Well-Paying Career-Track Jobs Go Unfilled in Insurance Industry: New Survey Reveals Secrets of Recruiting & Retaining Reluctant College Grads

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Despite record unemployment among recent college grads and other out-of-work professionals, there are plenty of well-paying career-track jobs available within the insurance industry. Yet professional positions go unfilled as agency owners and industry executives struggle to recruit and retain top-notch employees, particularly highly prized Millennials. The Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit, the first comprehensive quantitative study of generations in the insurance industry, provides the insurance industry and other employers with a strategic roadmap for recruiting and retaining the next generation of business leaders and owners.

Despite a phenomenal 100% placement rate for risk management and insurance majors, college grad simply do not gravitate toward insurance careers.

In spite of record unemployment among recent college grads and other out-of-work professionals, there are plenty of well-paying career-track jobs available within the insurance industry. Yet professional positions go unfilled as agency owners and industry executives struggle to recruit and retain top-notch employees—particularly highly prized Millennials under age 30—to fill risk management, insurance, employee benefits, actuarial, underwriting, and other positions.

“Whether you are a recent college grad embarking on your first job, or an established employee looking to make a career change, the insurance industry presents a wealth of opportunities. Fully 44% of insurance industry professionals surveyed in 2011 said they anticipate adding staff in 2012. Based on income and employment outlook, actuarial science consistently ranks among the top-10 jobs for college grads. Underwriting also is ranked as a top-25 job, based on income, environment, and security,” said Jim Hackbarth, CEO of Assurex Global, the world’s premier network of independent insurance, risk management, and benefits brokers.

“Despite a phenomenal 100% placement rate for risk management and insurance majors, college graduates simply do not gravitate toward insurance careers. Thanks to negative perceptions about the profession, a lack of awareness about rewarding careers, and a limited pool of trained talent, graduating students fill no more than 15% of the industry’s hiring needs. The tendency to overlook insurance careers by both the Millennial Generation and Gen-Xers between age 30 and 51, creates an enormous challenge for an industry that anticipates a 50% workforce turnover in the next 15 years,” said Hackbarth.

To help understand the career choices of Millennials and Gen-Xers, while shoring up the insurance industry’s talent gap, Assurex Global—the world’s premier network of independent insurance, risk management, and benefits brokers—recently conducted a survey of 4,986 insurance professionals employed by independent Partner firms throughout the United States and Canada. The Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit is the first comprehensive, quantitative study of generations in the insurance industry.

The survey examines generational differences in the workplace among Millennials (ages 29 and younger), Gen-Xers (ages 30–51), and Boomers (ages 52-69). It also provides employers—Assurex Global Partners and other employers in insurance and other professions—with a strategic roadmap for the recruitment and retention of the next generation of business leaders and owners. Employers eager to attract the “right” employees are advised to consider the best practices-based guidelines detailed in the Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit.

Key Findings of the Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit

Workplace Priorities: What Generational Workers Want.
Millennials seek hands-on direction from supervisors, clear goals and rewards, and professional development. In other words, Millennials simply want more from their employers than previous generations. Gen-Xers also identify professional development as their number-one need. Unfortunately, Millennials’ need for structure tends to mystify Boomer business owners and Gen-X managers alike. Consequently, only 30% of Millennials would recommend their organizations as good places to work.

Lessons for Employers: To attract and retain quality employees, insurance brokers, agency owners, and other employers need to provide 20-somethings with a clear career ladder; mentorship; specific, short-term work goals; long-term professional development; regular performance evaluations; rewards for achieving job-related goals; and services including education assistance and financial planning to help handle life’s challenges. Boomer owners and executives need to provide Gen-X employees with professional development tools and training to help ensure that these “managers in the middle” are prepared to and interested in assuming leadership responsibilities as organizations’ retiring professionals relinquish their responsibilities. It will fall upon Gen-X managers, after all, to mentor Millennials and assume the mantle of leadership within brokerage firms and the insurance industry as a whole.    

