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How to kill your career in one easy step

How to kill your career in one easy step

At The James Allen Companies, we are continuously working in earnest to help our candidates avoid the pitfalls and predicaments that threaten to undermine their attempts to further their professional success. Throughout the process, from the first resume to the first day at their new company, we leverage years of experience to help the individuals with whom we work navigate the unpredictable job market and improve their lives. Unfortunately there is one danger that stands above the others, luring too many candidates into the rocks with its siren song and forever leaving them professionally stranded:  the counteroffer.

 

We’ve written at length about the trap that is the counteroffer, but its recent resurgence has inspired us to remind our candidates of just how deceptive a counteroffer is, especially in today’s candidate-driven job market.

 

COUNTERACTIVE

If your goal is to advance within your career, there are few things you can do that are worse than accepting a counteroffer. Advancement requires courage. Accepting a counteroffer is hardly intrepid. A counteroffer is the quickest way to neutralize your career, ensuring nothing except that your path forward will only be more difficult. Your current employer will only see a person halfway out the door, which means opportunities for growth and promotion will be all but null. The company you turned down will no longer view you as a trustworthy option. With a tattered reputation and no viable options, the best you can hope to gain by accepting a counteroffer is maybe a little more money and only for as long as your current employer keeps you on board.

 

COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

The great fallacy of the counteroffer is that it is the successful result of leveraging an offer against your present employer. There is only one real winner when a counteroffer is accepted:  your employer. A counteroffer buys them time. Time to use your energy and insight to resolve projects and time to find your replacement. If a counteroffer wasn’t advantageous for them, they wouldn’t extend it. And if they realized and respected your value, it shouldn’t have taken the threat of departure to earn their attention.

 

COUNTERINTUITIVE

If you think of a counteroffer as an “option,” think again. The time to vie for improving your current employment is not in the eleventh hour. No one likes to be on the receiving end of an ultimatum, especially an employer who, on top of feeling pressured, likely feels betrayed. Accepting a counteroffer is essentially pouring lighter fluid on the bridge between you and your current employer and then handing them the lighter. When the time comes (and it will) that your employer decides to ignite that bridge, you will be dismayed to discover that your relationship among recruiters and other companies has left you with little options and less opportunity.

 

If you are seeking other opportunities only with the intention of leveraging a counteroffer, stop. Aside from the enormous waste of resources you are creating for all those involved, you are taking active steps toward destroying your career potential. If you are legitimately seeking a better opportunity, it won’t be found with your current employer. Don’t lose sight of the reasons you decided to pursue a new organization, and don’t cost yourself a better position and a greater opportunity by falling for the counteroffer trap.

Getting the Most out of Your Recruiter:  Communication is Key

Getting the Most out of Your Recruiter: Communication is Key

As we approach the conclusion of our series intended to equip candidates with key insight integral to their success, let’s consider what we’ve covered and how this final installment fits within the greater theme. In the first chapter of the series, we began with the end in mind. We discussed the dangers of counteroffers and how they can upend your professional growth. In the second chapter we approached the other end of the process, helping you understand why now is the time to capitalize on today’s candidate-driven market. From making the decision to explore opportunities to overcoming counteroffers, it is vital that candidates listen to and communicate with their recruiter.

 

The importance of open and honest communication may seem obvious, but its value to the recruiting process cannot be overstated. What we must reinforce is that the recruiter’s goal is to make the best possible match between candidate and company. We are trying to help individuals elevate their careers, and to do so, there needs to be reciprocal communication at all stages of the process.

 

MAKING THE DECISION TO MOVE

A career change can be a dramatic, life-altering occasion, and we believe that it is not something to be entered into lightly. We want to help our candidates improve their professional lives, and we believe that how that affects their personal lives is paramount. Among the numerous variables to consider, we stress that compensation should not be at the top of the list. Finding the right organization is more than finding the one that will pay the most directly out of the gate. Geography, company culture, and opportunities for growth should be among the most important factors a candidate considers when deciding to seek out new opportunities. It’s to the candidate’s benefit to be thoroughly transparent with their recruiter about why it is they would consider a change and what it is they are truly looking for.

