There has been discussion in the past on Team Run Smart and other truck related publications regarding the younger generations versus the older seasoned generations. The discussion usually revolves around teaching the newcomers the values from the old timers with regard to safety, courtesy, and cleanliness at truck stops and rest areas. I believe this is the first step in the process, identifying what needs to be accomplished; but how do we accomplish this task?
Probably since the second generation walked the earth, there have been communication issues and obstacles between each successive generation. Each subsequent generation has its own values and to some extent its own language. So how do we bridge the canyon? Let’s take a look at the different generations alive today.
Traditionalists (1900-1945): Sometimes called the “silent generation” due to their willingness to confirm quietly and sacrifice for the greater good.
- They are hardworking, loyal, respect authority and usually follow directions without questions.
- They keep work and home separate, prefer a formal chain of command and at the end of their career they quietly leave work but want to leave a legacy and be known for hard work and dedication.
- They may have a cell phone but only for emergencies.
- I would say a large majority of Traditionalists are retired from the transportation industry and with their departure goes all of their knowledge and experience.
Baby Boomers (1946-1964): This is the largest generation of our era and has had to compete with their peers for everything.
- Due to the competition they are always looking for an advantage to set them apart.
- They embrace networking and understand the value of these connections now and in the future.
- They prefer group time, face-to-face meetings, and working in collaboration with others.
- In watching their Traditionalist parents, they have learned a strong work ethic and sometimes became workaholics.
- A Baby Boomer may have a cell phone for convenience, but technology is typically seen as a necessary evil.
- Given that the average age of these truck drivers are in their 50’s, the majority of current drivers would fall into the Baby Boomer category.
Generation X (1965-1980): This is the smallest generation of our era who grew up watching their Baby Boomer parents endure tough competition, long work hours and as the great corporate reward for the long hours, downsizing.
- They learned to be very resourceful, stay ahead of their competition, and the value of building a portable career so they can remain flexible and withstand workplace changes.
- They are very independent and skeptical of being told what to do without knowing the end result which is an opposite trait of a Traditionalist.
- They prefer to know the end result and be left alone to use their skills and resources to achieve the goal on their own.
- They will have a cell phone or smart phone and will use it for phone calls, texting and social media.
- They see technology as an important skill for their career survival and as a daily convenience. This generation makes up the second largest sector in the transportation industry.
Generation Y (1981-1994): This is the second largest and the most adaptable generation of our era.
- They are highly social and work well in groups.
- During their school years many were moved from individual desks to tables, and worked in groups.
- In this generation everyone got a trophy for participating, no winners or losers.
- They are very confident and believe they can do anything or be anything they want.
- They are often referred to as “entitled” and want to be seen as capable and made to feel their contributions are meaningful.
- Their Baby Boomer or Generation X parents taught them the values of flexibility and being entrepreneurial.
- They are easily bored and will often juggle activities outside the workplace.
- They have no problem changing jobs or careers if they feel the pasture is greener elsewhere.
- They view technology as an extension of themselves where phone calls can be annoying and use texting as their preferred form of communication. We’ve all seen kids in this generation sitting together in a room, sometimes right next to each other, and carrying on a conversation with each other, with text messages without uttering a single word.
- This generation could be considered as the newcomers to the transportation industry coming fresh out of driving schools.
Generation Z (1995 – Present): This generation is unique in our era as they have never known life without electronic screens of some type in front of them.
- Unlike previous generations that had to work and dig for information in libraries and used encyclopedias, this generation has access to unlimited information with the touch of a screen.
- For many, their screen experiences versus real life experiences are blurred and they interpret both the same way which gives them the unique ability to grasp abstract concepts easily.
- Previous generations were required to memorize information, but Generation Z is considered the curators of information; they do not memorize but have the ability to efficiently access the information.
- They do not have a definite division between home and work and are extremely comfortable sharing all aspects of personal information all across the web. Since the oldest of this generation is only 19, the transportation industry has yet to see this generation enter our ranks.
Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are process-oriented so the steps taken to get from point A to point B matter, whereas the younger generations are more result-orientated and they do not require the building block approach. As we age, our brains process information differently and it’s important to understand this when communicating with people. Since people of different generations communicate differently, it is good to remember that just because you tell a younger person something once doesn’t mean they heard it or learned it. Maybe an e-mail or text will stick with them better if face time isn’t important, after all it is the way they have been educated in our public education system and how they’ve been taught to learn.
Equally important for the younger generation to remember, just because you sent a text or tweet doesn’t mean the intended person received or understood your communication.
A typical complaint of the older generation is the younger generations’ lack of eye contact when communicating which makes sense when you think about the abundance of smart phone usage today. Eye contact isn’t a requirement with their form of communication and that is often interpreted as not paying attention. The Traditionalist or Baby Boomer will try to get face time to share information and will wait until they can catch you if necessary because body language and your reaction are integral to their form of communication; whereas a Generation X or Y individual will send you an e-mail, text or group tweet and move on. Baby Boomers and some of the early Generation X individuals can be great mentors for members of Generations Y and Z. They can help teach them the importance of face-to-face interpersonal communication and in turn, the Baby Boomers and Generation X individuals can learn technology from Generations Y and Z. It is certainly a two-way street.
I find it interesting to look at how the different generations have adapted to our changing world. What I have taken from this is that each generation has its own values and dealing with people from different generations takes work and patience. I know I don’t have the answers to the age old question of bridging the communication gap between generations, and I don’t believe there is one correct answer or approach.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how the different generations deal with our world, it is up to each individual to determine the best approach when communicating and training people from different generations. Be open to new approaches in giving and receiving information and suggestions. Hopefully we can learn from each other, communicate and train more effectively, thereby make our transportation industry better each day.