Oct 22

In our last blog, we left Nicky Hammerlane finishing his laundry and preparing to make his next round-robin run cross-country, delivering custom fixtures to a large chain of stores. While at Flynn’s truck stop in Shrewsbury, MA, Ichabod Spencer of Sleepy Hallow Livery and Transport had handed him a unique challenge—how to solve a problem before it became a problem. One of his drivers, his wife’s nephew, is a great driver; never any problems with him when he’s working , always punctual, great with customers and takes care of the equipment. The problem - or potential problem - is the young man loves to go on extended adventure vacations ranging from a month to several months in duration. Upon his return, he cheerfully goes back to driving for his uncle. Once he accumulates enough funds he takes off on another adventure. Ichabod’s concern is that sometime in the near future one of his other drivers is going to complain that he’s showing favoritism and nepotism towards this vagabond trucker. Nicky’s assignment is to find a way to allow the nephew to continue taking time off, while making sure Ichabod’s other drivers don’t feel they’re being taken advantage of.

Nothing like a long drive on a desolate interstate to do some serious thinking. I’d left Flynn’s over a week ago, delivered fixtures to 10 stores, reloaded for the Boston area yesterday and was in the middle of Nevada. Interstate 15 through Nevada and Utah is both invigorating and a good time for introspection. Add to that I-80 from SLC through Wyoming and on to Omaha, and you could likely solve the world’s problems. Time to put the hammer down and do some intense problem-solving for Ichabod. 3,000 miles so far and I still didn’t have a clue as to a solution.

It was somewhere just before Sydney, NE, that the solution appeared. The timing couldn’t have been better - to celebrate, I stopped for a quick browse through the salmon fishing gear and a Roast Buffalo sandwich at Cabela’s Outdoor Store.

After lunch, I called my dispatcher, who happens to be my grandson, Nicholas Hammerlane III, a member of that misunderstood-by-us-old-guys group known to the world as Millennials (born from 1981 through 2000). As I drove, I listened.

This is what my grandson said: “Pops, we want it all, just like Dad’s generation and your generation. And in a lot of ways we did, do and will. What I mean is, I grew up in a time where every milestone was marked with celebrations and praise. Not just birthdays, but remember I wore a cap and gown for my kindergarten graduation, fourth to fifth grade graduation, middle school to high school. Then a big deal when I graduated from high school, and I’m sure it’ll happen again when I complete college. Same was true when I played sports; even the losing team was rewarded with individual trophies of accomplishment. I was raised on teamwork from sports to homework to the video games I played. And this was all part of keeping every waking hour occupied with activity. Never was given the chance to be bored. If it wasn’t school and homework, it was baseball, Boy Scouts, FFA, activities at school and church. If I had a moment to myself it was ‘turn on the computer or Xbox ‘.” 

“I see,” I responded.

“For real? No disrespect here, Pops, but many of us were never allowed to fail; even if we did, we were treated like we won. Lucky for me, you let me fall flat on my face a time or two, and you made me get up, dust myself off, and analyze what went wrong so I wouldn’t repeat the mistake. But among the teachers and other adults around me, that was a rarity. It was more about validation and making sure I had a positive self-esteem. Or that’s what they thought they were doing. It wasn’t that failure wasn’t an option; it was to be ignored like it never happened, so everyone felt good. Great in theory.”

“So, Nicholas,” I asked, “How do we older generations create a work environment that appeals to you Millennials so you’ll stay with a job for more than a few months? How do we take it a step further so you stay with the job for several years?”

“It comes down to the following items,” and Nicholas began his list. “One, it can’t be the same all the time; it needs to be different, and a constant challenge - remember all those video games. That’s one reason I really thrive on dispatching. It’s never the same, always different and a challenge with every load to be covered. It needs to be the same for a millennial trucker.”

“And?” I asked.

“Flexibility,” he answered. “We want to do something exciting when the opportunity presents itself. If a friend’s coming to town we haven’t seen in a while, we want the world to take a pause so we can visit and do something together.”

“Anything else?” I flipped my lights to let a tanker back into the right lane ahead of me.  

“One simple word. Work must be fun. We Millennials balk at doing things “the way it’s always been done,” because we want freedom of choice in everything. It’s not the assignment, but we’ll challenge the methodology. Remember our discussion years ago about my downloading a “cheat code” for one of my favorite video games? You thought I was cheating, but I explained it was a way to get through the game more efficiently by finding the codes to do so, kind of like your loose-leaf logbook you used to run.”

Dratted grandkid. Never forgets anything, I thought.

“The cheat codes made the game a lot more fun,” Nicholas continued, ”because I wasn’t stuck on the same level doing the same thing over and over until I got bored and left the game altogether. We want those same “cheat codes” for work, not to cheat anything or anyone, but to get to the next challenge or the next level.”

“Rewards, flexibility, challenging, different all the time and fun?” I asked.

“You got it, Pops; hit all five and you’ll have a Millennial enjoying his or her job with you for a very long time. Well, long in Millennial terms, which would be about 5 years.”

“Thanks, One of Three,” I said. “You’ve enlightened this old man as to the ways of your generation. Have a great day, grandson of mine, and I’ll call you tomorrow to check in as usual.”

“Hasta la vista, Pops,” Nicholas III said. “And good luck with Ichabod’s challenge.”

The remainder of my cross-country jaunt was spent taking each of the five things and coming up with an employment policy for Ichabod’s trucking company.

Once I delivered my shipment in Boston, I called Ichabod and let him know I was headed to Flynn’s in Shrewsbury. When I arrived, Ichabod had secured a table at the restaurant. I shook his hand, took a seat across from him, signaled for a cup of joe, and laid out my notes. 

Join Nicky for the next installment of The Case of the Disappearing Driver in our next blog. 

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