THE TALENT PIPELINE THAT INDEPENDENT AGENTS MAY BE MISSING
More students see insurance careers as meaningful, lucrative, stable and purpose driven
[T]hanks to new efforts by industry leaders and academic
institutions, Gen Z and millennial workers are finding the insurance industry intentionally,
compared to previous generations of workers.
By Grace Grant
More and more students see insurance careers as meaningful, lucrative, stable and purpose driven. This is good news for those who can capitalize on this rising trend of young workers.
According to data from AgentMethods, 881,500 licensed insurance agents operate in the United States. Of those, approximately 450,000 are independent insurance agents working across 38,000 agencies and brokerages, according to data from National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). These numbers are growing year over year, and this presents a great opportunity for the insurance industry to jump in and find ways to attract new talent.
Larger industry firms have upped their game in recent years as they’ve worked to attract new recruits, network and pitch the insurance industry as a career. We’ve seen evidence of this at Gamma Iota Sigma regional conferences. Yet, too often independent agents and brokers are missing from these events, which can serve as fertile ground for recruiting and understanding the value these individuals can bring to an agency.
The absence of agents and brokers at gatherings like this could be due to a lack of resources, time, or interest. Regardless, they are missing out. For independent agents and brokers who make the time and find the resources to appeal to young talent, the benefits could be of tremendous value to the future of their business.
Finding insurance intentionally
For decades, we’ve heard many, many insurance professionals say they fell into an insurance career rather than it being a career they intentionally pursued. Yet, thanks to new efforts by industry leaders and academic institutions, Gen Z and millennial workers are finding the insurance industry intentionally compared to previous generations of workers.
A Jacobson Group and Aon study in 2021 found that 40% of college students were actively interested in a career in the insurance industry, compared to 27% in 2018. According to the data we have collected at Gamma Iota Sigma through our annual recruitment survey, 53% of students who had prior exposure to the insurance industry through an internship were more likely to consider a career at that same employer.
While they are not choosing an insurance career arbitrarily, these individuals are entering the workforce with some specific and often nonnegotiable expectations. According to our annual survey data, almost 30% of the next generation of workers want mission-focused careers and workplaces, 63% prefer hybrid work settings, and more than 48% valued healthcare policies more than salary and paid-time-off considerations.
But what will employers get in return?
Return on investment
There are many advantages that this new generation of millennial and Gen Z workers offer, including:
- Tech savvy. By its nature, our industry is risk adverse. Millennials and Gen Z will greatly assist our business with a risk-burdened issue: technology adoption; they are digital natives, fluent in social media practices and the latest marketing trends.
Additionally, their digital proficiency and expertise in marketing and branding can help independent agencies adopt new technologies and cut down on potential need for training in apps and systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, online marketing tools, AI-based tools and other digital customer service platforms.
- Industry educated. These individuals, unlike many of their counterparts from previous generations, are also coming into the workforce bearing risk management and actuarial science degrees and having industry designations and actuarial exams already under their belt.
- The next generation of workers have proven themselves extremely adaptable and open to change. They are more likely to embrace new ways of working, which can help insurance companies stay competitive and meet evolving customer demands.
That same adaptability means they’re also open to taking calculated risks—ironically, a good skillset to have in the business of mitigating and understanding risk.
- Being a highly connected generation, they’re natural collaborators, seeking out multiple perspectives and viewpoints. When operating in independent agencies, they will bring to any office, large or small, a desire to learn, collaborate and grow.
- Their connected nature means they are also more likely to value diversity and inclusivity—but only if the workplaces reflect these values. Those diverse and multi-perspective teams are better able to capture new markets and improve customer satisfaction.
- Socially conscious. The desire for diverse workspaces reflects a deep desire for mission-driven work. This next generation of workers are socially conscious, empathetic and have a keen eye for mission-centric work and strong corporate values. This translates into excellent customer service, where they are focused on protection and peace of mind and are very in tune with the desires and needs of their demographic, and others.
Other bottom-line brokerage benefits
For independent agents and brokers especially, there are also other quantifiable benefits to seeking out next-generation talent, which tends to be more diverse than previous generations. A survey by Glassdoor noted that 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce was important when considering job offers. A separate McKinsey report found companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry median.
Then, there’s the cost savings to consider. Younger workers just starting out tend to have lower salary expectations than older workers with similar experience levels. This is especially true in areas where there is high demand for experienced workers. As these experienced and older workers retire, those same younger employees who have become familiar with the company culture and operations can help ensure a smooth transition and prevent knowledge gaps.
Independent agents can position themselves brilliantly for the future by staying ahead of the curve and leveraging the skills and perspectives of this next generation of talent. Having a solid understanding of what this generation of workers can contribute to your company, as well as their expectations, will greatly help those who seek to take advantage of this influx of new talent.
Agents who want to get new talent into their agencies as soon as possible need to foster an environment that appeals to the next generation. Those who do will reap the rewards of an ambitious, hardworking and intelligent workforce that will likely better their company for the future not just in terms of profit, but also in terms of innovation, diversity and social good.
Grace Grant, executive director for Gamma Iota Sigma, has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, including 10 years of insurance industry nonprofit leadership. She joined Gamma Iota Sigma in 2013, and championed a significant expansion of the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy through the establishment of the Gamma Iota Sigma Foundation. Visit www.gammaiotasigma.org for more information.