Meet them in the middle: How understanding millennials will help you retain them

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Oct 28, 2022
Group of Millennial associates in meeting together

Generational divides are always tricky to bridge. Whether you’re thinking about how a parent and child evaluate a simple situation or how a global corporation recruits and retains associates, different ages and experiences create different expectations.

During the most recent National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA) Convention in Colorado Springs, Colo., David Coletto, CEO of research and strategy firm ABACUS Data showcased how the generational makeup of the North American workforce has shifted since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and how business owners today, in any industry, must be increasingly aware of how their companies are perceived and received by Millennials.

Transportation and trucking may not be the most glamorous industry, but it is one of the world’s most vital. Coletto believes trailer dealers and other companies in the sector can use that in their recruitment efforts of Millennials — who now and for the next few decades will represent North America’s largest segment of the workforce.  

[RELATED: Millennials aren’t from Mars: Generational perceptions impact technician retention]

“No generation has been written about more than the Millennials but I think often people over-exaggerate the differences between them [and prior generations],” says Coletto. He says just like their parents — most of whom are Baby Boomers — Millennials desire to have a home, family and healthy marriage. They still want to have children and strive to have a successful career. He says what makes them different is the timeline in which they expect to achieve those goals, as well as how they define success in their careers.

Regarding the former, Coletto says the biggest difference between Millennials and their parents are the dates in which they experience major life events. Young people are getting married and having children at older ages than ever before. Coletto says among higher earning career-focused Millennials, in particular, achieving professional success and stability is increasingly being achieved first, marriage and children following later.

Coletto attributes that shift in Millennials’ thinking to their life experiences. He says this is a generation that has seen higher divorce rates among its parents than any other group in history. They’ve also seen the cost of living to raise a family skyrocket from their youth. Coletto says many Millennials are hesitant to take that step into domesticity until they feel they are best prepared to offer the best future for their future children.

Millennials also care deeply about what they do. Coletto says this is a generation that prioritizes “making a difference” in the world and gravitates toward jobs, careers and industries that will validate their desire to do good.

Generations in the workforce chartDavid Coletto, CEO, ABACUS Data, presented this data on the generations found in the North American workforce during the 2022 NTDA Convention.

Coletto says the transportation industry can use that to their advantage and I think he’s right.

Our industry is essential. Vital. Indispensable. Choose whatever adjective you’d like.

Our economy breaks down without trucking. And trucking breaks down without dealers, distributors and service shops out there doing everything they do each day to keep freight moving. Your business makes a difference in the lives of others. You can use that.

When you’re interviewing a young person for a role in your business, take time to describe to them how your business fits into our economy. Make sure they understand how the work they would be doing supports their community.

You can also sell the stability so many of these Millennials crave. Coletto says a lot is said about how Millennials job hop and often expect working conditions that are viewed as unreasonable by prior generations — such as working remotely, working unconventional hours and being provided career roadmaps or promotion opportunities almost immediately after being hired.

[RELATED: FTR's Eric Starks offers positive outlook for trailer sector at NTDA Convention]

And I’ll admit, in some cases those demands absolutely are unreasonable. A technician can’t choose his own hours. A counter person can’t demand an outside sales territory after two weeks on the job.

But what is also true is that in a lot of cases, those young people are demanding of their employers because they believe their career standing dictates the pace in which they can achieve their life goals. They want the marriage, the two kids, the house and the dog and they don’t want to wait forever for the position that will give them the confidence to invest in that reality.

So Coletto says, and I agree, show them that future when you show them your next open position. Highlight the seniority and tenure of your workforce — the associates your business absolutely relies on who entered the company as twentysomethings and have built great lives for themselves. Stress the importance of everything you do, every day, and why it matters.

They are the employment pool of the future whether you like it or not. Best to lean in and meet them where they are. For your success and theirs.

Learn how to move your used trucks faster
With unsold used inventory depreciating at a rate of more than 2% monthly, efficient inventory turnover is a must for dealers. Download this eBook to access proven strategies for selling used trucks faster.
Used Truck Guide Cover