Flooding the workforce

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CALGARY, Alta. — What to do with this new generation we call Millennials?
It’s a question many more mature generations have asked themselves on more than one occasion, but it could be for the wrong reasons. It’s also a question that was addressed during an educational session at this year’s Work Truck Show in Indianapolis to help an aging trucking demographic find the next crop of employees to take the wheel.

With a panel that included five Millennials, all employed in the industry, the special session What the industry needs to know about recruiting and keeping millennials…from Millennials aimed to shed the stereotype that has followed this young generation, which, as of 2015, is now the largest age group in today’s workforce.

One of the stark differences between Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) and other generations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Generation X – is what motivates them when it comes to employment, and what factors into their decision to stick with a job or look elsewhere.

“The number one reason people leave is lack of appreciation,” said Amy Dobrikova, president of Intelligent Fleet Solutions, adding that companies need to show their employees that they are valued in more ways than simply giving them a pay raise.

Andrew Dawson, manager of marketing and advertising for Muncie Power Products, said Millennials need to see a path they can work toward, and if no path is visible, they could leave for another company that provides them with an opportunity to progress and grow. But as Dobrikova pointed out, the size of a person’s paycheck is still a big motivator, and can be a valid reason for leaving one position for another.

Dobrikova said the times when she left one job in favor of another, a “huge pay increase,” at times doubling her salary, came along with it, whereas her mother, who stayed with the same company most of her life, received her 1% raise each year.

Unlike Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, which, according to moderator Amy Hirsh-Robinson of the Interchange Group, tend to value things like authority, hard work, honor, professional identity and material wealth in the workplace, Millennials are likely to gravitate toward teamwork, morality and civic duty, constant feedback, as well as diversity, something Hirsh-Robinson said was not a major factor in the lives of some older generations.

“I love you all dearly, but this is not the most diverse group,” Hirsh-Robinson said, looking out to those in attendance, who included mostly Baby Boomers looking to find ways to bring the new generation into the transportation industry.

Hirsh-Robinson said Millennials are a unique age group, one that grew up in the most diverse society ever and during a time of unprecedented economic volatility. With many young people having graduated during the Great Recession, Hirsh-Robinson said Millennials have dealt with extreme debt and have had to take uncommon measures to deal with that debt, such as moving back in with their parents.

“There are some things that you can’t control and it’s not always about you,” said Nathan Gibson, vice-president of sales for Canfield Equipment Service, of the reason why the younger generation has been viewed as fickle when it comes to company loyalty. “It’s not always the job, it’s just life.”

Another difference, perhaps an obvious one, between Millennials and Traditionalists/baby boomers is their ability to work with technology.

“I had to teach my dad how to use a cellphone,” said Jennifer Pellersels, customer relations manager for Altec Industries.

Pellersels was answering the question, “What is one of the biggest adjustments young people have to make when working with older generation workers?” and the technology gap was the clear consensus of the young group of panelists.

Melissa Bergkamp, marketing manager with DewEze/Harper Industries, said she feels older generations often expect younger people to change the way they do things in the workplace when they are asked, but turn things around and they are resistant to do the same, and often use the excuse: this is the way I’ve always done things.

Dawson said, unlike older generation workers, there is one thing he does not want on his desk, and that’s paperwork.

“I do everything I can to avoid a paper trail,” he said. “I can’t stand it.”

On the contrary, many Tradi-tionalists and Baby Boomers simply don’t trust technology to retain important documents, and feel the only surefire way to ensure they are safe is to preserve a paper copy.

“One thing that frustrates me is when I’m asked to send a fax,” joked Gibson, who was the most critical on the panel toward Millennials, saying they are often financially illiterate and always just want to be on vacation.

Gibson said young people could learn a lot if they spent more time with experienced workers.

“There’s one thing that can’t be taught, and that’s experience,” Gibson said. “Just being around (older employees) makes me smarter.”

Dobrikova agreed, saying young people should be “learning by example, so being partnered with someone who’s done it for a while is great.”

But networking can sometimes be an issue for Millennials, who are often more likely to respond positively to communicating through social media and texting, and make decisions based on crowd-sourcing rather than independent or autocratically.

Hirsh-Robinson said Millennials are typically incredible working in teams and that operating in a silo does not compute with the younger age group.

She added that Millennials, of which there are 75 million in the US – compared to 46 million Generation Xers, 80 million Baby Boomers and 55 million Traditionalists – want to make a difference in the world and, from their first day on the job, find meaning in their professional lives.

Gibson said a challenge in hiring Millennials in the trucking industry is that there aren’t enough who attended trade schools, but rather acquired college degrees that have turned out to be “useless unless they decide to run for mayor.”

“You have to catch them early to get them excited,” said Pellersels, agreeing that one does not need a college degree to get a good job.

“The scope of opportunity is huge in this industry,” added Dawson, saying there is more to trucking than driving, but admitted that when it comes to technology and innovation, the industry is a little bit behind.

Dawson said it is important for trucking industry employers to recognize that the generalities surrounding Millennials is not a blanket that covers all, and that each individual, despite their generation, is unique.

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Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface.

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  • Pride professionalism morals and respect that what needs to be brought back as for the wage a guy that’s been trucking for 20 years should get the same rate of pay as a guy that it’s been trucking for two. If you don’t learn something new everyday of your life, you have a very big problem. If you say you never tickle a gear, you have a problem. If you think you know it all, you have a problem.
    I most certainly don’t think I know it all and I never will. But I will help with the mathematical and professionalism of being a Professional Driver. If it wasn’t for the truck driver, nothing would be alive. In my 36 years of being a Pro, I’m ” jusgoodkirby “

  • If this young group of panelists feel that the technology gap is the key issue that seperates millenials from the boomer majority in our driver workforce then we should be listening far more closely than what we have been in the past.

    The obvious solution is more training and feedback. The very things that millenials are telling us are important to THEM. Why have we lost sight – if the industry ever had it – of the fact that communication, training, feedback, support, mentoring, etc. are key elements of human resource management across generations and not unique to any one in particular?

    If boomers had received ongoing training and exposure on an ongoing basis over the course of their careers in the cab they would be applying it now to the skills and experience they have garnered over many years.

    Sometimes I think we continually beat our heads against the wall searching for solutions to the obvious.

  • No one pays for experience and/or “Professionalism.” Some job ads even insist between 1-3 years experience which means just enough so I don’t have to pay too much. It seems that no one wants to exceed to far past $250 a day.
    If ‘Professionalism’ was real and not just a loosely used buzz word to offer the effect of appreciation, someone is going to have to prove it by measuring by making safety #1. As it stands now and always has, the measure is by piecework. The productivity of high endurance. After all, it’s perfectly normal to drive 13 hours a day. If it was made real, it would look like an hourly rate where the driver doesn’t suffer the consequences of poor infrastructure & scheduling… or as some drivers call it, ” Working for nothing.”
    A rate that when calculated may only look like $13 an hour.

  • New technology has been introduced in the transportation to make life easier new truck with all of the electronics automatic transmission and smart park cooling and heating system with trailers designed to be more efficient for fuel saving and the last thing that every one or the majority where afraid off is the Electronic Log Book.
    This is all good kids and older driver adjust the way they will utilize all of this.And yet we still not getting waiting time, still receiver or shipper don’t care about appointment they give a time to be at their premises and make you wait up to 10 or less hours before loading and unloading.
    Looking at the hours of how to log it ??? off duty, in sleeping birth, or like the regulation stipulate on Duty.
    There goes your 250 dollars per day down to nothing.
    A huge adjustment would have to be implemented in order to improve the proper communication between driver shipper and receiver along with the transporter.