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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
October 05
10:10 2016

Are the desires of the Millennials the key to retaining them?

By Christopher W. Cook

Previously in Rough Notes …

We wrapped up the development segment of our series by using Baby Boomers in mentorships. As for our story, Jane finds herself in a dilly of a pickle, cornered in a supply closet by her twin sister, Jean, who is now brandishing a gun. The twin brothers trapped with her hold up their hands in surrender. Suddenly, a door swings open across the warehouse. In runs Officer McGee with our deranged killer right on his heels.

Back to reality.

When I think about employee retention, I immediately think of the ’80s hit by The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”—a question repeated in the minds of all of those who are not satisfied with their jobs. A 2014 attrition survey by Mercer showed a 5% increase in voluntary turnover since 2011. Also, the concept of job hopping is becoming the norm for Millennials, who are likely to have twice as many jobs in their lifetime as Baby Boomers. For some agencies, hiring Millennials is still a relatively new concept. McGowan Insurance Group, the February 2014 Rough Notes agency of the month, based in Indianapolis, recently began bringing members of Generation Y on board.

“We have five Millennials on staff, but a couple of years ago we had zero,” explains Hugh McGowan, president and CEO. “We have a good dynamic between the generations. I don’t think you’d want all Millennials or all senior people. It’s nice to have a blend.”

Challenges will arise when working with a staff containing multiple generations because of the differences between the groups. These were discussed in our inaugural article (see the July 2015 issue of Rough Notes). Boomers want this, Millennials want that—but what exactly do Millennials want? Research from the Intelligence Group, a division of the Creative Artists Agency, shows that:

64% want to make the world a better place.

72% want to be their own boss, but if they can’t then 79% want their boss to serve as a coach or mentor.

88% prefer a collaborative work culture.

74% want flexible schedules.

88% want work-life integration.

We’ve already discussed several of these topics in previous articles—mentorships, work culture, flexible scheduling. Could the key to retaining Millennials be as simple as providing what they are looking for?

The struggle

McGowan Insurance has 30 employees on staff, a mix of young people just starting their careers, seasoned veterans in their 60s, and all ages in between. After years of struggling with employee retention, the agency is bouncing back and trying new things—things that tend to be linked to the desires of Millennials as reported in the survey.

“Though much of it was by our own doing, we’d had an unprecedented amount of turnover,” says McGowan. “We had not been a shining beacon of retention, but hopefully we have learned. We’ve adjusted how our staff operates and our workflows. The best thing we can do to help our staff now is to continue to bring in good people.”

McGowan stresses the importance of doing everything possible to take care of your producers and sales team, but that it has become equally important to create a good environment for your support people.

“Out of all the stuff that people want, money is often fourth or fifth on the list,” says McGowan. “People want a good quality of life; they don’t want to work 70 hours a week. They want flex time. There are a number of things that people look for that we have gotten better at doing. I try to have coffee periodically with each member of our staff, talk to them and get to know them personally. At the end of the day, it’s about the culture.”

“We’re doing a better job of being cognizant of what all of our staff want and need. And as much as we need great talent, the damage done from getting the wrong fit can sometimes be much more than the positives from getting the right person.”

—Hugh McGowan

President and CEO

McGowan Insurance Group

A strong work culture is a definite bonus when it comes to retaining young professionals. Understand your company’s culture and recognize during the interview process if the applicant will or won’t fit in.

“We look for people who are going to fit with our culture,” says McGowan, “Before we ever hire anyone, I always have to meet the person. As important as being technically competent and having insurance knowledge, they also have to be a fit from a personality standpoint. It’s got to jell.

“We’re doing a better job of being cognizant of what all of our staff want and need. And as much as we need great talent, the damage done from getting the wrong fit can sometimes be much more than the positives from getting the right person.”

The bullet points

As we look back at the bullet points from earlier (made you look), we will now take a look at examples of how the McGowan Insurance Group applied these concepts for the betterment of the agency.

As for the desire to make the world a better place, it’s a smart decision to offer Millennials plenty of opportunities to give back to the community, and in particular to do so as a group. The agency supports its corporate charity, DREAM Alive—an organization started by former Indianapolis Colt Tarik Glenn—whose purpose is to provide meaningful relationships and character-building experiences for urban youth.

“It gives high school aged youth the opportunity to be in positions to help others, as opposed to being the ones who need help,” explains McGowan. “We’ve also been involved with Meals on Wheels and Downtown Indy, which isn’t a charity but does give our employees the chance to really feel a part of downtown Indianapolis, which has now been our home for over 85 years. Young people are always looking for community involvement. They take pride in and want this from their employer.”

iStock_92731667_LARGEAs mentioned in previous young professionals’ articles, Millennials want to be mentored and provided appropriate tools during their training process, but a positive training experience results from enthusiasm on both sides.

“Particularly on the sales side, I see that often the biggest source of success for Millennials is simply asking,” says McGowan. “Sometimes people just don’t ask. There’s no problem with saying, ‘I don’t know. Let me check and I’ll get back with you.’

“We have a young producer, Eric Rich, who won the 2015 Keystone Thorough-bred Award—he wrote more new business than any other Keystone agent in Indiana. He’s good at asking. He’s in his early 30s, he’s hungry and he goes to our older producers. And they love helping him and being a sounding board for him. You have to make sure you’re engaging Millennials, but it is a two-way street; Millennials also need to recognize and value the expertise and experience their more-experienced peers can offer.

“You don’t have to bring in someone with a background in insurance, but the person should be ready and willing to learn it. The technical expertise you need, especially if you want to get into a niche, is substantial. You have to constantly be looking for ways to learn more.”

Another bullet point acted on at McGowan is the use of collaboration.

“We have multiple producers and an account manager team up on accounts,” explains McGowan. “Three heads are better than two; two heads are better than one. When we have someone who is young, new and energetic paired with someone with a lot of experience, as long as we we’re communicating internally, it can create a powerful dynamic that ultimately benefits our clients.”

Flexible scheduling was recently implemented at McGowan’s agency, as well as other measures to offer work-life integration.

“We didn’t even have flex time a few years ago and now are open to working from home and accommodating it,” says McGowan. “A lot that we’re doing now we did to try to help the Millennials, but we really did it for the whole agency. I’ve never looked at what we’ve done as a way to attract and retain Millennials, but rather to improve things agency wide.”

These improvements have helped reduce the turnover rate, creating a team that McGowan definitely wants to keep.

“You can’t create a family-oriented culture,” McGowan says. “You could hire an outside consulting firm to come in and say what your mission statement is and what your goals are, but you’ve got to work internally to build your culture.

“When we built our building downtown it was not in the budget for us to make the roof accessible for agency functions and/or just for our employees to sit and have lunch. Our goal (and one of our internal mission statements) is to ‘raise the roof’ by 2020. If we can continue to attract and retain the right people, that is a goal we can all realize together. I’ve had people tell me that they aren’t going to retire until we see this through.”

Parting words

In no way am I saying there’s a direct correlation between giving Millennials what they want and having an increase in or a steady employee retention rate. Perhaps this could be studied—but at the very least, it has helped one agency turn things around and improve its employee retention. Remember, not all Boomers or Millennials fall into the stereotypical classifications of their respective generations. If you notice an increase in employee departures at your agency, do what the young professionals at McGowan Insurance Group are doing: Ask. Ask your crew what changes they would like to see and implement those changes for the good of the entire team. Maybe your young professionals won’t need to recite the lyrics of The Clash.

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