“College graduate seeks employment. Highly experienced in technology, and adept at soft skills. Has a thirst for knowledge and innovation and is not afraid to challenge the status quo or buck a trend. Has a strong work ethic and wants the opportunity for upward mobility. Looking for an organization that emphasizes corporate responsibility. Places high value on transparency, openness, and collaboration. Would like an environment filled with coworkers who have a sense of purpose and are passionate about their work and their company.”
This description fits many millennials perfectly, but it’s exactly the opposite of what some people from other generations believe is true of the millennial generation. However, seeking, recruiting, incorporating, and welcoming this group of individuals into the workers compensation system will ensure the industry’s future.
Who Are They?
“Millennials” generally describes people born between 1981 and 1996. They are expected to comprise more of the U.S. population than baby boomers in 2020. They are, in fact, the largest generation of workers. And while that may be scary for some, it should warrant optimism by many.
That means they are the very people who will not only be taking on many positions in our industry (such as claims professionals, attorneys, judges, and service providers), but also they will be the recipients of our efforts and services when they become injured workers. Despite some characterizations of them as “entitled” or “demanding,” this generation has much to offer and teach.
A look into the goals and values of millennials shows that they are passionate about advocacy, are service oriented, and solutions-driven. These are the very elements that can continue to keep the workers compensation system on a positive path and even improve it.
In a recent industry roundtable discussion, The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) President and CEO Bill Donnell asked Douglas Dirks, president and CEO of Employers Holdings Inc., and the current NCCI board chair, what advice he would give those working in the workers compensation industry:
“You must be committed to lifelong learning,” he said. “With so many ways to access education, it’s easier now more than ever. It’s also critical because the world is changing so rapidly and the things that you will need to know now and in the future will evolve. Having curiosity is vital, and it’s an excellent way to learn.”
Although the workers compensation industry has traditionally been one of the last adopters of advanced technology, the industry is changing rapidly as the world evolves. Increasingly, we are finding that we can use technology to handle the mundane, day-to-day tasks while relying on the human touch to foster better outcomes among injured workers and, thereby, reduce costs for payers. We are hearing more about concepts like big data, claims advocacy, and artificial intelligence and their applicability to workers compensation.
Millennials are a natural fit for the workers compensation system, but companies that fail to adopt newer technologies will find it tougher to attract or keep this generation of employees. Additionally, the competition for millennial talent is increasing. Companies in health care, software, social media, and other industries continue to develop technology-rich environments that attract the millennial generation, meaning those that do not develop strategies to attract millennial talent will be impacted in the long term.
Millennials are more skilled and comfortable with technological advancements than any other generation before them, too—it’s in their DNA. They have grown up with smart devices, and they are designing the latest systems that define our environment. If given the opportunity to contribute within the workers compensation system, they would be in the perfect position to develop streamlining processes, introduce creativity, and improve efficiencies.
Technology is one of the most attractive industries to this generation of workers, along with health care, insurance, and finance. They are less inclined to seek out positions in retail, government, or entertainment.
Savvy companies are increasingly turning to newer technologies not only to improve their workflows and efficiencies, but also to reach workers who have come to expect communication through smart devices and innovative technologies. Millennials also have a clear understanding of how to work with technology. Rather than seeing robotics, automation, artificial intelligence and the like as threats to their jobs, they understand how to integrate these systems into their work to enhance their efforts.
Technology has become so important that organizations should emphasize hiring millennials with a strong technology background. In certain roles, it can be easier to teach candidates workers compensation best practices than hiring them with backgrounds in the industry, but with limited, or no, knowledge of advanced technologies.
The Workers Compensation Workforce
Recruiting millennials is imperative for the survival of the workers compensation industry. Many highly experienced professionals who have contributed to the success of the industry will be leaving soon, due to retirement. The “2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey” shows that, of the 2.3 million workers in the insurance industry, one million are expected to retire in the next 10 years. Plus, 70 percent of claims professionals are over the age of 40.
That will leave a huge gap of insurance industry jobs in the next couple of years. Somebody will need to fill these positions or figure out other ways to get these jobs done in order for the industry to continue to make progress and fulfill its basic functions.
