Trucks at Work

Prepping for generational change

So I’ve been clicking through Ford Motor Co.’s third annual “micro trends” analysis report compiled by Sheryl Connelly, head of global consumer trends and futuring at the automaker, to get a glimpse of some of the impending “generation changes” being teed up for our country and the world overall.

I’ve touched on the subject of “generation change” in this space before, largely because of its huge potential impact on trucking’s future labor pool – a pool, by the way, that’s currently heading for a “workforce cliff” in terms of its demographic composition.

The most immediate generational shift affecting the U.S. workforce starts with 77 million “baby boomers” retiring over the next two decades, with only 46 million new workers set to replace them, according to numbers tracked by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

ASTD’s research further indicates that “Generation X” workers – born between 1965 and 1979 – typically value a strong balance between life and work, priding themselves on self-reliance and resourcefulness.

Then there are “Generation Y” or “Millennial” workers, born between 1980 and 2000, that are more technologically savvy and desire even more workplace flexibility.

Do such generational “mindsets” reduce the attractiveness of pay packages where driving trucks is concerned? It’s something to ponder at the very least.

Now, though, the aforementioned Looking Further with Ford 2015 micro-trend report adds a new wrinkle to this generation-shift question; specifically in the form of “Generation Z,” which encompasses those born after 1993. While considered too young to be universally recognized as a “traditional” generational cohort as of yet, they are nonetheless already helping “reshape the world,” in the words of Ford’s Connelly – especially where technology is concerned.

Think on some of these findings from Ford’s research for a moment:

  • 52% of Gen Z members use YouTube and other social media outlets for “typical” research assignments.
  • 33% watch school lessons online.
  • 32% work with their classmates online.
  • 20% read textbooks on tablet computers.

That technological savvy is going to be incredibly vital, too, as more and more business tasks will become “digitized” in just a few short years.

Chew on these two statistics for example:

  • In 2013, there were 61 million mobile payment users – a population expected to top 450 million by 2017.
  • In 2013 there were approximately 176 million 4G LTE connections – a number expected to balloon to over 1 billion by 2017.

By the way, if you thing technology is changing far too quickly for you to keep up, don’t worry – according to Ford’s study, 64% of all adults globally feel the exact same way.

But let’s get back to the newly-emerging Gen Z group; a generation expected to account for more than 20% of the world’s population, Ford's Connelly (seen below) said.

“No one can say for sure how this group of more than 2 billion youth will turn out, but expectations are high,” she pointed out.

“With considerable pressure on them at an early age, there’s a greater complexity than ever before in being a young person—and they share these pressures with their peers across the world, making them the first truly global generation,” Connelly added. “Raised in an on-demand, impatient culture, Gen Z’s mantra is ‘good things come to those who act,’ and they aren’t going to let age, education, employment or lack of resources stop them from making their mark on the world.”

And within such a “mindset,” if you will, there may be opportunity for trucking to recruit some new blood.

For example, only 64% of Gen Z members are considering pursuit of advanced educational degrees, according to Ford’s report, down from 71% among Millennials or the “Gen Y” set.

On top of that, 66% of U.S. adults under the age of 35 now feel that experience is more important than education when it comes to work skills – a trend that could help the trucking industry attract more candidates into the driver’s seat down the road.

Time will only tell.

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