HOW CAN YOUR meetings and incentive programs motivate the new generation of producers coming up the ranks?

“A cruise will make anybody happy,” says Leslie Mularski, director of the National Young Agents Program of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers (IIAB) of America in Washington, D.C. “But family time is really an incentive for the younger generation.”

Bill Connolly, an agent with Evans & Associates of Kinston, N.C., agrees. “If I've been awarded a trip, I want my family included,” says Connolly, who as a 13-year veteran of the industry still qualifies as a young agent by “The Big I” standards. “I want to have the flexibility to spend more time with my family, and I think that as an industry, you are seeing more conferences and conventions being geared to family time.”

Younger Agents the Trend

The IIAB defines young as under 40. Roughly 30 to 35 percent of its 300,000 members fall in the young agent category, and that number is trending up, says Mularski.

The most recent agent study by ICP magazine, conducted in late 2003, also points to a younger producer pool. Of the total 301 respondents, 19 percent were age 30 or younger, a significant leap from the 2001 survey when only 8 percent were under 30. And, of the remaining respondents, 21 percent were age 30 to 40. Survey results suggest that this new generations of agents are a bit more adventuresome and less conventional in terms of how they prefer to spend their leisure time than their over-40 counterparts. Snorkeling and scuba diving, for instance, were chosen by 58 percent of the under-40 respondents as activities of choice on incentive trips.

Flex Time a Plus

Nontravel motivators for younger agents include good old-fashioned cash, says Mularski, as well as benefits such as additional vacation days or half-day Fridays. With more demands on their time for training and continuing education credits, agents are looking for flexibility, she says.

And, as the insurance industry has become more exacting in its standards for agent qualification, education has become a big motivator as well, says Connolly. “There used to be very few barriers to entry into this business,” he notes. “Now you've got pre-licensing requirements, state examinations, and continuing education requirements in order to maintain those licenses.”

The new sense of professionalism, Connolly believes, carries over to agent attitudes about motivation. “I just came back from a meeting and I talked with producers who have recently been on trips,” he says. “I think the real reward they get is the recognition that they have achieved a goal, regardless of what that recognition is.”