 

THE PROCESS

From preparing and polishing one’s resume to prepping for interviews, a candidate needs to keep in mind that the recruiter is more than a conduit between themselves and potential employers. When given the complete picture of a candidate’s needs and wants, a recruiter can be an effective advocate. Throughout the process, recruiters are most effective when they have honest feedback both from the employers and from the candidates. Additionally, not only is it vital that communication be open and honest, but it should also be timely. Being slow to respond or completely unresponsive erodes leverage that might help recruiters assist candidates in pursuing and achieving their favored opportunities.

 

TRANSITIONING

Recruiters like us at The James Allen Companies do not consider the job completed once a candidate has accepted an offer. The transitioning phase can be one riddled with questions and concerns for all parties involved. Continuing to maintain open and available communication helps ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible.

 

At The James Allen Companies, we are committed to creating matches between employers and candidates that exhibit the potential to be mutually beneficial. We want to help organizations find the people best equipped to help them grow, and we want to help candidates land opportunities with the promise of helping them achieve their professional goals. Ultimately, what is most important for our candidates to understand is that we are concerned with helping you achieve those goals, and we have the best chance of success when there is consistent and reliable communication through all portions of the process. The more engaged a candidate is, the more likely we are to succeed.

Getting the Most out of Your Recruiter:  Understanding Counteroffers

Getting the Most out of Your Recruiter: Understanding Counteroffers

If you are potentially open to exploring new opportunities, a recruiter can be a valuable, if not vital, ally. The benefits of a dedicated recruiter go beyond providing access to options, which in and of itself is a hefty benefit. A quality recruiting professional can provide the resources and recommendations to help you stand apart from other applicants, and they do this at no charge to you. To provide candidates with a better understanding of how recruiters can help them, we have developed this series to present three unique perspectives of the job search and hiring process and how a recruiter can help you overcome obstacles and create opportunities. We will discuss everything from better understanding how the overall insurance market is ideal for dedicated and driven professionals to elevate their careers to the importance of communication throughout the process. While this series does not entirely encompass the total value of a recruiter, it should provide you with a greater understanding of their necessity throughout the process.

 

In his bestselling work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey urged his readers to “begin with the end in mind,” and that’s what we’d like to do in this series, which is why we open with one of the final hurdles of the hiring process:  counteroffers. The topic of counteroffers is an apt one because it should serve as a reminder of why you began the process, and why it is important to understand a counteroffer for what it really is.

 

WHY ARE YOU POTENTIALLY OPEN TO A CHANGE?

At The James Allen Companies, when we approach a potential candidate with an opportunity, we are interested to know what factors are important in a new opportunity. Salary is only one component but it can’t be the sole reason for considering a change. In the full spirit of disclosure, we are exceedingly hesitant to work with individuals whose only driving force is a better salary. We are looking for dedicated and driven professionals who have the vision to look beyond salary and consider other cultural and professional factors. If we feel that your aspirations and attributes are a match with our client, then we help facilitate and navigate the process. If the process culminates in an offer, then you may have to contend with a counteroffer. If a counteroffer occurs, it creates an opportunity to reflect on why you chose to seek out and accept a new position with a new company. It is also a good time to refresh yourself on the truth and consequences regarding counteroffers.

 

A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING

Before going any further, it’s imperative to see a counteroffer for what it really is. Keep in mind that at this point you have accepted an offer from a company excited to bring you on board. The counteroffer is presented when you tender your resignation for your current company. In reality, the counteroffer is an insult, a last-ditch effort to save the company from an inconvenience. Loyalty is vital, and a counteroffer is the opposite of loyalty. It’s an act of desperation that your former employer will use to allow themselves more time to find your replacement. To accept a counteroffer is to sacrifice more than a great opportunity, but it is to sacrifice your reputation, and all for an empty gesture that will most assuredly end poorly.

 

WHAT IF YOU ACCEPT THE COUNTEROFFER?

If you were to accept a counteroffer from your current employer what can you reasonably expect to change other than your salary? If you’re lucky, nothing will change, but statistics suggest you probably won’t be that lucky. According to numerous industry reports, 70 to 80 percent of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year. Either you discover that the same reasons that led you to seek new opportunities persist and you find yourself back on the hunt (only now, most likely, with one less option since the company whose offer you rejected in favor of the counteroffer is likely no longer interested), or your company retains you long enough so that they can seek out your replacement. Even if you are one of the 20 to 30 percent of people who make it beyond that year, how will you handle future negotiations? How do you think you will be received in future negotiations? Accepting a counteroffer doesn’t move you forward but only keeps you mired in the past.

