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.
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. All posts by Sonia Straface