Just when you thought you had Millennials figured out, a new generation arrived on the scene. Individuals born between 1995 and 2012 make up Generation Z, better known as “iGen” for being the first group born into the age of the internet—and the first to spend their entire adolescence with a smartphone in-hand. If you’ve been resisting Industry 4.0, the time has come to embrace disruptive technologies so you can recruit and retain these tech-savvy drivers.
Jean Twenge, a widely published Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, authored books entitled Generation Me and iGen which document cultural changes shaping this group of young people. She says technology is not the only thing that differentiates iGen from their predecessors, although it’s a significant factor. They have an entirely different way of thinking, behaving and formulating attitudes. “Businesses must figure out how to recruit them and sell to them,” Twenge notes, and the OTR trucking industry has an urgent need to do just that.
With the ATA reporting the trucking industry had about 60,800 too few drivers in 2018, carriers would be well-advised to figure out what makes iGen members tick so you can tap into this source of talent. Between drivers retiring without enough recruits to take their place, and demand rapidly growing, the need for qualified professionals is expected to increase exponentially in the next decade. The following are some tips for attracting a new generation of drivers.
1. Lower the age when they can drive interstate
This one has to do with policy more than what you have control over at your company. But you can add your voice to those calling for a graduated licensing program that would equip 18 to 20-year old drivers to enter the industry. Many young people have already chosen a career by the time they reach the age of 21, the current requirement for trucking across state lines. And they aren’t likely to switch to long-haul trucking when they consider the inconsistent pay, often grueling lifestyle and negative public perception of the industry.
2. Make them feel part of something bigger
iGen members are self-aware, rather than self-centered like the generation before. They want to be part of the solution and drive change for the better. Make values like community service, donating to charity, and caring for the environment part of your company story to attract drivers who feel a responsibility to the world around them. Do your part to improve the reputation of truck driving by setting the bar high when hiring and by expecting others to treat your drivers with respect. Market the role of trucking in bolstering the economy, meeting needs, and connecting the world. Also, help them feel connected to the company at-large—only do it through electronic solutions like social media, chat forums, e-newsletters, and video chats more so than via in-person contact.
3. Emphasize safety
Research shows iGen is more fearful overall and places a high value on safety. A resulting benefit to your business is they tend to be better drivers who take fewer risks. “Expect to hear more young employees ask about how your company creates a safe environment, and take steps toward creating a more nurturing atmosphere while still educating iGen’ers about the realities of business,” Twenge advises. Be intentional and proactive about safety, and you’ll win the hearts of iGen drivers. This includes enforcing best practices on the road and preventive maintenance of vehicles and equipment, but it extends to providing a safe company culture where needs are met, respect is conveyed and appreciation is demonstrated.
4. Get connected
Likely the most important guideline for recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent is to fully embrace Industry 4.0. Get connected to modern solutions that enable electronic record-keeping, fleet monitoring, predictive maintenance, optimized routing, automated alerts and more. Stay a step ahead of innovation and offer drivers the latest and greatest in trucking solutions that will instill a sense of pride in their jobs and make their tasks easier to perform. iGen members expect to have customized solutions at their fingertips, equipping them to effect change at the swipe of a screen. Investing in fleet management technology will not only help you reach this generation but will result in increased productivity, improved efficiency and reduced costs—so you can reallocate funds to offer better incentives that will help retain top talent.
Twenge paints this picture of iGen as potential employees: “Practical, career-focused, and cautious but with less experience with independence, iGen is willing to work hard for the managers who can understand them.” Taking the time to understand and target this new generation could be the turning point for your company during the driver crunch.