 

If the only way to inspire your company to reward you is through the threat of accepting a new offer, is this the kind of company in which you really have a future? You sacrifice more than just a new opportunity when you accept a counteroffer. You sacrifice your reputation with your current employer, other companies and recruiters. Ultimately, a counteroffer is never going to take into account the most important reasons for seeking out a new opportunity. A counteroffer is not going to improve your professional ambitions. It is not going to improve your career. What it should do, however, is remind you why you chose to move on in the first place, and why you’ve made the right choice.

Why Passive Candidates Are Like Bananas

Why Passive Candidates Are Like Bananas

When referring to the candidate market, the term market is often used in relation to candidates as a commodity, but the more traditional definition of the word as it pertains to a store is also applicable. To run with this analogy, we have to think about candidates as products, but we also have to be careful to not lose track that unlike typical products on a store shelf, candidates aren’t simply there for the taking. They are in greater control of their destiny than a bag of chips or a case of water. Unfortunately, too many prospective employers misunderstand the candidate market and cost themselves exceptional professionals in a market where the shelves are not so easily replenished.

 

Candidates Have a Shelf Life

Candidates aren’t canned goods. They aren’t going to sit on the shelf forever. In the words of a fellow recruiter, when it comes to explaining “the lifespan of a person’s psychological excitement when approached with an exciting career opportunity,” candidates are like bananas. After about a week on the shelf, bananas have passed the threshold for most people’s taste preference. When searching for talented professionals to meet your staffing needs, it’s important to understand that the best are not products filling the shelves. The best candidates aren’t really candidates at all. They are passive talent. Fresh and handpicked. Like the freshest produce at your local market, these professionals are only going to remain ripe for your opportunity for a limited time.

 

Supplies Are Limited

It takes extensive experience and a concerted effort to locate the best passive talent to match the unique needs of an organization and specific opportunity. Our experience has proven that the best are rarely already on the shelf, and they are even less likely to remain available after they’ve been given the chance to consider new opportunities. As we’ve already established, passive candidates have short shelf lives. It’s equally important to understand that there isn’t a deep back stock of candidates with the right combination of qualifications and culture like those we present to our clients. If you allow a candidate’s interest to expire, don’t be surprised to not find another as talented or as qualified.

 

Beware Other Shoppers

When professionals are recruited for specific opportunities, it’s important to keep them focused on the client for whom they have been sourced. But this is where the market analogy begins to break down, because as much as we can make these comparisons, candidates aren’t products, they’re people, and when people are made aware of one opportunity, it isn’t long until they grow curious about other opportunities. The goal is to encourage smooth and seamless processes that keep candidates excited about the specific opportunity, but there is only so much that can be done to maintain their interest. In the end it is not the candidate, but your opportunity that becomes the banana, and the longer they wait the more sour it becomes to them.

 

Ultimately, the market works both ways. Candidates have expiration dates, but so do opportunities. When a passive candidate moves past their expiration date, they either move back into the comfort zone of their current position or they move on to a newer opportunity. When an opportunity reaches its expiration date, it loses out on the best talent and either settles on less-qualified candidates or remains vacant, both of which can be a strain on the resources of an organization. Passive candidates have an exceptionally short life cycle and positions that are open too long quickly become less appealing to more discerning talent. At The James Allen Companies, we rely on years of experience and extensive sourcing to locate and present our clients with the most relevant passive talent. Our efforts uncover professionals that have the skills and background needed to not only fit the needs of the opportunity but also the culture of the organization. Often, the vital difference as to whether or not our clients are successful depends on how aggressively they move on the talent we present.

