If your workforce spans the ages of 22 to the mid 60’s, how do you manage the work to best use the strengths of the spectrum of employees?
That’s a question many companies struggle with as they handle a workforce that may span three generations. Can you put baby boomers and millennials together in a work environment and expect it to work well?
New Mexico Mutual handles workers compensation insurance and is a very traditional workplace. Employees dress well, are expected to be responsible and work within specific parameters. It doesn’t have hammocks, allow dogs or keep foosball machines in break areas. They approach the multigenerational workforce in a very structured way.
A couple of years ago Norm Becker, CEO of New Mexico Mutual, said they realized that their workforce was aging out and they needed to attract younger workers. Insurance companies in general don’t have the reputation of being an exciting place to work so Becker said they came to the University of New Mexico and to New Mexico State University to introduce themselves to students, and to overcome some of the misperceptions students have about working in the industry.
Becker says they start by telling students there are no sales jobs at New Mexico Mutual. They look for students with a financial, economics or accounting background and who are interested in a stable job in an industry that doesn’t suffer abrupt highs and lows.
He’s been thrilled with the results of his college recruiting program which pairs a new employee with a management mentor, but he’s also had to adjust to the reality of the millennial workforce. “They are not here to do one job for 10 years, then another job for 10 years, then retire,” he says. “You’ve got to keep them interested. You’ve got to keep them challenged.”
New Mexico Mutual has come up with a training rotation program. New employees are moved in six month increments through finance, claims, marketing and underwriting. At the end of the two year training program, the employee will move into one of those areas on a more permanent basis.
During the recession Becker says there were many experienced people looking for work so there wasn’t a need to hire people with no experience, but as the job market has tightened New Mexico Mutual began looking for young people with no experience to bring into the company. Now, he says, when they post a trainee position the company gets 100 to 125 applications.
Tom Bennetts, a recent UNM graduate now working for New Mexico Mutual, likes the rotational program. He’s learned how important it is for every manager in the rotation to be deeply involved in the program. He says “the rotation program is very helpful because it is giving him a wider view of the organization.”
Right now he is always learning something new, which makes the job interesting. He thinks the millennial generation uses technology more efficiently, but “It’s important to be open about sharing information,” he says. “We can learn from each other.”
New Mexico Mutual is dealing with the multigenerational work force by carefully structuring the way young employees work within the system. But the restless millennial generation is also changing the system. Becker says he would like employees to remain with the company throughout their career, but realistically he says, that’s not likely to happen. He tells his managers not to consider it a failure when an employee moves on. It’s just part of the changing reality.