Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tell Me What You Want....Part III

In Parts I & II we identified some of the challenges this industry faces in making itself more attractive to Millennials. How do we offer upward mobility at a level and pace that meets Millennial expectations? How do we give them enough autonomy and empowerment in an industry that is so constrained by service requirements and regulations? And lastly, how do we address the work/life balance priority of Millennials in a low-margin business where overhead costs must be controlled and operations essentially run 24/7?

Last time I said there was a two-part solution. Having thought more about it since then, I have concluded that it’s really a three-part solution. My two-part solution was HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE and MAKE THE JOB MORE ATTRACTIVE. But the more I thought about it, I realized that there is only so much one can do without talking about MONEY. So money is the third part of the solution.

What does it mean to “hire the right people”? In my opinion it means selecting individuals who are not Millennial stereotypes. I think we are at risk of assuming that everyone in a certain age group is going to demand rapid advancement, high levels of autonomy and an ultra flexible work schedule. That is simply not the case. While on balance, Millennials as a group put more value on these factors, there are a lot of them whose values overlap fairly close to those of the older generation. You can still find people who are willing to pay their dues, play by the rules, be a part of the team, and show up when the work needs to be done. This industry has never been for everyone. I’m a baby-boomer and a lot of my peers had no interest in this industry. In fact, they questioned my sanity for getting into it in the first place. You can still hire people who will succeed and enjoy working in this business. You just have to look a little harder and interview a lot better.

The second part of the solution still must be addressed. The crazy, meat-grinder work environment that so often characterizes the transportation/logistics industry simply has to change. All industries have had to change. Factories aren’t what they once were. Farm equipment isn’t what it used to be. Office work has been totally transformed over the past 50 years. The macho, put in the hours, first-in/last-out mindset that has been so much a part of this industry for decades is bullshit. It’s not necessary, never was and certainly is not now, especially with technology allowing people to be tethered to their work 24-7. In fact, that 24/7 tethering makes it all the more important that employees spend less time shackled to their desk. There is more room for flexibility now. The work can become more people friendly. It’s never going to be the most creative, free and open work environment. So don’t hire people who are looking for that type of work. It’s always going to be demanding and stressful work. Which means don’t do needless crap that only makes the job more demanding and stressful. That’s where Millennials will call you out. Why are we doing it this way? Is this really necessary? Can we do things differently? Can we treat each other differently. When a load is late everyone and everything doesn’t have to be called a GDMF-er.

Last, but not least…you gotta pay ‘em. When I started back in the day it was in the management training program of a unionized LTL carrier. I was making 30-50% more than my similarly educated peers. Would I have put up with the hours and the crap for less money? Not just no, but HELL NO. The industry has been squeezed since deregulation and the pressure to control costs is always there. The industry is certainly not a premium pay opportunity for the best and brightest young professionals. And maybe it never will be, nor should we expect it to be. It is what it is and there is only so much juice in the grape. But, we’ve reached a tipping point. It’s clearly there with drivers and mechanics. The industry is responding. It may be too little, too late; but at least there is a response. There is literally no other choice. At some point, they must respond to the compensation being offered to supervisors, managers and executives. Companies are scrambling and hiring people in positions who would not even have gotten an interview, much less the job in the past. Ironically, the more under-qualified, less talented people we hire; the more inclined we are to cultivate the “old school” culture of micro-management, top-down command and control. Thus making the industry even less attractive to the people we need to be hiring in the first place.

The question is always asked, “Where’s the money going to come from?” That’s not a short answer. So we’ll save it for next time.

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