Retained-Like Services on a Contingency Basis

Retained-Like Services on a Contingency Basis

The James Allen Companies has established a reputation of quality and integrity within the insurance industry and has done so by presenting companies with highly qualified professionals quickly and effectively. In our constant efforts to provide exceptional service, we explored the search solutions of several competitors and were surprised to discover that while we also offer outstanding retained and contained services, our contingency offerings were much more aligned with the level of service many firms identify as retained. We quickly realized that we offer retained-like services but on a contingency basis. Unfortunately, this has somewhat unfairly placed us in the same space as other contingency firms that offer a diluted product, so we set out to create a summation of what retained service looks like and how the contingency search of The James Allen Companies is more closely associated with retained searches, in terms of quality and dedication.

 

The most identifiable difference between our contingency services and the retained offerings of other firms is the fee structure. Whereas traditional retained services not only typically charge a higher fee, they also require a portion of that fee (usually one-third) upfront to engage the service and another portion (another third) of the fee at a set point within the process. Before a candidate is even placed, most retained options will have charged a client nearly 70 percent of the total fee. Our contingency option requires no initial commitment fee, and a charge is only incurred upon successful completion of the search. Aside from differences in fee system, we outlined five of the leading value propositions of retained firms and addressed how we at The James Allen Companies provide these same values on a contingency basis.

 

  1. Exclusivity
    Many retained firms will attest to the fact that the candidates they source for you are not shopped to other clients. We approach the search process with the same exclusivity, seeking the best candidates for specific opportunities.
  2. Timeliness
    We approach each job order with the expediency and dedication required to locate and attract the most talented professionals. Our contingency model actually serves as a motivating factor to exceed our clients’ needs and expectations.
  3. Passive Candidates
    A common implication of retained search is that this service is the only way to connect with top candidates who aren’t actively looking for an opportunity. We rarely work with active candidates, focusing primarily on the passive talent that stands to best serve our clients.
  4. Expertise
    We bring real and relevant insurance and staffing experience to each search. With a deep history in the industry, we truly understand what companies need in order to succeed and we know how to deliver on those needs.
  5. Guarantee
    Retained firms will often toss around the assurance of a guarantee to solidify the superiority of their services; however, The James Allen Companies is committed to the success of the candidates we place, which is why we too offer a guarantee on our placements.

 

If you are currently exploring the services of an insurance-specific recruiting firm, we challenge you to contact us and discover how we can provide the same level of service on a contingency basis. Perhaps you have had past experience with the contingency options of firms that reflect a less knowledgeable approach that lacks the dedication and resources your organization needs to find the best talent. What we believe you will find, however, at The James Allen Companies is that we believe in always providing our clients with exceptional solutions that are designed to place top professionals that meet their technical and cultural needs, regardless of the label associated with the search option they choose.

How Moneyball Helps Us Find the Right Talent

How Moneyball Helps Us Find the Right Talent

“Adapt or die.”

That’s the response Billy Beane offers his head scout when the latter challenges
Beane’s (at the time) unorthodox method of recruiting the best baseball talent in the film
Moneyball, the 2011 sports drama that chronicles the true story of the Oakland A’s 2002
baseball season and how they found success by ignoring the traditional methods of
recruiting talent and relying instead on a data-driven approach. The movie, based on a
2003 nonfiction book of the same name, took the story to a broader audience and
inspired people of various industries to reconsider the way they approached the search
for talent. Unfortunately, six years later we still find ourselves engaging with clients who
haven’t shed themselves of poor hiring practices, and, at the peril of their company, fail
to heed Beane’s advice to either “adapt or die.”

In the film, there is a scene that shows a group of scouts discussing and discounting
players on such ridiculous attributes as how the player walks into the room or the
attractiveness of their girlfriend (“Ugly girlfriend means no confidence,” says a straight-
faced scout to the protest of no one in the room). While in the context of the film, this is
a comedic moment, it also highlights the failures of a multibillion-dollar industry that is
over 150 years old. It also calls into question the validity of how we measure talent. Are
we truly respecting and considering the professional performance of the candidates, or
are we allowing ourselves to pass over the right candidate because of the firmness of
their handshake, the tone of their voice or, dare I say, the attractiveness of their
significant other?

We have written in-depth about the impending shortage of talent that is already
beginning to show its effects on the insurance industry (if you missed it, check out the
first of our four-part series covering the talent shortage, The Crises at Hand). Now more
than ever, it is time to take an objective and serious look at the way we evaluate and
assess prospective talent. At the risk of seeming too heavy handed, there is a fair
amount of research that shows following the often-overvalued “gut decisions” as
opposed to relying on an unbiased approach of data is more often a path to failure than
success. However, with the right approach and the right recruiting partner, there is room
for opportunity for companies to secure top talent.

