Engaging the Millennial Generation
April 15, 2016
As a business owner, your workforce is evolving. The millennial generation, also known as Generation Y, the 80+ million Americans born between 1980 and 2000, are entering the job market in vast numbers. As Baby Boomers retire, business owners need to understand the unique traits of this up-and-coming generation to successfully attract and engage future talent.
C12 Member, Matt McIntyre, CEO of Puritan Financial Group from 2002-2015 was able to save his struggling company by learning how to recruit and develop this new workforce of millennials. However, it required taking some risks and changing an outdated business model. For all business leaders hoping to profitably engage millennials as they do business and extend God’s grace and truth to the next generation, Matt offers some relevant knowledge from firsthand experience.
Time for Change
In 2002 Puritan Financial Group started with just three employees. They enjoyed explosive growth over the years, expanding into 10 states with over 120 employees. As an industry leader in financial services and life insurance products, the company had a profitable run…until the recession hit. Within three years, sales plummeted from $134 million to $81 million. Margins were tight, cash flow was scarce, and retaining qualified, committed sales agents was becoming impossible.
Matt shared, “The typical sales agent in the life insurance business is around 50 years old and is compensated purely by commission. We were having a tough time recruiting and keeping our agents, seemingly hitting brick walls with every new strategy, and losing hope.”
Matt recalls seeing a commercial for Enterprise Rent-A-Car®. He noticed the employees were young and enthusiastic about their careers. Diving into the Enterprise recruitment and development model, he discovered that many employees were hired after college and given a realistic career opportunity; if they worked hard, they would be promoted into a successful career track. Employees were given the perks of paid time off, training, development and a chance to grow with the company. “I thought, maybe our business model was all wrong — why can’t we do this,” Matt questioned.
And that is exactly what he did.
To recruit millennials, the first step was to hire a millennial recruiter — someone who could connect with potential candidates and talk openly about Puritan and the life insurance sales industry. Next, Matt needed to take a hard look at the compensation structure and employee benefits package currently offered. If Puritan was going to invest in a new team of sales agents, the corporate culture and compensation strategy needed to address their unique needs, fears, and desires.
“Business owners need to realize millennials are different from other generations — they value quality of life over money. They are entrepreneurial-minded and collaborative, yet want flexible work schedules and consistent, trustworthy input from managers. They also seek mentoring, authenticity, and constant encouragement. Millennials are driven by a sense of community; and the office environment is a major part of that community,” said Matt.
With this knowledge, Matt approached the leadership team with what he calls “controversial” changes. Matt eliminated the commission-only pay model and redesigned the company’s compensation package to include a competitive entry-level salary. Additionally, all employees received 35 days of paid vacation, full health insurance, 401K benefits, paid time off on the last Friday of each month, and two weeks over the Christmas holiday. Matt’s leadership team created clearly-written job responsibilities so all new hires knew exactly what was expected. If a new Account Executive met their goals within 90 to 120 days, they would be promoted to a Senior Account Executive, and that came with an immediate $2,000 bonus check. From there, the possibility of being elevated to a District Manager, with potential compensation of around $100,000 was within reach.
“Providing adequate support and feedback is crucial to millennials. They are craving opportunity, leadership, and coaching and want to know that someone cares about their success. As a Christian CEO, your business is God’s business and you have a responsibility to your employees. You need to be vested in their future success. Scripture states, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This is my motto and I encourage all my managers to treat their employees the same way,” Matt said.
Matt also states that connecting with your teams is another crucial way to engage them. He advises to carve out one-on-one time each week with your teams. Share a lunch together, learn about their hobbies, families, and other interests outside of work. Break down the walls of the typical manager-employee relationship. Let them know you truly care about their well-being. If employees feel valued and appreciated, it will positively impact the quality of their work and loyalty to the company.
Acting as God’s Hands & Feet
Matt credits his nine-year membership in The C12 Group, a unique forum for Christian CEOs and business owners who are intentional about business, ministry and personal growth, for giving him encouragement, support and ideas to revitalize his business model. Every month, Matt meets with a group of like-minded Christian business owners to discuss critical topics. Each member can speak openly and seek advice from the group regarding challenges they face while developing strategies on how to grow an excellent business as a platform for ministry. “My C12 Group is a perfect mix of business owners from different backgrounds who all offer experience and wisdom. Each of these CEOs and Owners have encountered an issue or an opportunity that I am facing. We can collaborate and share our experiences in the love of Christ. At C12 I can be candid, drill down into important business topics, and pray with my fellow members. C12 is crucial to running a business that honors Christ and blesses your employees,” explained Matt.
Matt has been open to glorifying God in a number of ways through his business. Biblical references can be seen throughout the office. Puritan employs a full-time Chaplain who visits with employees and prays with those in need. If someone lost a family member, Matt or someone from the leadership team would attend the funeral or pay for the employee’s travel expenses. “It is very possible to engage millennials for God’s Kingdom. Many are hungry to understand the Gospel and want to hear your story of coming to Christ. You can impact this generation for eternity and have a greater influence on their faith than you can imagine,” he stated.
Creating competitive benefits packages, building an employee-centric culture, and changing out old practices for new ones has completely revitalized Puritan Financial Group. Since implementing these changes, the company has seen immediate results.
Matt enthusiastically explained, “Our appointment count was down and tracking at 220 per week. In just eight weeks after we hired our millennial sales agents, our appointment count climbed to 300 per week, and within six months, it hit 390 per week. On average, 80% of our new hires with entry-level experience were promoted. Sales were immediate and the return on investment was unbelievable.”
As millennials continue to represent higher percentages of the workforce – predicted to reach 46% by 2020 – the outdated style of recruiting, developing, and managing teams will not work for this new generation of employees. Operating a business that honors God in all things starts with being employee-centric. Be transparent, authentic, gracious, and humble. Do not be afraid to invest in your teams, as the pay-off is a vibrant culture and an engaged, profitable, productive workforce. Mostly, consider Matt’s motto, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).