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

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Updated Nov 26, 2019

Recruiting Millennial Technicians

One aspect of workplace culture that is overlooked when discussing employee turnover and retention is generational understanding. The work environment Millennials and Generation Z expect from their employers is different than the Baby Boomer-developed corporate culture found in most of trucking’s service businesses.

Generation X accepted a workplace culture it didn’t prefer but generally understood; latter generations aren’t quite as malleable. Retaining young professionals in today’s service channel doesn’t require a complete overhaul of one’s business, but it does require a willingness to accept not all employees have the same personal and professional desires.

One area where this is most evident is in how young professionals approach their career path. Millennials are eager to climb the corporate ladder. Many become disillusioned by long periods in a single role and some will abandon a steady job with one employer for the potential of career advancement elsewhere.

“That’s very clear with the generation we see coming into the business today,” says Homer Hogg, TA/Petro director of technical service. “If you don’t show them your opportunities, it is easy for them to think they are stuck in one environment.”

Managing those expectations can be difficult in service operations where promotion opportunities are minimal, but executives and service managers can allay some concerns of young associates by presenting clear expectations necessary to meet pay increases, bonuses or access to a preferred schedule.

That latter point, in particular, shouldn’t be overlooked. Millennials and their Generation Z counterparts aren’t always looking for 9-to-5 jobs. Many are willing to work longer days, nights and weekends to provide flexibility for their personal lives.

Many young associates also are hungry for education and validation. They want to know when they are doing a job well, but they also want to know when they’ve done something wrong. They want to know when they mess up and want to learn to be better.

That goes back to their upbringing, says Jim Pancero, professional sales advisor and consultant.

“Millennials have grown up in a rules environment,” Pancero told attendees at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week 2018. “They didn’t go outside to play. They went to practice.”

He adds, “They were taught best practices their whole life, so they’re demanding best practices from your company.”
Service providers can offer that guidance through training and mentorship. Both methods have proven effective at Affinity Truck Center, which operates a two-year apprenticeship program in which new tech hires are paired with veteran mentors to learn about the company and how to be capable technicians.

Service Manager Chris Paris speaks glowingly of how the program has helped assimilate young techs into Affinity’s ranks, referencing the mentor aspect specifically as an invaluable resource.

“We’ve found some techs coming out of school can be a little scared at first, a little shy about asking questions. The [apprenticeship] program has helped with that. It gives them someone they can go to so they aren’t asking questions in front of everyone,” Paris says.

And when those questions are answered and young techs start thriving, they should hear about that, too, both to validate their performance and to affirm their importance to their employer and the customers they service, says Charlie Nichols, general manager, TAG Truck Center – Calvert City, Ky.

“These days young people want to know their career has meaning and purpose. They want their job to have an impact and to make a difference,” he says. “Being a heavy truck technician is a great way to satisfy those desires because it’s more than just a job. Keeping trucks up and running is not only important to the driver who is on the road supporting his family, it’s also critical to our overall economy.”

Click here to download the Randall-Reilly technician wage survey


Stemming the turnover tide: Investment in your business can help retain your best technicians

Want technicians to stay at your shop? You better pay

Knowledge is power: Technician apprenticeship programs can increase retention rates

Workplace culture can be a technician retention tool

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

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