Like Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s discovered in 2002, there is a wealth of talent out
there that is being overlooked because they don’t fit the classic perception of what we
think of when we envision the perfect candidate. Whether it’s their age or their haircut,
but there is a growing pool of hyper-talented candidates who are going to prove to be
the all-stars organizations need to succeed now and in the future. At The James Allen
Companies, we are always cognizant of your company’s culture, and we have the
experience and success to prove we understand how important it is to an organization’s
potential; however, we also have the industry expertise to locate the highest level of
untapped potential in the insurance industry that can help a company transform and
grow.

An Optimist’s Guide to Staffing in Today’s Market

An Optimist’s Guide to Staffing in Today’s Market

As predictions of the insurance talent shortage continue to actualize, it’s easy to become pessimistic about the prospects of meeting the increasingly complex demands of staffing in such an unpredictable landscape. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity, because that very pessimism often plays into the hiring process, creating obstacles where we should be finding opportunities. Granted, there are a lot of variables at play regarding the shortage in highly qualified talent, but as it stands today, many of those variables are beyond our control. What we can control is how we approach the search for the next generation of our organizations. A lot has been said regarding the evolving talent landscape as it pertains to millennials, but we’re going to focus on how we can adjust the way we can approach the hiring process regardless of which generation is being considered.

 

Semantics

The linguistic approach to staffing is reflective of the problems that originate from the start of the process. The terms used to illustrate the goals and objectives of hiring are far too often transactional, reducing the human factor. For example, a term perhaps too freely thrown around that aptly illustrates this transactional tone is “talent acquisition.” There is nothing inherently wrong with wishing to increase and maximize the talent of one’s organization; however, the word “acquisition” bears with it connotations that can leave a negative impression. The root word, “acquire,” is largely equated with gaining possession or ownership of an object. Therein lies the problem. A term like “talent acquisition” dehumanizes and objectifies people who are being acquired, marginalizing them as nothing more than possessions with no value other than the specific skillset for which they were targeted.

 

Screening “In”

One damaging artifact of the days of hiring in a bull market is the procedure of screening out applicants. This is not to suggest that a certain level of screening out should not occur, but we are no longer in a time where applicants can be screened out until only those that completely and comprehensively meet the required and preferred qualifications still comprise a healthy field of possibilities. The ramifications of approaching the screening process with the mindset of filtering only for candidates that check all boxes can be both immediate and compounding. It can initially cost an organization a great deal of time and money as they continue to search for that “perfect” candidate that, in today’s market, most likely does not exist. Additionally, the screening-out mentality can also lead to the dismissal of great young talent that will most likely go to more proactive companies with their eyes on the future.

 

Stagnation

Often, the worst thing we can do is nothing. Unfortunately, as true as this may be, it doesn’t prevent hiring managers from hesitating and not only losing talented professionals in the moment but also in the future. Paralysis by analysis is not a new concept, but in regards to hiring within the insurance industry, it is becoming exceptionally fatal. Too many talented candidates are being lost because the gauntlet of the interviewing process is lasting too long and allowing too much time for prospective candidates to rethink or, again, be intercepted by companies who understand that in an evaporating talent pool, time is of the essence.

 

In the end, it comes back to optimism. As easy as it may be to allow the prospect of a dwindling market to bring your spirits down, there is also a bevy of opportunity awaiting companies that are able to approach the hiring process with a more positive outlook. It begins with the words we use and the connotations they create around the hiring process. Optimism is vital throughout the screening process, as well. Are we looking to dismiss candidates or are we focused on finding candidates that could grow into exceptional long-term players? And finally, once a candidate or small group of candidates has been selected, is the process leading up to an offer streamlined to keep them optimistic about the opportunity, or is it a bureaucratic snail’s crawl that offers candidates several occasions to back out or be lured away? Output will always be reflective of input; therefore, it is vital that if we want to attract excited and dynamic individuals, we approach the search and hiring process with a level of optimism and excitement that encourages the results we want to see.

