There’s No Participation Trophy!
How to Teach Next-Gen Workers to Compete in Insurance
Next-gen workers (Y and Z) are the future of your agency. If they aren’t already dominating your workforce, they will be soon. According to Pew Research, Gen Y (also known as millennials) became the largest generation in the labor force back in 2016.
Wondering how to teach the next generations of talent to compete and win at the game of insurance? It won’t be easy. In fact, these generations got a trophy just for participating.
I’ll share what I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks, with one disclaimer: These takeaways are based on my own experience. My thoughts may or may not jive with all the research out there. I’m also speaking about these generations in generalities, with full acknowledgement that there are exceptions.
You-ism vs. Me-ism
First, let’s talk about mindset. My generation entered the workforce with a “how can I help you?” attitude. If you told me to work 50 hours, I would give you 60. If my boss wanted me to work late and my wife expected me home with the family, my boss would usually win. I’m not proud of this, but it’s how things used to be.
Not anymore. Today, next-gen employees enter the workforce with a “how can you help me?” mindset. I refer to this as “me-ism.” They see work as an activity that must fit into their lifestyle. This is not bad, but it is different. If you think about this from the big picture (and not from the boss perspective), they actually have it right. Quality of life is their top priority.
Takeaway: To successfully lead the next generations, you have to change your expectations and accept the new working mindset.
Sending vs. Ensuring Communication
Everyone knows that email is the communication method of choice, at work. Don’t they?
When you work with Gens Y and Z, you begin to notice that nothing happens when you send an email. If you want your young workers to respond to your requests, you have to use a mobile platform. Even when they’re at their desks with three monitors in front of them, next-gen workers will forget to check email messages on their desktops. They depend on their smartphones for communication.
Now, when I need to get a message out, I send it via email (for the older workers)and via text (for the younger workers). I also add the message to our group chat and walk around the office and gently reinforce the message with everyone. I speak gently because if I’m too abrupt or pushy, a young team member will inevitably ask me why I’m so “triggered” or “heavy.” Sigh.
Takeaway: Never assume email is enough. Add texting and verbal communication to your repertoire … and phrase your words carefully!
Competition vs. Gamification
I’m a competitive person so I like to instill a little rivalry into everything I do. For me, competition is the key to continual improvement. I grew up believing that if you were in second place, you were a loser.
Conversely, next-gen workers may be conditioned to compete in some aspects of their lives, but I’ve found that they generally don’t show up to the office ready to drive hard and compete. They like to be “chill” at work.
Younger workers aren’t going to naturally compete with one another, so you have to give them clearly defined metrics so they can compete with themselves. Gamification at work is the strategy here.
How do you build gamification in the workplace? By providing performance data, encouraging team members to set goals and achieve personal records and rewarding those who do. At my agency, we are fully transparent with gross revenues and the expenses that team members can influence (like the cost of DMV reports). Furthermore, we measure everything from call times and policy signing timeframes to close ratios and non-payments.
These metrics are viewable on everyone’s system dashboards every time we log in. Metrics are also up on six TV screens around our office. We talk numbers every day in our meetings and team members receive daily and monthly reports of their progress.
Takeaway: Measure everything that matters and give your team members tools to compete with themselves. Use technology and gamification to put the focus on performance metrics.
Assessment vs. Affirmation
In the old days, if you needed to step up your performance, your boss would tell you about it (not always nicely) and you would quickly jump on board with the plan. Nobody minced words.
It’s not like that anymore. Next-gen workers have grown up with constant affirmation. If you speak too harshly, or even if you say nothing at all, it can be trouble. If you only praise your top performers, you can quickly destroy younger workers’ morale.
To lead the next generations, you have to put on your positive coaching hat and find ways to frequently encourage everyone.
Takeaway: Get in the habit of catching people doing things right. Go ahead and praise your top performers but don’t neglect the rest. Go out of your way to tell them what you appreciate.
Getting Beyond “Old School”
If you were born before 1970, you might be feeling frustrated by this article. I get it. Managing the next generations challenges my leadership and management skillsets every day. It’s not what we’re used to but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong – it’s just different.
I find it helpful to think of this as just one more aspect of innovation. Challenge yourself to move beyond “old school” and to embrace a new-era leadership style. It’s not really optional. Us old people are outnumbered. We have to adapt, or we’ll quickly become obsolete.
Jeff Arnold is the author of the #1 best-selling book, “The Art of the Insurance Deal” as well as a new book, “How to Beat Your Insurance Company,” which educates consumers on how to pay less for insurance. His articles on agency management best practices have been published in numerous insurance industry publications. He is the President of Tucson-based, Rightsure Insurance Group. To learn more, visit jeffarnold.com.