and then training them to be managers and leaders are two different things.

What we are hearing, consistent with the research, is that Millennials are not just in the workforce, we increasingly need them to lead the workforce. Rather than talking at them, this is a generation that wants you to talk with them. Social media, prevalent across all generations but particularly with Millennials, encourages conversations with individuals across all generations and walks-of-life. These conversations are not bound by age, gender or race, and so Millennials expect and anticipate that conversations will happen with them. Understanding how to let Millennials know they are valued, while also preparing them to expand their responsibilities and take on leadership roles, is key.

The implications…

So what are the implications of these trends on the nature of your workplace?

First, it’s important to remember that while generational identities are important, each employee has specific career needs that are unique to them. Second, it’s important to share with Millennials what shapes people’s preferences and approach to the workplace. Help them understand the stories of the employees in the organization so they can begin to understand the role individual differences play in securing satisfying work. Find mentoring opportunities so that Millennials can learn skills directly from individuals who have been successful. And, last but not least, get ready for Generation Z!

At this point, we’ve teed up the challenge – a declining experienced workforce and entrance of Millennials in the workplace – how do you turn the tide? How can you configure your workplace in such a way that it is responsive and attractive to newer generations?

Quite simply, there are three factors that we’ve seen influence these dynamics:

  • Focus on Learning and Development. Creating a cornerstone manager and leader training program continues to be critical. Include in that program foundational areas such as communication and delegation, and include other topics that might not have been a part of traditional programs but are now paramount in any organization. We are seeing increasing needs for programs that focus on self-awareness, relationships and establishing connections with your employees. Likewise, Diversity and Inclusion and Understanding Generational Differences, which are part of our Leader 2025 curriculum, are key. As you build your learning and development approach, demonstrate the connection between the organization’s strategy, values and competencies – the connection of competencies to training supports a stronger integration of the messages the organization wants to send and the skills it wants to support across all employees. Build in flexibility to your approach – don’t lock yourself into a program or topics that don’t hit home. Be willing to talk with your leaders to understand what their interests are and what skills they feel they need, and adjust your programs accordingly.
  • Change the Conversation. Be willing to change the conversation with your employees so that you are providing timely and relevant feedback. Millennials are used to immediate reactions, feedback and open exchanges. A once-a-year “sit down” flies in the face of the type of fluid relationships that are increasingly expected in today’s workplace. However, a word of caution about this – it is important that you forge ahead with forethought. In dismantling the formal performance management process, it’s important to simultaneously “shore up” the everyday coaching skills of your leaders. It’s also very important, in our view, to be clear about the differences between performance management and performance coaching. Depending on where the organization is, this is a very interesting and useful conversation, and ultimately, we want participants to know how performance coaching can help augment or support the performance management system. While coaching is necessary and desirable, left to their own devices, managers may shy away from engaging in a coaching conversation. If they know employees want to be coached and managers believe coaching will contribute to success, why shy away from it? Unless managers get the support they need to have the confidence and competence to coach, they won’t engage in these types of conversations.
  • Career Development is a Priority. To regain the interest of Millennials is to prioritize career development. This should happen not only through career conversations but by also providing ongoing access to a strong support network that promotes career conversations. Some best practices that have worked well with our clients include having a panel of individuals share their career journeys and personal stories. Coaching circles can be another way of developing a self-sustaining network of support where individuals come together to support each other in exploring opportunities for career growth. In these coaching circles, employees learn from each other and network, both of which can spur new opportunities. The thing to remember is this – career development and professional growth is very important to Millennials and a key factor in deciding where to work. If you can demonstrate a commitment to not only bringing them into your organization and helping them grow their careers, they will want to join and stay.

While the focus is on the financial and insurance industries, this is a challenge being confronted by so many human resource and talent acquisition professionals across many industries; all looking to become relevant to a new generation of employees and replace the talent that is leaving their organizations.  Embracing a workplace that focuses on leadership skills, encouraging ongoing coaching conversations and emphasizing career conversations are three ways to ensure you are creating a culture and climate that that is not only attractive but highly desirable.

We invite you to learn more about how GP Strategies has helped clients, like those in these two industries, address very real business challenges through innovative solutions in leadership development and employee engagement.

[i]    Propertycasualty360.com, November 2015
[ii]   Mrinetwork.com, July 2016
[iii]   Insuremypath.org
[iv]   Mrinetwork.com, July 2016
Leah Clark

Leah Clark

Director, Strategy and Planning, GP Strategies Corporation

Leah leads Strategy and Planning for BlessingWhite, a Division of GP Strategies, focusing on bringing new products to market and enhancing the participant experience.She works with clients to understand their leadership and engagement challenges and consults with them on the creative solutions.

Prior to joining BlessingWhite, Leah had her own practice in executive coaching and consulting.She is a certified professional coach through an ICF accredited organization and is Myers-Brigg practitioner.

Leah has over seventeen years of experience in marketing, strategy, and product development in a corporate environment.She has also served as an adjunct faculty member in the fields of psychology and organizational psychology.

She has a Master’s of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor or Arts in English and Sociology from Boston College where she graduated summa cum laude.
Leah Clark

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