How to manage your multi-generational fleet

Avatar photo

KING CITY, Ont. — Managing a fleet is hard enough work, but when you have employees from four different generations, things can get a lot tougher.

Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada and her colleague, Tamara Miller, director, programs and services, spoke to the audience at the annual PMTC conference on how to manage the four diverse generations that you will find in your company. 

A generation, as defined by the speakers at the conference, is a group of people categorized by their certain age boundaries. There are veterans (born 1922-1945), baby boomers (born 1946-1964), generation X-ers (born 1965-1980) and those in generation Y (born 1981-2000). Because there is such a vast time frame between each of these generations, each one has its own set of values, ideas and views.  

“This can create tension in your workplace,” said Splinter. “And you want to have a positive work environment.”

Splinter told the audience at the conference that this issue is something every company should address because the driver shortage is the top HR issue in the industry. Retaining and attracting drivers is of the utmost concern today because of high turnover rates, even though it is one of the largest occupations for males in Canada.

“Other industries are facing similar issues,” said Splinter, on why the topic matters. “Our competition is really other skilled trades. And we all know the image of the industry needs some work.”

After showing a rousing series of Cam Marston’s videos (a hilarious author, blogger,and expert on generational change in the workplace) Splinter outlined the characteristics of all four generations to explain why tension is created if everyone is treated and managed the same way. 

Veterans are hardworking, loyal, and compliant because they suffered hard economic times, like WWII. 

Baby boomers invented the term “workaholic” and are very competitive despite being politically savvy and loyal to a team.  

“They often have to compete because there are so many of them,” said Splinter. “They had to fight their way up.”

Generation X-ers are those who Marston jokes are the most cynical and unlikeable people one will meet.  Though they bring a certain skepticism to the workplace, it is not without reason – this generation saw hard times as well. They witnessed the huge impact of divorce, the fall of the employer/employee contract when large amounts of people were laid off, and a cut in education. 

“This is the group that is looking for a work-life balance,” added Splinter. “They want to have friends in their workplace.”

And finally, Generation Y (who are sometimes called Millennials and who companies are most often looking to recruit) are very tech-savvy because they have never known life without technological advances.  They have or are looking for a casual relationship with their employers. 

“Many are surprised to learn they are the biggest group that have volunteer experience,” noted Splinter. 

There to offer up advice on how to handle the different generations in the workplace, Miller began outlining how to retain or recruit from each group. 

“Veterans and baby boomers have been in the workforce and paid their dues,” she said. “They are looking to take it easy and they are looking for part-time jobs.”

Miller also added that highlighting your workplace’s health initiatives will attract this generation because health and wellness is now a concern for them, because they are getting older. 

When looking to recruit or retain Generation X-ers, Miller said it is important to stress that with the career you’re offering they can still maintain the work-life balance they want. 

“This can be a very cynical generation,” Miller added. “But they welcome the opportunity to grow and develop.  They want to advance in their careers and they want to better themselves.”

Since those from the Generation Y group are so into and keen on technology, Miller suggested to reach out to them using different social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter when looking to recruit. They also want to be part of a company that has fun, so Miller suggested putting testimonials from younger employees on your Web site to attract this younger group. Generation Y also wants to work for a company that has some sort of corporate responsibility to tell their friends about – like ways the company is staying green. 

When working with these different generations, communication and work culture are important. 

Miller said that baby boomers really appreciate being involved in decision-making and want the opportunity to mentor younger workers. When giving feedback, baby boomers tend to think no news is good news. If you don’t tell them they’re doing something wrong, they assume they are doing it right. 

Generation X-ers put honesty first. They want to hear your feedback to better themselves – whether it’s positive or negative. Generation Y, on the other hand is very accustomed to receiving praise and Miller said, “It might be devastating” if you tell them they’re not doing well. 

When thinking about mentoring, Miller said it was a great way to retain older employees while those in the Generation X and Y groups will enjoy the feedback and experience they gain. 

Because this may seem to be all too cut and dry, Miller did add that it was important to know your employees personally and not over-stereotype based on these groups. For example, some Generation Y-ers will enjoy getting constructive criticism, some baby boomers may not make the greatest mentors and some Generation X-ers may be the most optimistic in your fleet. 

“Everybody is different,” said Miller. “This is really meant as a guide.” 

Avatar photo

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.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.