Millennials can add much more to the industry than just their physical presence and technical expertise. They also possess traits that can add significant value to our industry, such as their desire to work for organizations that serve a purpose and that matter to the world.
Be cognizant of whether your corporate mission, core values, or public view on the world and environment are in line with the transparency and values that attract millennials. Additionally, many of the tools and strategies that foster the best workers compensation programs are exactly what millennials value most.
Transparent and Proactive Communication
Millennials value honesty and openness in communication, so workers compensation strategies should include thoroughly educating workers on safety measures on the job and again at the time of injury. An employee brochure that outlines the process and includes FAQs on expectations—from the employer and the employee—is an invaluable and transparent way to make sure employees know what to expect.
Next, ensure consistent and quick contact. A worker who becomes injured is scared and unsure of where, how, and when he will get medical care and his next paycheck. A first-day phone call and sending get-well cards can help allay fears, and it lets him know exactly what to expect.
A sense of belonging to a collaborative team is also important for millennials. Workers compensation strategies include a collaborative return-to-work strategy. This can be accomplished by assessing the injured worker’s job description, obtaining his medical restrictions, and collaborating with the injured worker, supervisor, and medical provider to create a productive transitional duty position for both the employee and employer. Additionally, workers who know from day to day and week to week what is happening with their claim, what the next steps are, and how or when they will be able to return to work are proven to be more connected with their companies and more engaged with their recoveries.
Millennials also want to feel passion for their jobs and companies. Workers compensation strategies include the adoption of an advocacy-based claims model that is dependent on the passion and commitment of those caring for the injured worker. Organizations are finding a whole-person approach is much more effective than the traditional way of working with injured parties, and this speaks to the millennial mindset.
Lastly, millennials want to feel that their work truly matters to the company and that their industry matters to the world. Workers compensation strategies that gain buy-in and foster cooperation include branding a workers compensation program with a logo and tagline, which connects the company’s core values and mission with a branded workers compensation management program. The brand and logo should be included on all forms of workers compensation-related communication with employees to educate and reinforce the program’s greater purpose. View your organization as part of a larger goal and mission, and do not solely focus or look inward. Instead, ask the question, “How does my company help change and impact the world?”
How to Attract and Retain Millennials
The way to attract and keep millennials in an organization is to create and promote a culture that appeals to them. Here’s how to do it.
Value their opinions. If you are looking for “yes” people, don’t turn to millennials. These are people who have thoughts and ideas, and encouraging them to share is appealing to them. Many of these workers are on the front lines, much more so than managers. Therefore, solicit their advice when solving problems or developing new products and services.
Provide growth/educational opportunities. Millennials are especially interested in expanding their horizons and growing in their professional lives. They often leave jobs if they feel stuck or cannot see a path to grow. Develop programs in which workers have opportunities to explore other positions within a company or where there is a clear career progression path. Allow them to learn other facets of the company and transition to new roles.
Empower them. It’s true of all workers and especially millennials that they do their best work when they have control over their work. Allow them to make decisions on their own, even if that means they will occasionally make mistakes. Provide guidance but don’t dictate or micromanage them.
Offer flexibility. Flexibility is one of the most important elements of a job, as cited in numerous surveys on millennials. Provide alternatives to the nine-to-five desk job in any way possible. You can start by allowing an employee to work from home one day a week, for example, and then expanding it. One study from Stanford showed that people who work from home are often more productive than those who work in an office every day.
Create an open environment. The days of cubicles and siloed departments are over. Younger workers are more effective and efficient when there are fewer barriers. Some companies have unassigned workspaces, allowing employees to sit wherever they choose. One benefit of this is that they get to sit near people engaged in different jobs and become more familiar with other aspects of the company beyond what they do. This also creates more opportunities for interaction and idea-sharing.
Millennials can bring a breath of fresh air to a working environment and to our industry. That is not to diminish the contributions of other generations—quite the contrary. Experienced workers have the knowledge base and backgrounds that built the industry we all rely on and are a wealth of knowledge that continues to transform our industry. Let’s make sure we are all prepared to continue to build off of those accomplishments.
We must be able to transition knowledge and opportunities from generation to generation. Pairing other generations with millennials is the best way to guarantee our industry will have a bright future and a long legacy.