The transportation and logistics industry has a problem. It’s a good problem that other industries would love to have. The problem is that they need good people.
Finding and keeping good people to work in warehouses, driving trucks or in logistics is a unique problem in that there is a generational component to the problem.
Recently I presented at SMC3 an education provider for the trucking and logistics industry. SMC3 provides many resources and solutions for its members and partners. In the keynote I talked about the unique factors that attract Generations X and Y to the industry and also about the key leadership strategies that keeps them around.
Firstly from an attraction point of view Generation X and Y are spending more time on You Tube and searching for employer videos that show the culture of the company. They are also looking to You Tube to see happy employees on video promoting the virtues of the company they work for.
Social media is the new recruiting tool, tweets, Linked In and Facebook are turning out to be hot spots to mention new job openings, post videos on job opportunities and to build a positive buzz about the industry.
The specific things that Generation X and Y are looking for with an employer are having a career path, having flexible working hours, leaders who are focused on training and growing their people, succession plans and strategic planning that is aligned with vision and people’s goals.
The good news about the transportation and logistics industry is that there are huge opportunities for moving around within the industry. There may be limited upward mobility opportunities in a warehouse environment however there are other opportunities within the industry. Leaders need to be looking at keeping good people within the industry even if that means having to let go of a great person and having to train new people.
Leaders who are focused on succession plan and aligned strategy will have more luck with retention than leaders who expect employees just to be happy to have a job. The truth is the generational attitude differences are causing conflict and unmatched expectations within the industry.
For example a Gen Y may not have the same attitude about their job that a Baby Boomer has but that is because they have much more choice today. For the average Baby Boomer who graduated and got a job they have a ‘work hard’ mentality that they expect everyone else to have. A Gen Y on the other hand has multiple job choices and wants and expects more job satisfaction. They want to have a life and work must fit into their life. Many Baby Boomers may have had a ‘work, work, work and then you die’ attitude.
We must remember that Gen Y’s are the children of the Baby Boomers. In many ways we have protected and kept our Gen Y’s from having to work the way we have had to. A lot of Gen Y’s are willing to work hard but they want to do it on their terms, in their preferred hours and with the help of technology.
When I spoke with the organizing committee prior to the SMC3 event they said that they are responding to the changing attitudes of Gen Y. For instance they are re-routing long haul trucking routes so that truckers can be home every three days instead of being away for a week at a time. This is a perfect example of adapting to the desires of Gen Y. Interestingly enough Gen X wants this as well as they are in their family years and many Baby Boomers who have worked on the road for years are happy about the re-routing changes.
Traditional industries need to look at diversifying their talent and looking at the business in a new way. A recent article in USA Today January 2012 it stated that there are over 248,000 female military personnel looking for work in the US.
Many of these women have driven heavy machinery while deployed, are used to being away for periods of time and are looking to do work that pays them well but provides them with flexibility. It seems to me that these female vets would find some of the jobs in the trucking, warehouse and logistics industry quite appealing.
One of the key components of retaining good people once you attract them is to provide ongoing training. The US Conference board says that we will be struggling in a war for talent in a big way by 2015. Many Baby Boomers are going to be retiring or transitioning out of their long-standing career. This means that the need for skilled and trained workers is the biggest threat to all industries in the immediate future.
Leaders need to look at training as a strategic initiative that protects the talent that they hire. In the transportation and logistics industry there are a variety of training options such as SMC3, WERC and MSSC all of which provide on line training options and classroom options.
Finally, Generations X and Y as well as Boomers all want to work for a company that has vision, focus and strategy that is aligned with vision. The four components of aligning leadership to strategy are:
1. Set vision and strategy- which is a logical action
2. Engage and create excitement- which is an emotional action
3. Timeline, skill development and accountability- which is a logical action
4. Energy, commitment and visibility- an emotional action
Every strong strategic plan appeals to both the logical and the emotional to increase levels of buy in and integration within the organization.
It is an exciting time for the transportation and logistics industry- it is a fast-paced, technological and multi-generational industry. The opportunity to lead change is here and visionary leaders will be making progressive changes that appeal to all of the generations.