Fleets miss opportunities by not understanding younger generations

Researching generational characteristics and then managing to those can boost productivity

CINCINNATI. Fleets, and most businesses for that matter, have struggled for years integrating younger workers into the workforce. Either they can’t find enough of them to replace retiring Baby Boomers, or they don’t stay onboard. That is particularly true for truck drivers, which the industry is facing a serious shortage of to the tune of some 35,000 or so.

The solution to both issues may be two-fold: understand the generational characteristics of workers and pushing technology.

“Companies need to realize they have to train their people to understand [the differences in generations] so they can collaborate and work together,” said Sandy Rosenfeld, manager-operations for Fleet Advantage. “Millennials don’t like to be micro-managed. Millennials are not real loyal. They are into working for companies that…have the same work-life [values as they do]. They want to have experiences and they want to feel good about what they are doing.”


Looking to solve the truck driver shortage? Read The Golden Ticket for possible solutions


So, to start, what does a Millennial want? Millennials tend to have high self-esteem, are fast-paced, optimistic and technologically advanced. They also like to multi-task, enjoy technology and social media, are focused on results and advancement. What they do not like are long hours, being treated like a child, focus on tenure and face-to-face interaction.

Understanding those traits, Rosenfeld told Fleet Owner, can help managers understand their workforce and better manage those workers.

“You have to train; you have to communicate and get [everyone to understand] that we have differences but a common goal,” she said. You have to recognize that this group [of workers] is there, it’s been identified, and we need to learn more about this group to be successful in business.”

Each generation has its own characteristics, Rosenfeld said. For instance, Generation X workers tend to be highly educated and strive for a work-life balance (the first generation to really do so, she added, as previous generations tended to put work first). But Generation X workers dislike strict rules and structure, slow processes and micromanaging.

Even the Baby Boomer generation has its specific traits, such as being workaholics and liking face-to-face communications but preferring to avoid conflict.

Understanding all these differences and then managing to each generation’s strength can improve the business as a whole.

But, there is also another way this information can be used to help fleets and that is in the marketing of truck driver jobs. The industry needs younger drivers. It is also adopting (in some instances rapidly) advanced technologies, whether they be safety systems, telematics, or cab comforts such as satellite TV. These two areas align nicely, Rosenfeld said.

“We need to advertise this to the Millennial driver,” she said. You’re feeding right into what they want, which is technology.

“We need to make them understand you’ve got the latest equipment, the latest technology, and that you care,” Rosenfeld added.

For instance, electronic logs could be an advantage to younger drivers seeking that work-life balance. Less time spent filling out logs might mean more time the driver can devote to talking with or even seeing family if the driver is equipped with computers or tablets with video-based communication tools.

Ultimately, the old business adage remains true: tailor jobs to each employee’s strength. But by understanding generational differences, employers could do a better job of attracting talent and utilizing that talent effectively.

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