Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tell Me What You Want…Part II

Last week we identified three key factors that Millennials consider important when it comes to their careers:

_1 Upward Mobility
_2 Employee Empowerment
_3 Work-Life Balance

The challenge for all industries, and especially transportation/logistics, is figuring out how to address these conflicting goals and still get the work done.

I think most employers appreciate the desire for “Upward Mobility”. We want motivated employees. The challenge with some Millennials is their desire to move up immediately. They aren’t much for “paying dues”. Add in a desire for “work-life” balance in an industry where long-hours and sacrifice have been the norm and you have a real disconnect.

“Employee Empowerment” is something that businesses have been talking about for decades. But it’s been mostly talk and gimmicks. Millennials are serious about Employee Empowerment. Work groups, team building exercises and “open office” concepts are about as meaningful to Millennials as the company “Suggestion Box” was to their parents and grandparents. They really want a hand in running the business and, if not that, at least doing their specific job the way they think it should be done. And, do not be too critical when things don’t work out. There’s that whole self-esteem issue swirling in the background.

The challenge in transportation/logistics is that the work is mostly defined by time and space and deadlines and regulations and customer requirements and circumstances beyond ones control. It’s like herding cats while riding a unicycle and having someone shooting at you. This does mean, that to a certain degree, employees must be empowered to make decisions and solve problems. This is not robot work. In this regard, the industry may appeal to some Millennials. However, this is also not the place for freelancers. There are simply too many constraints and “employee empowerment” sometimes doesn’t feel very “empowering” to employees in this business.

“The Work-Life Balance” issue is more of a question than an issue. What does it mean? Once upon a time, it meant working six days a week from sun up to sun down and resting on Sunday (except for the chores that had to be done.) Then people got lazy and started taking off Saturday afternoon to go to town. Then they started taking off all day Saturday. And then came the 40 hour work week. Work-Life Balance has always been a noble objective. It just means different things to different generations. And Millennials are telling us it means “spending time with family, learning new things and living a long, healthy life.” While I’m not sure what that really means, I’m pretty sure that what it does NOT mean is working 11-12 hours per day (plus a commute), half-day on Saturday, being on call and/or signing on to “the system” from home to catch up on emails, reports, or just making sure that the cats have not run off, the unicycle isn’t broken and no one has been shot.

So where does this leave an industry that is starving for talent? I think it’s a two-part solution. And that will be the focus next time.

“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4 (ESV)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tell Me What You Want..What You Really, Really Want…

In case you haven’t noticed there is a shortage of workers. It’s not just truck drivers and mechanics. It’s across the board, especially in those roles where traditionally we’ve seen people in the early to mid stages of their careers. The transportation/logistics industry is facing a huge challenge when it comes to attracting, retaining and developing talent. It’s an industry that demands long hours, often night and weekend hours. The work tends to be stressful, fast paced, unpredictable and people intensive. In other words, something is always going wrong. Most senior managers are still from the old school, even if they are not old guys. Old school says that you do what you have to do. You come in early, you stay until the work is done, you come back if you need to and the job takes priority. Old school guys may say that family comes first. But what they really means is that feeding the family and feeding them well comes first. Which means that work comes first.

Millennials see it differently. But not totally different. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review reveals what is really important to millennials (

There are some interesting takeaways from this study:

_Millennials want to move up and become leaders . Primarily for financial rewards and influence/power. More so in Europe, North America and Asia/Pacific regions.

_When it comes to the type of manager Millennials want, it’s clear that in North America and Western Europe it’s about employee empowerment. Micro-management is out.

_Regarding Work Life Balance, Millennials in North America and Western Europe overwhelmingly place the priority on having “enough leisure time for my private life”. Flexible working hours comes in a close second.

_Life priorities for Millennials are spending time with family, learning new things and living a long, healthy life. Depending on how the questions are asked, I’m not sure that my generation, or my parents’ generation might not have had similar responses. What is telling is that at the bottom of the priority list for North American and Western Europeans is wealth. Becoming wealthy is a low priority for today’s Millennials. So even though they want to move up and become leaders for reasons of financial reward and influence, when it comes to life’s priorities wealth just isn’t that important.

These results are all part of a larger study ( There is a lot in the study and if you are really into understanding Millennials on a global scale, it’s worth your time. But for me, these four: career objectives, how to manage, work life balance and life priorities are the key issues which must be addressed by our industry. Talented Millennials have choices and they will choose to work in those industries and organizations where they have the best opportunities of achieving their personal and professional objectives. Next time, I’ll talk about where we are missing the mark and what can be done to make this industry more attractive to Millennials.