The Eleventh Hour Part 3: The Experience Gap

The Eleventh Hour Part 3: The Experience Gap

We have discussed how the three primary generations that comprise the pool of insurance industry talent (baby boomers, generation x and millennials) each present a unique problem in terms of the workforce. In part two we continued to explore how betting on technology to compensate for dwindling manpower could be nothing more than wishful thinking. Now, as we enter part three of our four-part series, we focus at another growing epidemic that is proving to be just as confounding as the generational and technological dilemmas. While the shortage of incoming talent is a clear problem facing the industry, the looming experience gap threatens to weaken the core of the insurance hierarchy. In this article we lay out the reasons behind this gap and how it resonates at all levels of the industry.

The “Donut Hole Gap”

As has been previously covered, the talent crisis in the industry is most directly being spurred by the mass retirement of the baby boomers who monopolize not only the executive and management sectors of the industry, but nearly all levels of talent in the insurance ecosystem. What their exodus does is expose the absence of insurance professionals between the ages of 35 and 45. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the “donut hole gap,” represents the already slim field of Gen Xers that are expected to inherit the executive mantle. As more boomers leave, the next generation of leadership proves to be too shallow to allow for an adequate transition.

A Numbers Game

A lot of emphasis has been placed on the impact millennials are having and will continue to have on the industry, and rightfully so. The population of millennials is estimated at around 83 million, followed by baby boomers who boast a population of approximately 77 million. But the story lies in the space between those generations. Generation X has an estimated population of 65 million, which is roughly twice the difference between it and the boomer population in comparison to the difference between boomers and millennials. This population differential exposes that from the gate Generation X is not prepared to make a spot-for-spot replacement of boomers leaving the industry.

A Closer Look

The population gap is only the surface of the problem in relation to the experience gap created by Generation X. When Gen Xers were entering the insurance workforce, boomers were in full force. This pushed many Gen Xers to exit the insurance industry as they saw themselves in a career with few advancement opportunities. The effect of this Gen X departure is evident today in the insurance workforce population of those in the 35-50 age range. With a workforce population already considerably smaller than its preceding generation, a lack of advancement opportunities only further depleted the talent pool that should have served as a bridge between incoming millennials and departing boomers.

The first three parts of this series have focused on the problems of the insurance workforce as it relates to specific generational dilemmas. In the fourth and final installment of our Eleventh Hour series, we will focus on the future, discussing how the insurance industry can prepare itself for a crisis that is already at the door. What we can already say is that for companies and hiring managers looking for the next executive or mid-level manager, it is time to be open and creative to how talent is sourced for these positions.

The Eleventh Hour Part 1:  The Crises at Hand

The Eleventh Hour Part 1: The Crises at Hand

As suggested by the title, this post is only one piece of a larger series entitled The Eleventh Hour. In this four-part series we outline the major crises facing the job market of the insurance industry. We find the title of this series apt in that it accurately portrays just how close the industry is to being overwhelmed with a critical talent shortage. To open the series, we feel it is vital to delineate the three major dilemmas that are actively destabilizing the market of highly qualified candidates within the insurance industry. As we move forward with the series we will scrutinize these issues as well as the supposed solutions to an evaporating talent pool, which may prove to only worsen the situation.

Instead of viewing the three crises of the insurance job market as separate issues, it is best to understand these as three distinct patterns that are converging to produce a perfect storm capable of dismantling the foundations of the established hiring practices of the industry.

The Baby Boomer Crisis—The first, and most foreboding, blow to the talent pool is the mass retirement of the baby boomers. For nearly two decades, speculators have warned that the saturation of boomers in the insurance industry would, like any other economic bubble, reach a bursting point. It is clear now that these were not “the sky is falling” prophecies, as the data only encourages the position that the insurance talent pool is on the verge of falling beneath its critical mass. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this mass retirement will result in as many as 400,000 vacancies by 2020. Even more urgent is the prognosis that 25% of professionals within the insurance industry will retire by 2018.

