Young leaders discuss how to attract and retain millennials

KING CITY, Ont. — If your business is struggling to attract and retain young employees, it could be because you haven’t adjusted your recruitment and management styles to accommodate them.

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada yesterday heard from three members of its Young Leaders program, who offered a first-hand perspective of what millennials are looking for in a career.

The panel consisted of Matt Richardson, sales and operations manager for training school KRTS, Elias Demangos, president and CEO of Fortigo Group and Mike Colwell, transportation supervisor with Praxair Canada. Richardson and Demangos grew up in the trucking business, with Richardson washing trucks as soon as he was old enough and Demangos spending weekends walking wide-eyed through his father’s warehouse, while Colwell arrived in the industry through a different path. He studied human resources in college and only later realized there were a lot of opportunities in the trucking industry.

“I had no intention when I went to school of getting into trucking at all,” Colwell admitted. “But one of the things I realized when looking for work is that trucking companies are pretty big and they have an awful lot of opportunities.”

Millennials want to work for companies where they see opportunities to advance, the panelists agreed. They’re likely to jump ship within a few years if they don’t see their career progressing.

Demangos said constant feedback is expected.

“We try to make sure boredom doesn’t kick in, because you can lose some very good talent,” Demangos said.

The way employers communicate with millennials should be modernized. Richardson said they prefer to receive messages via text than by phone.

“The younger students, we text them, we e-mail them,” he said. “Older students prefer phone calls. We distribute training materials online. All information is available digitally. The older generation liked printed paperwork so we are catering to the different needs of those individuals.”

Demangos said a walk through the office is revealing; you can tell the approximate age of an employee by the appearance of their desk. Older workers have stacks of paperwork while younger ones surround themselves with technology. Progressive companies are using technology as a way to attract the younger generation.

For Richardson, this starts at the training level, where GoPro cameras and Smartboards are used to train entry-level drivers.

“The younger generation of drivers is the future of the industry,” he said. “If we can’t get them into our classes, the driver shortage is going to continue to grow.”
Colwell said younger employees have come to expect a workplace to have the latest technologies, much like consumers expect a new car to come loaded with technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi.

“If you don’t have it available as part of your business model to attract youth, you have to have it,” he said. “It’s an expected thing. You have to make sure your technology game is at a really high level to start to attract youth.”

To attract tech-savvy younger workers, Demangos said his company recruits from outside the trucking industry. It attends IT job fairs with a booth that’s alongside the Googles of the world.

“We’re not looking at other carriers (to recruit),” he said. “We’re looking at engineering students.”

He said even traditional roles such as dispatch have rapidly evolved through technology, to the point where a dispatcher today is almost like an air traffic controller. “We need someone who’s comfortable in that environment,” he said.

As young leaders in the trucking industry, each of the panelists related some of the challenges that go along with that.

“The classic line I remember getting is, ‘Where is your father?’,” recalled Demangos, adding he used to carry two sets of business cards, one with his CEO title on it and another without. “I was very cognizant of my age, especially in what was very much a grey-haired industry,” he said.

Colwell said it can be tough to be taken seriously by the older generation, but credibility is earned.

“There’s an assumption maybe you haven’t paid your dues,” he said. “Baby-boomers have a high expectation of the people they’re working with. If you are trying to lead them, they have an expectation of you and an experience level they expect you to have. A younger leader may have great experience with two to three years on the job but it’s difficult to pitch that to a more senior worker.”

Each of the panelists said it’s important to learn from the experience of more senior workers around them. “Don’t forget to learn from the good experience that’s around you,” Demangos said.

To help young people in the trucking industry deal with these challenges, the PMTC has set up its Young Leaders program. Members get together for networking and to share best practices and business tips. The organization also awarded its first-ever Young Leaders bursary at the PMTC conference. It went to Matthew Carr of Huron Services Group, who receives funding to take two of the four courses required to complete the PMTC Logistics Management Graduate Program.


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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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