By Korey Platt
We are part of an aging industry. I know we are all aware of this fact and though it may be hard to accept, there are more individuals exiting our business than there are entering our business. We talk about this frequently, but as an industry we haven’t implemented a real succession plan.
Who is going to take care of our clients who have become like family over the years? Who is going to step into some really big shoes with the tenacity and passion to fill them? Most of you wouldn’t enthusiastically answer this question with: millennials will do it! With their noses always in their phones and the stigma of being somewhat entitled, millennials don’t seem up to the task. Many agents just don’t see how they could hand over their business to anyone who didn’t have to suffer through pagers and cell phones that looked like bricks. Or anyone who never had to learn the patience associated with fax machines because they just used email. The generation that uses technology to avoid having human interaction? No way!
I guess I must reveal my secret at this point: I am a millennial. I grew up with influential people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg where the push for technology was how money was made and respect earned. There was new technology constantly and as the child of a computer engineer, our house was always filled with the latest and greatest. Have I ignored a call from a parent and sent a text instead? Guilty! Am I known for literally double fisting cell phones and rarely unplugging? Guilty again. The fact of the matter, though, is that people like me are the future of this industry. That means we all need to do a better job attracting millennials to the business and understanding how to work with them.
The Millennial-Tech Imperative
Millennials have a work hard while playing hard mentality. They don’t want to go to work, be serious about working all day and then go home where they can relax and have fun. This is largely in part due to the technology that constantly tethers them to their work. It isn’t because they are entitled individuals that don’t want to work hard. It’s because they are constantly plugged in. This generation will check their email at midnight and then want to take off an hour early the next day for a social event. This generation wants to make personal connections with their employers, coworkers and clients. You won’t motivate them by offering a small raise like you may have motivated previous generations. They would be more motivated by leaving early a couple days a month. They value their time and life experiences above all else. So why does any of this matter to you? The fact is that companies need millennials to help them adapt to today’s technology and customer demands. This industry has not always been the most technologically advanced. I work with a large chunk of agents who still fax applications to carriers. That is how they have always done business and they are hesitant to change a system that has worked for so long. The issue with this mentality going into the future is that many people formulate an opinion of your business based on the level of technology you have implemented. The companies that are well respected like Google, Amazon and Apple are always on the forefront of new technology so people have started to relate technology to success. Millennials understand this.
There is also a different expectation for how individuals and businesses interact with other companies. They expect efficiency and want to be able to complete transactions without always having to set aside time for a face-to-face meeting. If you bring in a millennial, you can be assured that they will share this expectation and can assist you in implementing more technology in your business. Not only will that make you more attractive to new clients, but the increased efficiency will allow your business the time required to prospect and service new clients. Maybe your company has already implemented technology and is leading the charge in that space. Excellent! But how is your marketing plan adapting to meet the needs of the future? Having an online presence is quickly becoming a necessity in running a successful business. Most companies in our industry have excellent websites, but are not taking full advantage of social media platforms to grow their business. Those apps that the younger generations constantly interact on (and you grumble about under your breath) are also cost-effective and successful places to market your business. With millennials being such a large part of the overall workforce, the business owners and individuals you are trying to attract to your agency are interacting in those spaces. If you do not have a presence there, you are missing an enormous opportunity!
The fact of the matter is that our industry needs millennials to help keep this business alive. That said, millennials also need mentors to teach them this business and help them see the value in what we do. They need to feel that they are part of something larger than themselves, which is why I think this industry is a hidden gem. All of us have had the opportunity to impact people’s lives in times where they are experiencing the joy of a new baby or the loss of a loved one. We have the privilege of helping people protect themselves and their families. We safeguard the things that matter the most to people.
Insurance Industry Made for Millennials
If there was a career built with the millennial in mind, I think it would be an insurance agent. We have flexibility, constantly evolving technology and the opportunity to help people. This is the perfect combination. So I encourage you to start factoring the younger generations into your succession planning. Many agents I interact with don’t necessarily have a succession plan, but it is a huge opportunity to put a plan in place that will allow your business to continue to thrive after you retire. It also allows you to pass all that knowledge and expertise on to someone else and help them create the success that you have had. There are internship programs available in our industry and I encourage you to seek them out. I was speaking on a panel recently regarding the future of our industry and the question arose about where the responsibility lies in regards to bringing new blood into this business. My belief is the responsibility rests on all of our shoulders. Most of us have had someone or even many people who have taught us the ropes and helped us become successful. We had to work hard and create our own opportunities but we had mentors who were there when we needed help. What does that say about us if we do not continue to pass on the baton? I know without the guidance, wisdom and experience that past generations have imparted on me I would never have been successful in this business.
As an industry we just love to reminisce. We love talking about the good ‘ol days when commissions were great and there was less regulation. If I had been exposed to that attitude when falling into this career (because who really chooses insurance at age 21!), I can’t say I would have stuck around. As harsh as it may sound, we need to move on and embrace the things about our industry that are positive. People want to be part of a winning team, no matter what generation, and we need to stop painting ourselves as a sinking ship. It is time to start telling the good stories, talking about the people you have helped and the joy this career has brought you. The success and security it has brought to your families. It is time to start inspiring the younger generation to get involved.
Korey Platt started in the insurance industry nine years ago as an independent agent specializing in Medicare Advantage. She has worked for Anthem for the past four years and is currently the Medicare regional sales manager for the Central Coast. Platt is president of the Ventura County Association of Health Underwriters and serves on the CAHU Board as the retention chair.