As more and more of this coming generation complete formal education and take up jobs, millennials are dramatically changing the nature of the modern workforce.

By as early as 2025, as much as 75% of the global workforce could be millennials and they will bring a whole new set of demands and expectations on the modern workplace. Importantly, they will also bring new digital skills and tech savviness that will be critical to transforming business. This is one reason why so much is written about millennials.

People wonder how their values, ideas and skills will come to shape society, markets and companies. Of particular interest are their attitudes to work and the implications these hold for firms and economies.

Coming to terms with millennial employees will be one of the great business challenges in the next five years. This is the conclusion reached in the AGCS Trend Compass 2019, a report that identifies the most important technological, business and socio-economic developments of the future.

“Millennials are distinctly different compared to previous generations,” says Bettina Dietsche, AGCS board member for operations, including human resources. “They are, for example, the first generation to have grown up in the digital era, which means they have the digital, solution-oriented, socially active skills considered essential for future business success.

“For companies, nothing is more important for survival than recruiting and retaining the next wave of talent. It will become an existential challenge to create environments that this generation not only wants to work at, but to stay at for a number of years.”

The shrinking workforce

Many European economies have already reached a tipping point with more employees retiring from the labor market than entering. This trend towards an aging workforce is only partially offset by the inflow of millennials, so it is sparking a “war for talent,” explains Dot Cownie, global head of human resources at AGCS.

“Competition is fierce to attract new employees with digital competencies in artificial intelligence, data science, or ‘frontier risk management,’ such as managing cyber or reputational risk, as most of these jobs did not exist 10 years ago,” says Cownie.

“It is not only the scarcity of millennials that is causing competition; it is the digital skills they bring that are considered so valuable by companies.”

The AGCS Trend Compass 2019 is a strategic tool to help companies navigate the complex landscape of disruptive technologies, business and socio-economic trends across all sectors and industries over the next five to 15 years.

The Compass assesses 25 trends, such as digital platforms, green mobility and machine learning, with the challenge of the millennial workforce identified as one of the socio-economic trends to have immediate impact on companies within the next two to five years.

Hannes Distler from AGCS organisation and business transformation says more than 200 risk specialists from around the globe contributed to the compass, which was supported by research from TRENDONE, a noted trend scout network.

“The millennial workforce was assessed overwhelmingly to have a very high impact on our own and our clients’ businesses,” he notes. “Companies are already feeling the pinch, but the impact will be fully felt within the next few years and presents a significant risk for future competitiveness. The failure to attract and retain young talent is one of today’s top risks for organisations.”

Work, life and satisfaction

So, what do millennials want? A 2017 study by Allianz of over 5 000 millennials in five countries, “Millennials: Work, Life and Satisfaction,” revealed that, when asked, the majority showed a longing for more traditional career paths.

When it comes to work, they value security and stability over change and flexibility. Only a small minority (about 15%) of those surveyed job-hop out of preference. Clearly, millennials have different career aspirations than those often portrayed.

When it comes to what millennials value most in their careers, you can count on a few things, according to Vertafore, an insurance software provider.

In “Millennials in Insurance,” a recent whitepaper, Vertafore described millennials as prizing a work-life balance and wanting a job that provides them with a healthy compensation and allows them to travel and enjoy different experiences.

They also want to feel like they’re contributing to their community and to be able to grow in their careers.

Attracting talent with agility

Allianz is highly aware that the future of insurance also depends on millennial employees. Anna Rose Wackerbauer, who is working on a project about strategic capabilities building at Allianz concerning the skills and capabilities required in its own future workforce, says traditional methods of recruitment, retention, and upskilling will need to be overhauled as part of creating a culture that will attract talent.

“We need to use different language and different channels to appeal to millennials. The mindset of recruitment managers also needs to change so that we are not just hiring for like-for-like roles, but to build a workforce with the ability to successfully adapt the business in an age of disruption.”

For example, Allianz’s new career portal has made it easier for jobseekers to browse opportunities across the Group, selectable by job and country, and Google Assistant helps them prepare with mock interviews. To fill specialist positions, such as developers, Allianz seeks potential employees in industry platforms, such as Stackoverflow and Github. To spark interest, Allianz developers create videos where they solve specific challenges and invite users to join the company. There are also easy contact possibilities offered via WhatsApp, as well as a Chatbot offered on Facebook that smoothly leads applicants through their job search.

Wackerbauer cautions that such social media recruitment is only part of creating a workplace that will attract and retain millennials. Culture is key. As she explains, research shows millennials have a preference for agile environments that respond quickly to changes rather than having a strict process or procedure. This also means limited formalities and a greater sense of autonomy and flexibility in almost respect, from working conditions and scheduling, to work-life balance, and remote working opportunities.

Many millennials are likely to leave a company within the next two years if they are unhappy with their development. “Offering learning opportunities and mentoring in an agile culture with low levels of hierarchies, where trial-and-error and open communication is encouraged could prove to be a winning formula to attracting and retaining millennial talent.”

Transforming insurance

Millennials are already disrupting insurance both as employees and as consumers. “Millennials don’t want their parents’ insurance policies and many legacy products are being challenged by their lifestyle,” says AGCS’s Dietsche.

“For example, they don’t buy insurance through agents or brokers but rather online. Because they tend to rent, they don’t buy home insurance. Only a quarter are married and if they do marry at all it is at a far later age, so it far harder to sell them life insurance.”

Dietsche says insurers need to change. Companies like Allianz are positively responding to the challenge by creating new products that match the interests of millennials, that are based on per use and are far more flexible and available for far shorter periods.

“It’s our priority to further develop and upskill our staff for the digital era,” Dietsche says. “However, I believe that a large part of the solution will be solved by the talent we recruit. They will be the ones with the insights, the innovative thinking and above all the digital skills that will transform insurance and risk management to ensure it remains relevant for the future.”