Millennials in the Workforce - Understanding the New Employee

January 25, 2015| By Marissa Valente | L/H General Industry | English

Region: U.S.

In just 10 years, by 2025, millennials will make up an estimated 75% of the global workforce. They will inevitably change the landscape of numerous industries and re-shape the way we think about work. With the average age of a U.S. insurance professional currently at 59 years old  and one-fourth of the industry is expecting to retire by 2018 - this holds huge implications for the future of insurance.1

This massive generation introduces a very different type of employee that many are still attempting to understand. In the past the workforce was typically a combination of two generations but with Baby Boomers having pushed off retirement, and more and more Millennials graduating from college and entering the workforce - while not forgetting the Gen Xers squeezed in the middle - we now have a multi-generational workplace that poses unprecedented challenges for employers. In order to mitigate some of these issues, the first thing the industry will need to do is understand how millennials behave as employees.

Overview of Workplace Needs: Millennials vs. Non-Millennials

Source: PwC, NextGen: A Global Generational Study, 2013

*Please note: The defined age range of millennials varies by source.

Millennials Crave Engagement and Collaboration

Millennials love to learn and work in diverse social environments. The Institutes study found that more than 8 in 10 stated that working with other people to solve problems is very appealing. Furthermore, 88% of millennials prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one. Their desires are to work as a part of a collaborative team while receiving advice from their peers and managers as frequently as possible.

According to Seth Mattison, a leading advisor on generational issues in the workplace, millennials do not see the workplace in the same way as previous generations. When considering structural arrangements of individuals within companies, millennials do not embrace the traditional hierarchical structure. They see the workplace as one network of interconnected individuals, co-existing within the organization. This explains why millennials feel they should suggest new ideas to top executives and start everyday conversations when they see them around the office. They want to create a network that is about knowledge sharing and having great ideas come from anywhere and not necessarily from the top down.

In Practice

To embrace engagement and understanding, many companies have worked to re-design the physical office space to reflect an open communication work style. For example, an HR professional here at Gen Re explained that “When interviewing, a selling point for our Stamford office is our open workspace. The opportunity to work in an open-plan environment inspires millennials to work collaboratively with others."

Millennials Look for Employers Who Are Going to Help Them with Career Development

Like most individuals who are new to the workforce, millennials seek opportunities to progress in their careers. UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School found that 65% of millennials agree that the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their current job. Unlike other generations, millennials look for a challenge and welcome change and innovation, because they have grown up in an environment where technology has generated rapid change in numerous facets of their lives. Although seeking a challenge and welcoming change can be extremely valuable traits to have, they can also serve as a double-edged sword as millennials are constantly looking for something different and new. This is why continuing to challenge, engage and enable growth is so important for millennial retention.

Millennials are ambitious and strive to lead, with 73% aspiring to be workplace leaders within the next five years; if a company does not offer a transparent and clear path for advancement, millennials may look elsewhere.2 Additionally, millennials seek mentorship from their peers and managers. They want to learn by being coached by people they trust and with whom they share a mutual respect.

In Practice

A great example of a company in the insurance industry where millennials are thriving is Arbella Insurance Group. As stated by Susan Glynn, Arbella’s director of talent acquisition and development and communications, “Once hired, we provide extensive mentoring, coaching and feedback through our onboarding and training programs to support our new employees in their transition.”3 Arbella has had tremendous success at retaining millennials and maintaining productivity across generations. For more about how the industry is training and attracting millennials, check out our recent blog post.

Millennials Want Transparency and to Work for Socially Responsible Companies

Millennials want to know that what they’re doing is important to the company and their social environment. They require transparency; without it they have a hard time building trust, especially with their employers. They need to know how their roles contribute to the larger picture and align with company as well as industry goals. They want to work toward a greater cause and know they are helping support an effort to make the world a better place. In fact, 88% of millennials said it was a priority to work for companies that are socially responsible and ethical.4 Millennials thrive at companies that understand the importance of social responsibility not just in the community but within the organization. Millennials commit to companies that support them as well-rounded people, instead of just employees.

Millennials Want Some Serious Perks

Sure, who doesn’t want their employer to offer more perks? The difference is that it seems millennials crave the perks more than they do “traditional benefits.” Many companies are starting to understand that in order to retain millennials they need to start getting creative with benefits. For example, a number of companies that demonstrate great success at retaining millennials have added benefits beyond health, medical and the more traditional benefits, and have started to offer the following:

  • Work/life balance
  • Fitness classes
  • Free snacks and drinks during work
  • Unlimited paid time off
  • Car washes
  • Massage therapy
  • Online banking
  • Personal travel services


Along with growing vacation days and extremely generous tuition reimbursement and adoption assistance policies, some of the companies given top ratings by millennials are also continuing to offer traditional benefits, which is exactly how they are retaining the majority of their millennial employees.

In Practice

Gen Re found that when ranking a number of benefits where employers should focus on, the majority of millennials ranked perks higher than traditional benefits, such as insurance products. 

Millennials need a work-life balance, with 77% saying flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age.6 This is not a generation that will be satisfied working the traditional nine-to-five, five days a week. They have always had access to information remotely through smartphones and the Internet; because of this, they re-evaluate how work is done and want to have freedom around when and where they do it.


In response to millennials’ attitudes about their roles in the workforce, many companies have made changes to better accommodate their unique needs. The most common adaptions to accommodate millennials in the U.S. are making work hours more flexible (21%), allowing work from home (17%), increasing training (16%), implementing new mentoring programs (13%), and altering corporate culture (10%).7

To recap, employers should focus on the following when hiring millennial employees:
  • Millennial employees need team cohesion, superior support and appreciation as well as flexibility.
  • They crave engagement and want to be part of collaborative teams. If employers want to be successful among millennials, they need to allow team settings to form and encourage communication to help aid productivity.
  • Millennials demand transparency from their employers in exchange for trust. Explaining community involvement and commitment to socially responsible causes will help attract millennials. Allowing millennials to be involved in social causes and giving back to the community will give them a sense of accomplishment and being a part of something larger; this will lead to higher overall self-worth and satisfaction.
  • They require perks in addition to traditional benefits. Employers need to start getting creative in what they offer millennials as benefits.
Read our other blog posts in this series:
  5. Gen Re; to learn more about this project contact Marcy Updike.
  6. .




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