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Managing Generation Gaps for Recruiting and Retaining Drivers, Part 2

Jim Angel, PeopleNetJim Angel

By Jim Angel, Safety Security and Compliance Product Manager, PeopleNet

Part onediscussed the state of driver resources and offered ideas about incorporating generational preferences in recruiting younger drivers. This article will discuss management strategies that can improve retention of Generations X and Y drivers in light of the looming shortage.

Pervasive technology gap

Since trucking firms are pumping up their use of technology to boost operating efficiency, a discussion about the technology gaps — one of the most pervasive — among the generations is valuable.

Boomers are on the late end of the technology adoption curve, having grown up long before the rise of technology. Because technology blossomed during the later years of Boomers’ careers, they tend to have a limited view of technology’s role in optimizing workplace efficiency. They are, however, using technology and the Web as a tool for connecting, entertainment and learning, according to a TV Land study. As technology systems continue to evolve, this generation must be open-minded about exploring the latest technology solutions. Managers must extend patience and opportunities to practice in planning new implementations.

Gen X saw the inception of the home computer, the rise of video games and the use of the Internet as a tool for social and commercial purposes. They are technologically savvy and competent at managing the technology and themselves to get the job done. Gen Xers use technology to support lifestyle needs as well, such as purchasing goods, communicating, etc.

Gen Y, also known as Thumbers for how fast they thumb their cell phone or PDA keypads, have a unique familiarity with technology that vastly exceeds their predecessors. Tech is embedded into everything Gen Yers do, making them the first “native online population.”(2) They are early adopters of new technologies; they adapt to change more quickly than Gen Xers and eons faster than Baby Boomers. They tend to anticipate new technologies and accept and adopt what becomes available without hesitation-provided it enables them to meet their objectives in both personal and professional environments.

Gen Yers are more intimate with interactive and collaborative technologies that have been ever-present in their educational and social lives. They are comfortable with, and even prefer, learning via interactive technology experiences outside of a traditional classroom.

Managing Technology Gaps for Retention

As a powerful tool for improving job satisfaction and the quality of life for drivers, technology is important for retaining drivers. Let’s take a closer look at a few strategies for managing technology gaps. All three generations embrace technology to increase their personal and workplace efficiency-albeit with varying amounts of gusto, time and training.

Gen Y digital natives more than any other will want to drive for and stay with a firm that keeps its technology current and provides the value these workers expect. Think integration, flexibility and mobile for making a driver’s job easier and providing more drive time. And once Boomers “leave the farm” (the world of paper-based, manual processes), they’ll never return as they soon recognize and rely on electronic systems.

How to get to that point when implementing new technology provides an opportunity to take advantage of Gen Y’s appreciation for working in teams and Gen X’s commitment to the team they work with. Since they will catch on most quickly, match these younger generations with Boomers who as a group will require more training and practice in advance of “turning on the switch.” In turn, Boomers can mentor their teams in various other aspects of a driver’s career-a bit of peer management.

Consider extending the team concept via friendly driver competition (personal as well as teams) that leverages technology generated data about driving behaviors. This strategy deepens technology acceptance while providing a reward system and injecting a bit of fun into the culture.

There is no limit on creative ideas for managing the generational mix of one of the trucking industry’s most precious resources. I encourage you to experiment with your own creative ideas based on your unique culture. Recognize and manage to generational differences, and your drivers will be more engaged. Most important, your organization will far less likely to be caught in a driver shortage. In fact, you just might establish a reputation that attracts high-performing drivers.


“More and More Baby Boomers Embrace Technology,” Jen O’Neill,, December 28, 2008.

Social Media Optimization Blog by David Wilson, August 6, 2008 post.

Law Practice Today, “Generation X and The Millennials: What You Need to Know About Mentoring the New Generations” by Diane Thielfoldt and Devon Scheef, August 2004.

Read more about technology and attracting the new generation of drivers in the September issue of HDT.

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