Oct 31

When we last left off, Nicky had sat down with Ichabod to review his plan for the employees of Ichabod's trucking company to help encourage millenial employees to stick around, instead of disappear. 

“Wow, that’s a pile of paperwork, Nicky!” Ichabod exclaimed, eyebrows raised.

“I have to admit, Ichabod, this one nearly stumped me until I went to the source,” I responded.

“The source?”

“Another Millennial, like your nephew. You see, Ichabod, there are five needs we must fulfill if we’re going to keep Millennials in our employment. The problem is these seem to go against the grain of everything we were taught about business and employees. They are: rewards, flexibility, challenging, different all the time and fun. But think about them for a minute. Is there anything on the list that isn’t something each of us secretly strives for? They just put it out front and said, ‘If we’re going to get these things we need to demand them!’ ”

“So how do I accomplish this for all my employees?” he asked.

“Let’s take a look each one separately,” I suggested. “The first one is Rewards. The obvious ones are incentive programs such as a no violation inspection, achieving a pre-set fuel mileage, no citations over a year, no accidents, etc. The less obvious ones are taking an extra load beyond what’s required and volunteering for extra loads to permit another driver to take time off. And finally, the Millennial incentive for ‘if they show up for work on time and do everything that’s expected of them, it’s acknowledged in some meaningful way. Not all rewards need to be monetary. In the case of ‘thanks for allowing us to employ you,’ it could be as simple as a birthday card for the driver and members of his or her family. I know one carrier that pays for a night on the town for the driver and spouse for their anniversary that includes paying for a babysitter. In other words, it’s not just providing rewards for a special job well done; it’s also about rewarding life and living, something society has done for Millennials since birth, and they now expect.”

“You’re right; it’s a bit hard to swallow, but in a way I can see how we as parents set ourselves up for this,” Ichabod nodded thoughtfully. “What’s next?”

“Flexibility. This is exactly what your wife’s nephew is looking for. Millennials desire to live life now. They’ve been brought up in a world of instant gratification, and whether we agree with this or not isn’t important. What’s important is we understand what happens if they don’t have that flexibility. They’ll stay in the job until the first opportunity comes along that requires the employer to be flexible. If the employer refuses, and it’s important to the Millennial, he’ll be gone. And he may even return once the “event” is completed to get his job back.”

“So how does this work if I’m trying to run a profitable trucking company? I must service my customer’s needs first, which may be contrary to those of the employee,” Ichabod pointed out.

“There’s the Catch 22.” I finished my cup of coffee and caught the server’s eye for a refill. “Here’s what I’d recommend. Have a couple, maybe even three, part-time truck drivers that can fill in for a few weeks at a time while your Millennial goes off and does his thing. There are a number of - excuse the pun - “Semi-Retired” truckers who’d drive fill-in, and there are also other Millennials who would drive when another Millennial is off playing. In other words; one truck, two drivers. One works for three months while the other takes off three months. The idea here is to communicate with each one as you hire him or her, and find out what their idea of flexibility is, then find another trucker who’ll work the opposite of that schedule.”

“So find two drivers whose flexibility requirements mirror the others. Even though it sounds crazy, that makes sense,” Ichabod mused. “What’s number three?”

“Here’s one that sounds like a real challenge, ‘different all the time.’ Blame this one on those damnable video games. If the game just went in circles, they got bored and stopped playing. Or if getting to the next level was too difficult, they’d abandon the game. Then some ‘genius’ came up with cheat codes for the games and if a kid knew where to look, he could get cheat codes to continue on to the next level and not get bored. Well, now they want the same thing in their work, not so much the cheat codes as they don’t want to become bored.”

“Talk about needing Yankee ingenuity! How do we keep a job from being boring, especially a trucking job?”

“That was my first response,” I answered. “But then I remembered what my grandson told me. ‘The cheat codes made the game a lot more fun, because I wasn’t stuck on the same level doing the same thing over and over until I got bored and left the game all together.’ He said, “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.

“So ‘cheat’ is really the wrong word. Millennials want it to be different so it’s more challenging,” Ichabod surmised.

“Exactly, which brings us to number 5, fun. Challenging and different make the job more enjoyable. One idea that might work would be to have drivers trade off with dispatchers from time to time. That way they each can experience the life and challenges of trucking from a different perspective. Another would be to have drivers trade lanes occasionally so they aren’t running the same roads all the time. Make that need for change and new challenges become a part of the job. To add some fun to the mix, create events and contests like a trucking rodeo,  a BBQ with lawn games, book a live band or a DJ and have a parking lot dance. Here in Massachusetts, when you have a big snow, have a snow-sculpting contest with different teams the employees put together. Have a drive-in movie night in the parking lot using a computer projector and the side of a trailer.”

“Sounds like a place I’d like to work!” Ichabod slapped the table, unusual for a stoic New Englander.

“All work and no play, no challenges, and no flexibility, will drive the Millennials away. Adding some spice to the job will have them lining up at your door for the jobs available,” I predicted.

“Good advice,” Ichabod stated.

So The Case of the Disappearing/Reappearing Driver was solved.

The story you just read is true; names, locations and numbers have been changed to protect the identities of the parties involved.

Postscript: Ichabod began by hiring another Millennial whose need for flexibility mirrored his wife’s nephew. He also started having drivers and dispatchers trade places. Soon he could give every night home for his truckers who also dispatched, and his dispatchers gained a better understanding of the challenges his truckers faced. Now he only hires drivers who also want to dispatch from time to time. As far as extracurricular events for his drivers and families, they’re becoming legendary, with movie nights, dances and their annual trucking rodeo.

Image via Flickr

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