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Risk Mgmt and Ins Higher Education Scene

Winning the Millennial Talent War

Brenda Powell Wells | June 7, 2019

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Millennials at the gym

I speak around the country on a variety of subjects, and one of the most fascinating ones that I address is understanding, attracting, and retaining millennials in the risk management and insurance (RMI) workplace. So, you've attracted and hired a millennial. How do you retain them? How do you keep your competitors from stealing them away?

I have observed 30 years' worth of students, and I want you to know that while millennials are their own unique brand (just like baby boomers are and Gen X'ers are), retaining them is not complicated. I've narrowed it down to the following four steps.

Step One: Stop Bashing Millennials!

Don't do it, even in jest. Were I a millennial, I not only would be offended, I would be searching for an environment that appreciated the skills and talents my generation brings to the table. Think of it this way: if a millennial walked into the office and started making old-age jokes about baby boomers, you would be offended (as you should be), and you'd probably report them to human resources. Respect is a two-way street in the workplace, and if you make fun of, verbally jab, or insult millennials, I can promise you they won't stick around long.

Step Two: Compensate Them Better Than Average

Our industry has a long history of raiding the talent of competitors. And, my friends in the industry jump from insurer to insurer, broker to broker, usually for one of two reasons. The first one is money (see step three for the other reason). RMI employees with 10 years of experience who are good at what they do are very often wooed by headhunters, and the competition will almost always pay more than you do. They value the training and talent that you have in your shop, and they will often pay handsomely to obtain it.

It is very hard for an employee to turn down a $15,000-plus pay increase. So, you can either pay them that or you can watch them eventually walk out the door. You might be saying, "But I can't afford $15,000 more." To that I ask, "Well, what's it going to cost you to hire someone new, train them, and get them up to speed to replace the employee you lose?" (I secretly bet it's going to be more than $15,000.) In keeping up with my alumni (all 30 years' worth of them), this is the number one reason they jump ship.

Step Three: Create a Fertile Work Environment for Personal Growth

Growing up playing video games taught millennials that there is little you can't solve by hitting the "restart" button. If you do not provide them with a good environment in which to work, they will push the "restart" button and move onto another employer. If you want them to grow where they're planted, you have to give them the things that they need: positivity, respect, encouragement, and opportunity.

Millennials tend to thrive on a variety of experiences. If you give them the same thing to do every day, day in and day out, you'll soon see a resignation letter. If you don't give them opportunities to learn and move up, they will leave you. If you don't provide encouragement and praise when they do a good job, they'll find an employer that will.

Step Four: Delight Your Employees at Every Opportunity

Millennials are not solely money motivated (few people are). While money is important, it really isn't "everything."

A very wise CEO friend of mine in insurance lets my students visit his office each year. He gives them a personal tour of the office and explains what he offers his employees—from subsidized daycare across the street from the office, to 28 different beverages in the break room, to a very posh workout facility complete with fitness and wellness classes. He makes their lives as stress-free, healthy, and pleasant as possible. His motto is that he does everything he possibly can to delight his employees. He listens to his employees and hears their concerns and problems. Then he tries his best to find ways to help resolve those issues to the extent that he can. Guess what? He has very low turnover!

Now my guess is you're reading this thinking, "Everyone wants these things … it's not just millennials!" That is exactly my point!

Generally, millennials are not like Rubik's Cubes (nearly impossible to solve). They need the same things that other generations need and want; they just may need them on slightly different terms. For instance, whereas your baby boomer employees are used to the concept of an annual review, millennials prefer more frequent and regular feedback. (Yes, they actually want feedback!)


I hope this helps you solve your problems with millennial retention. I am always here to answer any questions you may have about millennials, college students/graduates, and the next generation coming through now, "Gen Z." I hope you'll write to me!

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