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The insurance industry has never been more diverse than it is today, and that diversity extends far beyond the ratios of men to women. Four of the six living generations are now laboring side by side in the workplace, creating opportunities not only for older workers to pass their knowledge down but for younger workers to push their knowledge up.

Executive Summary

President of Lloyd’s North America, Hank Watkins sees potential for workforce diversity behind the oft-cited statistics about the aging baby boomers retiring from their jobs in the insurance industry. “Older workers can extend their careers by learning new tricks of the trade from the millennials and Gen Zers. Younger workers can gain perspective on the industry’s foundation from older colleagues while applying their digital prowess via disruptive technologies,” he writes.

Lloyd’s of London’s former CEO Inga Beale has been a trailblazer in this area. In what has been dubbed “reverse mentoring,” she resolved that she had as much to learn from the “totally different perspective” young workers brought to the table as they did from her.

“I meet with them regularly to chat about what’s going on in their world, how they think of things and how we can do things differently in the company to appeal to that generation,” she said on a CNBC episode of “Life Hacks.” “I find things like that help me get inspired.”

Those conversations led to new practices Lloyd’s adopted to make the work culture better for everyone. It’s a timely reminder that baby boomers who still are active in insurance don’t have to lose momentum as their retirement years approach. There’s plenty to learn from younger workers who’ve come up in the digital age and have fresh expectations about the industry’s future.

Overcoming Stereotypes

The youngest baby boomers still have another decade or more to make meaningful contributions in the workplace. The insurance industry stands to benefit by finding a way to retain this knowledge and allow them to continue to make meaningful contributions even as the millennials and Generation Z take the workforce by storm. And although the older boomers will be retiring in waves in the coming years, it’s expected many of them will stay involved in the industry in part-time or consulting roles to help bridge talent gap issues the industry continues to face.

Hiring site reports that keeping baby boomers engaged and on the job is a tactic being embraced by many employers. It cited a LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute study that found 92 percent of employers are taking steps to help their employees work longer.

Once they officially leave the workforce, there are opportunities to stay involved through organizations like Work at Home Vintage Experts, which enables older colleagues to phase into retirement. This win-win model keeps people in the game and contributing while providing employers with access to experienced talent to tap into on a case-by-case basis.

For those older workers who want to make the most of the next decade and beyond, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge millennials and Gen Z workers have about the next wave of disrupters—artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, for example. But doing so may involve clearing a roadblock.

Some older workers may not value millennials because of pejorative stereotypes that label them as entitled, impatient and unmanageable. My experience with the majority of these recent entrants is actually quite different.

I’ve met and mentored students in a number of risk management programs and, like Inga and others have experienced, I have learned as much from them as they have from me. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that technology is at the forefront of these conversations. Whether as a facilitator of communication, a means of quickly acquiring goods and services, or an efficient means of collecting and analyzing the volumes of data we all need to manage in increasingly efficient ways, students and recent entrants to the industry embrace and often set the pace in the adoption of technology. Their ability to use a range of existing and newer technologies to not only consume but retain and actualize this data is something that continues to impress, and it offers lessons to all of us who may not be native technologists but are open to learning how to adopt new tools to work more efficiently.

I think it’s important as these four generations—the baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z—continue to work together, that younger employees are encouraged to collaborate often with older peers. This is something the industry needs to develop further, and an action that new Lloyd’s CEO John Neal is continuing in London.

Telling Our Story

Though it will be important to the industry’s future to make the most of the knowledge and experience of its older workers, it’s equally important that we continue to find new ways to recruit top young talent to fill the void as the boomers retire and leave the workforce.

Almost every person I’ve spoken with on this subject within our industry acknowledges the importance of corporate social responsibility through the hiring process. In my work as a broker and underwriter over the years, I’ve seen how much independent agents do from a charitable perspective. We care about the communities where we live and work, but we haven’t been particularly enthusiastic about sharing the extent of our support beyond the immediate recipients. More effective communication of the industry’s many contributions to society is now essential as we strive to engage the next generation.

Explaining this synergy will be a fundamental way the industry can recruit these socially minded individuals. Millennials and Gen Zers want to work for companies whose missions they believe in and for ones they feel can make a positive impact on causes for which they are passionate. Guided by organizations like the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, we are now highlighting how we, as an industry, are proud to promote education; help communities and children at risk; encourage health, safety and environmental stewardship; and assist with disaster preparedness and response.

Beyond our charitable initiatives, we also need to demonstrate to the next generation that we are an industry about to be transformed. Technology and insurance are crossing paths like never before. In addition to AI and blockchain, mobile technology, the Internet of Things, drones, smart cars, big data and analytics all are disrupting the industry. “Name a technological trend, and it will be connected in some way with the insurance business,” the Boston Business Journal reports.

If that doesn’t get someone considering a career in insurance excited—to be at the forefront of a new business model—I’m not sure what will. We have to be able to sell young people on the fact that this isn’t their grandfather’s insurance career. It’s a whole new world, and we shouldn’t be shy about telling young recruits where the industry is headed.

Call to Action

While generational diversity will be an influential part of the industry’s success going forward, progressive insurance businesses will continue to embrace a holistic approach that also includes race and gender equality.

At the recent Joint Industry Forum hosted by the Insurance Information Institute in New York City, attendees were polled about how their companies were progressing on diversity and inclusion efforts over the past few years. As an attendee, I noticed that more than half said “good,” some said “adequate” and a small number answered “poor,” proving that some businesses are further along than others.

That’s one of the reasons that after three years of hosting a Dive In Festival that makes the business case for diversity and inclusion, Lloyd’s used the fourth festival last year to start a campaign called “Awareness into Action.” The goal is to encourage more businesses to take the actual steps to diversify their workforces.

There are other support mechanisms across the industry that are helping to move insurance beyond its male-dominated roots. Conferences like IICF’s Women in Insurance Global Conference, which helps attendees develop actionable diversity and inclusion solutions, are increasing the awareness of exciting initiatives that are transforming the industry into one that’s welcoming to all.

It’s an exciting time to be in the insurance business. Older workers can extend their careers by learning new tricks of the trade from the millennials and Gen Zers. Younger workers can gain perspective on the industry’s foundation from older colleagues while applying their digital prowess via disruptive technologies that will change the industry forever. And an overall focus on boosting diversity and inclusion through action plans will continue to help the industry more accurately reflect the communities it serves.