The Generation X Crisis—The second prominent concern facing the industry is the scarcity of midlevel professionals in the insurance industry. When facing such a mass exodus of senior leadership, it is only natural to look down the bench toward those candidates with 10-15 years of experience and the résumé to inherit the executive mantle. Unfortunately, this is an especially deficient demographic as it is largely populated by Gen-Xers, a relatively diminutive generational population (in comparison to Baby Boomers and Millennials) whose professionals largely forewent careers in insurance to pursue opportunities in the world of finance. This deficiency has set the stage for a daunting experiential gap between rising Millennials and retiring Boomer executives.

The Millennial Crisis—As the Boomers who dominate the market retire, with no one to whom they can pass the torch, the generation most saddled with the future of the industry is the one with the least interest in insurance careers. The technology- and data-focused Millennials are highly sought across a number of industries that more closely align with their philosophies of a work-life balance. According to the Insurance Careers Movement, less than 5% of Millennials have expressed interest in the insurance industry.

Without dramatic adjustments to the processes of recruiting and retaining talent, the insurance industry faces an unprecedented shortage that could only exacerbate itself as it places an increasing burden on the current professionals who comprise the industry. In our next post we will address in greater detail experience gap presented by a sparse Generation X population and how companies can position themselves to address this gap.

Understanding the Millennial Workforce

Understanding the Millennial Workforce

To understand the motivations of the Millennial generation is to crack one of the great codes of modern staffing. Companies across a wide variety of industries are anxious to better understand what a Millennial workforce means to their business, and the insurance industry is no exception. While there is some disagreement on the exact years by which the Millennial generation is defined, it is safe to consider individuals born anywhere between the early 1980s and late 1990s, possibly even into the early 2000s, as potential Millennials. The importance of identifying the thought processes, habits and motivations of a generation lies in the magnitude of the information. There is no larger demographic that offers a wider berth of insight than generational identification.

What’s a Millennial?

There has never before been a generational group that has faced more scrutiny in terms of identifying and understanding than the Millennials. In the world of big data and near-instant assessment, the research and information regarding Millennials seems to change almost daily. Some researchers refer to Millennials as the Peter Pan generation, referring to their propensity to delay certain rites of passage long thought to represent the transition into adulthood (i.e. marriage, career, etc.). Other researchers point to studies that suggest Millennials are more likely to exhibit narcissism than older adults, implying they are more self-indulged and self-entitled than previous generations. Still others argue that of the basic characteristics that define each generation, Millennials possess the traits that suggest they are more “civic-minded” and more similar to the G.I. Generation (also referred to as the Greatest Generation) in their sense of community.

What drives Millennials?

As the workforce of the insurance industry shifts to focus primarily on Millennials, companies are scrambling to attract the best and brightest this generation has to offer. To do this it is important to find what motivates Millennials and consider how your organization can leverage those factors in your favor. As the definition of the Millennial generation has evolved, certain elements have changed or gone entirely extinct, but two important motivating factors that have continued to apply to Millennials is their quest for growth and meaning in their work. What this means is that Millennials are interested in careers in which they feel there is real potential for advancement. Millennials are also interested in careers in which they believe they are making a difference in the world. More than past generations, Millennials look at their employment as a reflection of their civic duty. Companies that can prove to be incubators for talent and that have a forward-thinking approach are the ones that will be most attractive to Millennials.

What are some Millennial misconceptions?

There is no shortage of misconceptions when it comes to Millennials. The Peter Pan comparison has carried with it an assumed lack of motivation and work ethic. This jump in logic has led to a negative connotation surrounding the work behaviors of Millennials, thus affecting the approach of companies when interviewing them. One of the most surprising misconceptions regarding Millennials is their loyalty. Many employers see this generation as being most apt to leave a company in pursuit of other opportunities, when in fact they are more loyal to employers than Gen-Xers. Underestimating the loyalty of Millennials can create an atmosphere of mistrust, hampering the possibility for success for both employer and employee.

One final note about Millennials, which is important to consider in regards to approach, is that they are the least likely to self-identify. Where as Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers have little trepidation when it comes to being referred to as their respective generational titles, Millennials largely dislike the act of being labeled. Despite being able to paint them with the same brush, to some extent, they are more responsive to being treated as individuals. It can be a bit confounding (and a bit frustrating) attracting and understanding Millennials, which is why partnering with a staffing agency like The James Allen Company is so vital. We continually read and research the literature related to not only the insurance industry, but the demographic of the people who will represent the largest portion of its workforce for the next several years.