Could a single sheet of paper be enough for an agency to attract young talented workers?
Maybe not. But if that paper describes the firm's authentic core values, it will be a difference-maker in closing the deal with a strong candidate.
It's unlikely, though, that an agency manager would even get to a face-to-face discussion with prospective workers if the firm lacks an updated website and consistent social media posts — your most important “offices.”
Millennials, who overtook the boomer generation in number a couple of years ago, now range in age from 20 to 37. So, yes, they certainly should be joining independent agencies or starting their own firms.
Despite the clichés about these younger workers, boomer agency owners should keep an open mind — after all, not all boomers were seasoned, mature or patient at age 30 either. Having said that, millennials are highly attuned to comments made about them ... and they’re often uber-sensitive.
Observations from millennials
Here are some relevant observations I heard recently from millennials who are working with, or in, the insurance industry:
“Generally, the opinions from ‘millennial experts’ are negative. I’m sure you can imagine that it's not super pleasant to listen to negative generalizations, even when they follow it up with how great millennials can be. It's also hard not to take it personally.”
“Most headlines that target my generation are usually negative and assume we are monolithic. We are not. We should be at the point where marketers feel confident talking to us in genuine, authentic ways. Everyone should know my generation is more connected than ever but continuously feels more disconnected — and if marketers can understand this, they understand us.”
“What annoys me are agencies that don't have updated websites or aren't on social. Literally just those two things. You don't need a huge digital strategy or super successful blog or monthly e-newsletter. A website and consistent social posts will make a huge impact. Be modern in your design approach or else a millennial will move on.”
“The insurance industry needs to be where we can see it. I’m on email, Facebook and Instagram all day, every day. Those are my avenues for communication. So use targeted marketing strategies based on that.”
“The articles about millennials wanting to work remotely, community service opportunities, etc., are true. I don't know if that's generational or societal. But offering mobile options or a flexible work schedule is huge. Find that balance between laid-back and professional. Office and company culture is big, too: no cubicles without windows, drab office decor, lack of connection with coworkers.”
Time to shine
Once you have created a strong online presence — and thus an attractive “employment brand” — you’ll have prospects to interview. Now is the time for your core values to shine.
How do you create a list of core values? This isn't an HR project. It's the entire organization's responsibility to discuss, create, live and share. Values should describe what it actually is like to work at the firm, and they literally should guide employee behavior. Unlike a thick, wordy employee manual, the list of five to seven corporate values is something your employees will want to put into action and share with customers and prospects. Some examples we’ve seen:
Challenge the status quo.
Create fun and a little weirdness.
Commit to a culture of education.
Own your role.
Respect and trust each other.
Note these are action statements. Do not settle for hackneyed platitudes such as “The customer is always right.” Make sure each of them is “ownable” by employees — meaning they can do something with them. “The customer is always right” isn't something that will guide individual employee behavior. (And, if you think about it, it's not even a true statement.)
If your agency had “Respect and trust each other” on your list, then flexible schedules, job sharing, and remote work probably make sense. “Challenge the status quo” means your workers are empowered to find a more efficient way to do things.
The core values are perfectly appropriate to use as a discussion topic in a job interview. Half the interview could be the applicant describing the kind of work he or she has done and loves to do. The other half could be the agency's list of core values. You could say, “Take a look at these. They describe how we work here. Let's go over each of these and talk about what they have come to mean for all of us.”
You then could ask, “Do these core values match up with the sort of job environment you’re looking for?”
Talented workers of all ages are hungry for a positive, powerful culture in the workplace environment. Ditch the heavy, HR-driven rules — instead use core values as your North Star. And remember that it's everyone's job to help carefully articulate and live out those values.