Fortnite and the Incoming Insurance Workforce

What do games like Fortnite teach us about working with Millennials and Gen Z?
The media, and many parents, believe that the game Fortnite defines these generations. If that is true, how can this interactive hobby better enlighten modern managers unlocking the secrets of working with these generations?

If you are a manager or business owner, you well know the struggle to recruit, hire and retain good employees. Insurance, like many industries, is a service-based industry which means your people are essential to success in meeting the needs of your clients. It is popular to lament the quality of the Millennial and Gen Z candidates, but leaders must intentionally develop their ability to understand and interact with the incoming workforce if they want to remain competitive.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age in insurance is 44.2 years old. By those same metrics, the majority of the labor force in insurance are between the ages of 25-64 (88%) while only 5% of workers are 24 years old or under. We hear all the time that there is a labor shortage in service industries. If you, and your organization, are not being intentional to understand and recruit young people, your labor force is actively declining.

How often do you hear persons in a position of leadership lamenting the disconnect between their organization and the young people in the modern workforce? Whether managers want to face it or not, Millennials are in the workforce. Not only is Generation Y (1981-1996) in the workforce, according to the authors of Insuring Tomorrow, Tony Canas and Carly Burnham, they are, “Already the largest generation in the workforce...by 2020, they will be 50%; and by 2025, 75% of all employees in the workforce will be Millennials.” If you are not actively developing your ability to understand and interact with the incoming workforce, you are pushing your organization towards obsolescence.

Four lessons we can learn from the game Fortnite about the young adults in the labor pool:


Are young people able to engage?

If your primary experience with video games includes Atari, the original Nintendo or SEGA Genesis, you have no idea how complex the new generation of gaming has become. If you have ever tried to play Fortnite you understand that gathering resources, building structures and surviving encounters all require decisions at accelerated game speeds. Young people know how to:
  • Retain information
  • React to complex scenarios
  • Make decisions on the fly
If they are capable of doing these workplace essential tasks, managers need to find methods for presenting younger workers with something they deem as valuable. The truth is, this is important for employees of all ages. If you want your team to be engaged in your mission, vision and values, you must communicate the compelling story for your organization.

Are old people able to be compelling?
If you are in leadership and feel that young people cannot retain information, perhaps you need to rethink how you are presenting the information.

As an employer you can continue with the mindset that it is the responsibility of the employee to find this value. But this pervasive mindset is hurting your organization, which is starving for labor, more than it is hurting the young people who have no interest in your industry. Finding a way to tell your story is an exercise that is good for your leadership team, good for engaging your current team members and vital to attracting future talent.

“People don't care what you sell or what you do, they want to know why you do it.” - Rick Dancer

Are young people able to be collaborative?

If you think that video games are a waste of time, what if I told you that you can get a scholarship, become a millionaire or earn a living simply by playing video games?
  • The University of California Irvine has an Esports Scholarship and there are several others in the works.
  • What if I told you that a 16-year-old Fortnite player won three million dollars in a 2019 tournament?
  • Countless others are making more than a living wage recording videos of themselves playing video games with viewer counts that dwarf your marketing efforts.
The opportunities are out there and young people are making decisions about which career avenues are compelling to them.

If you are a manager and view young people as incapable of collaboration, perhaps you need to rethink how you empower your team.

Games such as Fortnite or Call of Duty and even sports staples like Madden Football, which older readers would recognize, are all on online platforms. Players interact with groups of their friends, or people they don’t even know, and quickly learn to work together to achieve outcomes. They speak via headsets and make instant decisions on strategy to win as a unit. Gaming is an exercise in mobilizing a remote workforce to collaborate for a common goal.

Are all old people destined to repeat the past?

The most unfortunate piece of this generational puzzle is that it is somehow repetitive. When you were a young person, the generation before you felt the same way about you and your friends as you feel about the incoming workforce. They thought you were incapable, but you proved them wrong. Why are you not seeing that times change and the most important aspect of unlocking the potential of these young people, which you need to engage, is believing that they have potential? Change, as well as success, starts with you.

In a recent Forbes article, founder and CEO of STEM.org, Andrew B. Raul, notes that video games are engaging because they:
  • Put the player in control
  • Offer incremental levels of difficulty
  • Provide instant, ongoing feedback
  • Create community
These items are essential to engaging students in a learning environment and should be incorporated into the employee development process for any thriving business.

Where do you start if you want to succeed with employee engagement?
  • Is the story and/or mission of your organization compelling? Do you believe in your own mission statement? Does your team live out what you have written on paper? If you don’t know, find out. If the answer is no, find a way to fix it as a team. Perhaps you could benefit from inviting fresh input from young people within your own organization.
  • Is your team a community of collaborators? Do you exemplify teamwork as a leadership team? Do your team members operate as collaborators? Collaborative environments are attractive to top talent of any generation. When you have a negative culture people can feel that and it will affect who you attract as well as who you retain.
There is no magic sauce. Lead by example. Communicate a compelling story of what your organization does. Work intentionally to develop a strong culture. Rather than rail uselessly against the ills of video gaming, work to incorporate the best of what they have to offer in your ability to engage young people. You will find that you enjoy working in the place you are building more and you will begin to attract new talent. Adapt or perish.
Jon Isaacson is a freelance writer, business coach, speaker and 17-year veteran of the property restoration industry. His organization, The DYOJO - The Do Your Job Dojo, specializes in helping individuals, teams and organizations to Develop Intentionally.