What your new Gen Z advisor wants from you (and what they can give)

Innovative approaches to motivating the next generation of advisors.

What your new Gen Z advisor wants from you (and what they can give)

Lisa Austin loves her Gen Z advisors. She’s happy to motivate them and provide them with mentoring, and she cares about making them feel like valued team members. Why? Because Gen Z gives her even more than she gives them.  

“Gen Z can learn and use every digital program invented,” said Austin, an agency managing director in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, USA. In contrast, most of the firm’s senior advisors aren’t very comfortable using digital tools.  

To help bridge the gap between generations, Austin has enlisted the help of Gen Z advisors to manage sales leads for senior advisors. She said many senior advisors are great at generating sales leads but have struggled to effectively use the firm’s sales lead program to document their work. 

Austin’s Gen Z advisors manage sales leads with ease. For their efforts, they receive a percentage of earnings while being mentored in offline relationship building and dealmaking.  

“They sit in on the meetings with an experienced advisor, they hear the language and the discussions, and they learn on the job,” Austin said. In return, they share technical knowledge with senior advisors. 

While many Gen Z advisors are just getting started in their careers, it’s important for managers to view them as future superstars and leaders. Managers must understand how to motivate and engage this generation, especially since many misconceptions persist about these younger colleagues. 

Many managers tend to get irritated or frustrated with Gen Z team members instead of being curious about them, said Hannah Ubl, a generational expert and co-founder of Good Company Consulting in Minneapolis.  

“We hear a lot about Gen Z asking for flexibility and being vocal about boundaries, and leaders tend to get frustrated by that,” Ubl said. But, by setting boundaries, Gen Z is trying to prevent burnout earlier in their career, she explained. 

Gen Z also doesn’t like to be lumped in with millennials, Ubl said. While both generations share some of the same interests and traits, many differences exist between them. For instance, while millennials value teamwork, Gen Z tends to be much more independent and prefers to figure out problems on their own, she said. 

The younger generation also doesn’t want to hear senior advisors tell them, “This is how it was when I was your age,” said Vincent Gan, ChFC, CLU, a senior director in Singapore. Gan, who is a millennial, says much has changed since he was their age in 1999, including the way advisors work and communicate. “We need to take that into consideration,” he said. 

Finding ways to motivate and engage Gen Z is essential because they are steadily becoming a larger part of the workforce. Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, currently makes up 30% of the global population.

Austin, Gan and Ubl suggest the following five ways to motivate Gen Z advisors:

1. Give good directions

Managers need to set clear expectations about how to complete an assignment, write a report or interact with a client, Ubl said. “This generation grew up with the ability to Google how to do anything,” she said. Whenever Gen Z doesn’t know the answer, they will research it online. One of their greatest skills is finding information on their own, but it can also be one of their greatest liabilities because they tend not to ask their manager or peers for help. 

Austin has noticed that the Gen Z advisors she works with like to feel informed and knowledgeable. “They don’t like to learn on the fly,” she said. “They like to feel confident and equipped when meeting with a client.” 

2. Treat them like adults  

Gen Z expects to be treated as professionals who have smart ideas and ways of doing things, Ubl said. One way to engage Gen Z is to ask them questions during training sessions or when you’re providing resources, she said. For instance, after a training session or a webinar, ask for their ideas on how it could improve. Austin, a baby boomer, agrees that asking Gen Z for their opinion is good way to engage them. “They like to ask questions and make suggestions,” he said. “They also ask amazing questions and like to put their tweak on their work and make it their own.” 

However, Gen Z does not like being perceived as inexperienced. Two years ago, Gan’s agency created a Youth Wing to give younger advisors and leaders a safe space to present their ideas. A few members asked if the name could be changed to something more neutral, that doesn’t imply that the members are young and inexperienced, Gan said. The request is still being considered. 

3. Offer mentorship  

Gen Z is the first generation to enter the workplace after COVID-19, and many started their careers when offices were fully remote. Compare that experience with that of millennials, who when they first entered the workforce a generation ago were often paired with mentors who took them to lunch, answered their questions and helped them transition to an office environment, Ubl said.

Companies need to continue that practice, even if advisors aren’t in the office daily, she said. For instance, a Gen Z advisor could be paired with a senior advisor who lives in the same geographic area so they could schedule a monthly in-person lunch or check-in. 

“Gen Z loves to be mentored. They love the interaction,” Austin said. 

In addition to encouraging senior team members to mentor Gen Z recruits, Austin encourages Gen Z team members to share their knowledge with young advisors who are new to the firm. “I try to make sure they have a relationship on either end — someone higher up and someone lower down,” she said. 

Irina Ungureanu, an agency manager in Brasov, Romania, started the 8-Plus Club for advisors who sell more than eight policies a month. Once a month, the team members in this group have a life-balance day. They might climb a mountain and then go to lunch, or meet with a professional trainer at the gym, she said. “We spend the day together doing something special, and it’s paid for by the managers,” she added. 

When Gen Z team members first hear about the 8-Plus Club, they want to join, and they take steps to earn a place in the group, said Ungureanu, who is a millennial. Currently three of the 12 Gen Z advisors she manages are 8-Plus Club members. 

4. Help others get to know them  

Ungureanu encourages Gen Z advisors to speak with other team members about what’s important to them. Like Austin’s plan, Ungureanu encourages Gen Z to help senior advisors with their digital skills. “We want to have an online presence, and Gen Z understands online sales and can teach other experienced advisors about this,” she said. “Gen Z understands the latest trends, and they are often the early adopters of technology." For instance, most Gen Z advisors have already tried and are using artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, and can teach older counterparts how to use newer technology, he said.   

Like previous generations, as Gen Z entrenches itself in the workforce over the coming years, they will eventually begin to assume leadership positions. Gan welcomes that day and is already preparing for it.

Austin agreed that Gen Z is well prepared to improve upon the business and eventually lead it. “I think this is a brilliant generation, and I’m excited to leave the legacy to these young people,” she said. “They bring a unique perspective, and they’re very caring.”  

5. Appeal to their sense of purpose 

Gen Z strives for work-life balance without stress. They want to make a positive impact when they’re at work, said Ungureanu. “They want to be part of a successful company, and they need to feel like they’re contributing something important.”  

One reason they excel in the insurance industry, Austin said, is they don’t believe in the traditional construct of working eight hours daily for a salary. “They are willing to work in a performance-based career, dig in and be successful.” 

Lisa Rabasca Roepe is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who writes about gender equity, diversity and inclusion, the culture of work, and personal finance.   

Contact: Lisa Austin lisa.austin@prudential.com 

Vincent Gan vincentgan@thevinceproject.com 

Irina Ungureanu irina.ungureanu@agentiemetropolitanlife.ro