How Generational Workers View One Another.
While Millennials have favorable views of other generations in the workplace, Boomers in particular and Gen-Xers to a lesser extent tend to view younger (and older) generations less favorably. Boomers and Gen-Xers often don’t understand who Millennials are, what motivates them, and how they differ from older employees. Because they don’t understand Millennials, older managers tend to focus on young employees’ weaknesses, failing to recognize and utilize their strengths.

Lessons for Employers: The misunderstanding and negative perceptions of Millennials by Gen-X and Boomer managers and owners may hamper workplace communication and collaboration, leading to higher turnover of valuable employees and lower productivity overall. If left unchecked, the end result is an empty perpetuation pipeline, with no Millennials trained and positioned to replace retiring managers and owners. Employers are advised to educate Boomers and Gen-Xers about Millennials, in order to break down barriers to intergenerational communication and cooperation.

What Type of Corporate Culture Do Generational Workers Want?
In this regard, there is a dramatic generational spread, with Millennials’ hunger for community further distinguishing them from older generations of workers, particularly Boomers who are known for individualism. Millennials and Gen-Xers both place a high value on corporate support for social and ethical causes—and want to see that commitment reflected in the workplace.

Lessons for Employers: Workers from 18–50 represent the future of the insurance industry—and all businesses, for that matter. Insurance brokers, agency owners, industry executives, and managers across the board must make a strategic effort to establish programs, services, cultures, and communications vehicles to help bridge generation gaps in the workplace, understand and respond to employees’ social and professional needs, and start younger employees—from recent college grads through Generation X—on the path to organizational leadership and business ownership.

How Generational Workers View the Insurance Industry.
Employees under age 52—Millennials and Gen-Xers alike—report feeling stymied in their leadership aspirations within the industry. Fully 43% of Gen-Xers and 44% of Millennials who currently hold sales positions say they are “extremely interested” in agency ownership. Yet only a quarter of that group strongly believes there are mechanisms in place to allow them to become owners.

Lessons for Employers: As Boomers retire, few Gen-Xers and Millennials are prepared to step up and take over their roles. It is essential for employers within the insurance industry to adjust their policies and procedures and enhance their communication and culture in order to attract, nurture, and grow the next generation of leaders and owners.    

Summary: Great News for Job-Hunters
“Entrepreneurial Millennials and Gen-Xers who are interested in establishing careers that may one day lead to insurance agency ownership are encouraged to contact independent brokers in their own backyards and around the globe. Independent, privately owned insurance brokers understand the drive to be your own boss and are committed to passing ownership of their firms from one generation of employees and managers to the next,” said Hackbarth.

About the Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit
Released on March 8, 2012, the Assurex Global Generational Workplace Audit is the first comprehensive, quantitative study of generations in the insurance industry. A total of 4,986 insurance professionals employed by Assurex Global’s North American Partner firms were surveyed between August 22 and September 2, 2011. The research was conducted by LifeCourse Associates for Assurex Development Corp. (ADC), the perpetuation loan arm of Assurex Global. ADC is supported by Chubb, CNA, The Hanover Insurance Group, The Hartford, Travelers, and Unum.

About Assurex Global
Assurex Global is the world’s premier network of independent insurance, risk management, and benefits brokers. With over $28 billion in annual premium volume and more than 500 Partner offices, Columbus, Ohio-based Assurex Global is the world’s largest privately held commercial insurance, risk management, and employee benefits brokerage group. An international insurance powerhouse, Assurex Global combines the local expertise and global reach of international brokers on six continents. For information about Assurex Global, visit http://www.assurexglobal.com.

Media Contact & Survey Summary
To schedule an interview with Assurex Global or receive the comprehensive Survey Summary, contact:

Rob Krohn, Assurex Global Marketing & Communications Director, 614-793-2498 (direct), rkrohn(at)assurexglobal(dot)com.

Nancy Flynn, Nancy Flynn Public Relations, Inc., 614-451-8701 (o), 614-312-7491 (c), nancy(at)epolicyinstitute(dot)com.

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