Recruiting to Gen Next: Match Your Message to Their Values

Recruiting to Gen Next:

Match Your Message to Their Values

Significant competition to attract the next generation of sales talent is coming from a variety of industries. Certain industries, such as information technology and pharmaceuticals, are faring better than others in building an appealing value proposition for Generations X and Y to join their sales force. Many of those companies have adjusted their goals and strategies to better suit the needs of today’s sales professional. To attract this new generation, successful companies have adapted to the gradual shift in employees’ priorities from making a lot of money to having a balanced life.

Financial services companies, however, have struggled to adapt their practices to appeal to the younger generations and to compete with other industries for the best candidates. In part, this is because of the unique limitations faced by entrepreneurs in the financial services industry. Most financial companies have stringent guidelines on how sales representatives can get the job done. Compliance issues restrain business practices even further. Being an entrepreneur in this business isn’t a typical entrepreneurial experience. “Being your own boss”—as many financial services company recruiters position the career—actually comes with strings attached. Convincing a Gen Nexter that those strings mean support rather than restraint is challenging.

The Right Message

The industry messages to “earn high income” and “be your own boss” have been used for many years in an effort to bring new talent on board. It’s a message that connects with people who are independent thinkers and self-motivated toward individual success. But how successful are these messages at attracting younger generations? LIMRA researchers spoke with more than 80 potential job changers and college graduates (collectively known as Gen Next in the study) who were very interested in pursuing a professional sales career. They were asked to describe the appeal of a sales career. Though several common themes emerged, two included:

• Gaining financial stability and long-term success, and

• Playing an integral role in a team.

With these two preferences in mind, financial services recruiters need to take stock of their messaging and communication, and determine whether they are aligned with Gen Next values.

 Money: Does It Lead or Follow?

Often, financial services recruiters lead with money when they talk about their out-reach efforts. Fifty-eight percent say they position earnings as a top recruiting mes-sage, according to a recent LIMRA survey of 270 industry recruiters. But are candidates receptive to that message? Research says no. Money is not top of mind when Gen Nexters talk about their vision for a successful sales career. Most often mentioned is the desire to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s not to say they don’t care about money, but it’s not one of their driving ambitions. Find-ing stability is, in the form of a dependable income that they know they can count on. One college graduate spoke for many when he said: “I don’t trust those companies that talk about all the money you can make. ‘You’re going to make so much money.’ It sounds like a scam.”

 While potential job changers say money is more of a driver, they also admit it’s only one of many important factors in their livelihoods. “If I can get all of the other things I want,” according to one potential candidate, “the money will come in time.” Other than stability, potential job changers seek health and retirement benefits; a work/life balance; and great company sup-port systems, like ongoing training and learning opportunities.

 Team Players, Not Lone Rangers

Gen Nexters want to work in supportive environments. Many have been brought up to think in terms of where they fit into a group. They value working within a team and thrive on feedback and support. Con-sequently, when recruiters tell Gen Nex-ters that they can “be on their own” and “be their own boss,” the response may not be all that enthusiastic.

Gen Nexters also look for continuous learning opportunities, which is a key advantage of team-based business mod-els. If everyone shares the burden and the risk, then the appeal is greater for Gen Next. While this may seem contrary to the traditional definition of entrepreneur-ial salesmanship, the next sales generation is changing that definition.

Overall, LIMRA research found that there are opportunities to attract young profes-sionals to the financial services industry. The job qualities offered in a financial services sales career are very similar to those most sought after by Gen Nexters. If companies are willing to align their recruiting strategies with these values, they will be more success-ful in appealing to Gen Next.

Polly Painter-Eggers is an analyst in LIMRA’s Distribution Research unit. She is responsible for helping LIMRA identify, track and respond to consumer and business issues affecting the financial services industry.

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