Engagement key to attracting millennials: panel

WINNIPEG, MB – Human Resources (HR) departments that want to recruit and retain millennial-aged workers may want to refocus their traditional strategies as they compete for the increasingly valuable pool of employees.

Millennials make up the bulk of modern Canadian workforce, but the generation is largely under-represented in the trucking industry. According to Trucking HR Canada, between 2006 and 2011 the share of drivers aged 25-34 dropped from 18% to 15%.     

When Trucking HR Canada asked youth about their opinions or impressions of industry careers, the younger workers were attracted to things like the promise of independence, autonomy, and opportunity to travel, chief executive officer Angela Splinter said in a presentation to the Manitoba Trucking Association. In contrast, more than half of the employers who were surveyed by the group said they were “doing nothing” to recruit and retain young people.

Cindy Harrison, director of human resources for Arnold Bros. Transport, says companies need to manage change.

“[Millennials are] going to bring different skills sets, such as being technologically-savvy,” Harrison said, adding that millennials like to stay connected and will take advantage of a variety of technologies to remain connected. “The generation coming in is very well-educated and have a desire to learn.”

She offered the example of millennial technicians who will quickly source online references to information they require, while their older counterparts might still be scrambling to find an old, dusty manual.

According to millennial Dylon Hall, a Level 2 trailer technician apprentice with Maxim Truck and Trailer, Harrison is right in her thoughts about his generation’s desire to keep learning, and says techs have to learn something new everyday if they hope to keep up with new technology in the industry.

Growing up alongside many digital technologies definitely gives millennials an advantage when approaching new software or trying to source information quickly and efficiently, he said. And Hall stressed that millennials look for and appreciate employers who make them feel engaged.

“I want to be involved,” Hall said, adding that he’s encouraged when he sees managers who are open and lead by example.

While many millennials know about truck driving jobs, Hall says there is room to build awareness about careers as maintenance technicians or operations roles.

“My friends respect what I do — but they don’t understand it,” he said, adding that he’d like to see more advertising produced about the various industry job opportunities other than driving.

The generation’s roles are not limited to entry-level positions. Ryan Mitchell, president of Manitoba-based Wildwood Transport, is a millennial who has found himself at the helm of a trucking company after taking over the family business with his brother in 2013.

But as someone who is inspired by his father, Mitchell says he has never been someone to define people by their generation. “Each individual is different in their upbringing,” he said. Statistics may say otherwise, but there are many millennials who will stay at the office until late in the evening if they have to do get the job done, Mitchell added. He’s seen some older workers unwilling to do the same.

John Wallis, director of training and development for the Biodefence Division of Emergent Biosolutions, acknowledged that, while there are differences compared to other generations, millennials are looking for many of the things desired by older generations. He believes the main difference involves their approach to getting a job done.  

“I think there’s something for [the trucking industry] to exploit in that they want to be more collaborative. They don’t want to participate in a structure that tells them what to do. They want to participate in helping us decide what we should do and help solve problems.”

It’s easy to point out the obvious differences, but do millennials share things in common with previous generations?

It’s often repeated that millennials are looking for accommodating or flexible schedules, but Wallis notes that most people would want such a schedule.

This new generation is also reportedly more selective about who they’ll work for, and Wallis says that while social media and digital applications may initially attract a younger generation to consider a career in the industry, word of mouth still goes a long way.

“Millennials are still deciding whether they like us,” he said. “They’re talking about us.”

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