Generational Differences in the Workplace: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Bottom Line

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Insurance Information Institute

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer J. Deal, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), who helped provide insights into generational differences, leadership, and the insurance industry.

Deal will be speaking on many of these points at her
upcoming talk at the WCRI’s
36 Annual Issues & Research Conference, March 5 and 6, 2020, in Boston, MA
. She
points to WCRI’s data-driven model as a mission she shares – and pushing for a
greater understanding of the employees they both study. Deal also notes the importance
of generating this data-driven understanding for the insurance business, which
is tackling how to best engage and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees, groups
that hold the future of the industry.

Why is studying Millennial engagement important?

Organizations want employees to be engaged and are deeply
concerned that young people aren’t engaged at work. In general, when new
cohorts come into an organization, it’s important to understand if anything is
meaningfully different about them. If there is, then the organization can
address it and hopefully continue to be effective as it integrates the new
employees into the larger organization. 

How can a company use your insights to create a
more cohesive, inclusive environment?

A company can use my work to help staff better understand
the perspectives of the different generations. 
Part of what my work does is provide data-based information about
generations to clarify where there is a difference between stereotypes and
reality.  This helps both leaders and
people throughout organizations understand the perspectives of people from
other generations who may or may not think like them.

How do generational differences affect the
bottom line?

When people feel disengaged because they feel pushed aside
or ignored simply because they’re from a particular generation, that’s a cost.
When a company feels the need to implement very expensive training programs
that aren’t necessarily going to improve how people work together because they
don’t move the needle on the real issues, that’s a cost. When people leave
because of unmet needs, that’s a cost. Unnecessary tension, conflict, and
disengagement that arises because of generational stereotypes is a drag on the
organization – and the bottom line.

Do you see all this affecting the insurance
industry?

Definitely. I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders in
the insurance industry about issues related to attraction and retention of the
next generation of employees. One of the conversations we’ve had is about the
desire of young people to have stability in their careers. Young people are
much more interested in stability and long-term careers than people think they
are. If that’s something the insurance industry can offer, it will likely be of
great interest to young people.