Fleet recruiters can zero in on Gen Z

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Fleets will need to consider some unique strategies when recruiting the next generation of job candidates – and no, this article is not about millennials.

Older members of Gen Z, people born between 1997 and 2012, are now at an age when they can apply for trucking jobs. And presenters during a related webinar hosted by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) emphasized that the demographic group has plenty to offer.

“They’re the most digital generation that’s been around, and they’re the most multiculturally diverse generation,” said Lindsey Trent, CEO of the Next Generation in Trucking Association. They want to travel as well.

Each factor makes them attractive recruits.

Gen Z workforce
(Illustration: iStock)

What Gen Z wants

When the Nebraska Trucking Association ran a focus group to study what the generation finds appealing about trucking careers, participants honed in on trucking lifestyles, the role of truckers as essential workers, technology, environmental responsibility, and the pay and benefits, she said.

Supply chain shortages during the early days of the pandemic reinforced the role of truck drivers in society, she added. This plays into the demographic group’s interest in giving back to society. It’s one of the reasons Melton Truck Lines actively celebrates “highway angels” through a Melton Blue Angel program that recognizes acts of service.

Trucking-related technologies can help attract younger candidates as well, whether the tools come in the form of driver assistance systems, clean air initiatives, or alternative fuels.

“Most of our kids are better on any sort of device than we are,” Trent said. “They want to be a technology-forward industry.”

One of the challenges is that many of them have never stepped foot in a truck, and have no understanding about such tools or the amenities offered in sleepers. Posting pictures of truck interiors on fleet websites can help there.

Dangerous assumptions

Still, Melton Truck Lines recruiting manager Delaney Rea cautioned against some assumptions about younger job candidates when developing programs and communication strategies.

She referred to a driver named Zeno as an example. The 21-year-old told her he joined the fleet because of mentorships, the physical nature of the job, and flexible travel. He stayed for the pay, the opportunity to give back, the culture, and flatbed work that delivers a workout.

But where drivers once asked Rea about the shortest-possible orientation programs, he said he appreciated the 14-day program at the fleet. And while older drivers wanted jobs closer to home, Zeno is eager to get a passport so he can begin runs to Canada.

“You can’t make the assumption that Gen Z doesn’t want over-the-road. It’s how you present it to them and how you know if it can fit into their lifestyle,” Rea said.

Perhaps most surprising is that he said he was also interested in the fleet’s retirement savings program.

“We have this bias sometime that young people don’t think ahead to retirement,” Rea said. “I don’t think that’s true … Gen Z wants stability and wants to think ahead.”

Informed candidates

The panelists also stressed that these candidates do their homework. Tenstreet transportation advisor Marilyn Surber noted that candidates apply for jobs at fewer carriers in today’s market, so online corporate profiles become particularly important.

Streamlined application processes – especially those that can be completed using smartphones – are vital as well.

“How they’re used to doing their work is online and digitally,” Surber explained.

It’s why Rea stressed the need to update company profiles on platforms from Indeed to LinkedIn and Glassdoor, and to respond to reviews of every sort. “Either you can tell your story of your business on these platforms or someone else can tell it for you,” she said.

Melton also has driver-influencers who share stories about their daily lives as video blogs, and even pays a bonus when someone applies for a job after viewing one of the videos.

“They can express their life and be raw on their own videos as well as our corporate videos,” said Terran English, an employee services coordinator at Melton Truck Lines.

The fleet’s image certainly had an impact on him. He clearly remembers the day he arrived for an interview after responding to an ad in his school newspaper. Arriving in a three-piece suit, accessorized with an empty binder to look more official, he opened the door and noticed everyone else was wearing Hawaiian shirts because it was Hawaiian shirt day.

He immediately knew this was a business for him.

“Social media and recognizing your drivers, that doesn’t cost any money at all,” Surber added. As for those who need help, “hire a Gen Z intern and they’ll do it for you.”

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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