The average age of drivers is the same as it was several years ago, hovering around 53-54. Boomers are increasingly retiring, and Generations X and Y (Millennials) seem to be less than interested in a driving career. They have different attitudes than Baby Boomers who have begun to retire. Fleet managers need to understand these differences and how to integrate them into a new breed of strategies for recruiting and retaining younger drivers in what is becoming an increasingly problematic driver shortage.
Who Are They?
Generation X was born 1965-76 during the later years of and post Cold War, characterized by the expansion of mass media and the advent of technology. As children, they grew up when divorce and a growing number of working moms created "latchkey" kids, fostering traits of independence, resilience and adaptability. In the workplace, this translates to a need for autonomy and less supervision.
At the same time, this generation expects immediate and ongoing feedback, and is equally comfortable giving feedback to others. Gen Xers work well in multicultural settings, and desire some fun in the workplace and a pragmatic approach to getting things done.
Seeing parents get laid off or face job insecurity has redefined their workplace loyalty. Their commitment is to their work, the team they work with and the boss they work for—not the company. While they take employability seriously, Gen X is not attached to a career ladder. They move laterally, stop and start again.
Generation Y was born 1977-1998 during globalization, characterized by the rise in instant communication technologies. Raised at the most child-centric time in our history, showers of attention and high expectations from parents foster a great deal of self-confidence.
This generation is typically team-oriented, banding together to socialize rather than pairing off. They work well in groups, preferring team to individual endeavors. They use their multi-tasking dexterity to work hard. Structure in the workplace, respect for position and title and a relationship with their boss contrast with Gen X's wish for independence and a hands-off style.
They respond well to personal attention, and appreciate structure and stability. Therefore, mentoring Millennials should be more formal, with set meetings and a mentor who is more authoritative.
More Gen Xers and Yers are college graduates than their predecessors, which they may think over qualifies them for a driving career. They need help framing the opportunity: a solid financial footing with a $65,000 salary behind the wheel vs. $35,000 behind a desk in the overcrowded job market; and the upside potential that experienced drivers with the lowest PSP scores actually have—a six-figure salary with medical benefits and stock options. When compared with the medical field that’s being squeezed by managed healthcare and the educational debt that doctors typically have, driver is a great option.
Quality of life is another huge issue for younger generations. Time with friends and family is a top priority, and a life on the road takes them away from the lifestyle they aspire to. The firms with the newest cabs and most current technology will have a leg up on their competitors.
Technology enables communication and entertainment options that make their work environment more like a “home away from home,” helping to offset negative perceptions. A short list includes personal email, wi-fi enabled web surfing and a video subscription service. Features that speak to a quality work environment and tools which make drivers efficient and reduce tedious paperwork say “We work harder to get you back home more often, and we respect your technology skills and intelligence.”
Another way to demonstrate respect is honesty. Over promising and under delivering may help get more drivers in the door, but fuels mistrust that is almost impossible to overcome, leading to costly turnover. Painting an honest, real-world picture of the job will help a firm establish the kind of culture that goes a long way in retaining high-performing drivers.
Signing bonuses can boost recruiting efforts. While cash used to be king, a free iPad loaded with all the applications that apply to trucking may be more appealing to these generations’ voracious appetite for technology.
Managing Technology Gaps
Implementing new technology provides an opportunity to take advantage of Gen Y’s appreciation for working in teams and Gen X’s commitment to the team they work with. Since they will catch on most quickly, match these younger generations with Boomers who as a group will require more training and practice in advance of “turning on the switch.” In turn, Boomers can mentor their teams in various other aspects of a driver’s career—a bit of peer management.
Consider injecting some fun with friendly driver competition (personal as well as teams) that leverages technology-generated data about driving behaviors. It promotes technology adoption and provides a reward system.
You will no doubt think of more ways to keep younger drivers engaged to strengthen retention. In fact, you just might establish a reputation that even attracts high-performing drivers.