I recall that cute story of the Little League coach that walked out to the mound to relieve his pitcher. The young fellow looked at his coach and said, "Ah, come on, coach, I struck this guy out last time." and the coach said, "Yeah, but this is the same inning." I know that for a lot of my truckers, this inning has lasted a really long time.
However, like many of us older guys, I know this baby is going to turn around, and when it does, and when we breathe a sigh of relief, I think a lot of us are in for a truly big shock. We're going to see a new face on the driver situation twice over.
First, drivers won't be coming out of the woodwork. They are going to be hard to find, hard to hire and harder yet, to keep. When trucking begins to get back on its feet, and we go out into the marketplace, we will quickly discover we have entered a new generation of drivers. They will be younger; members of the upcoming generation of non-work ethic, high-expectation people. Therefore, they will come with all kinds of new expectations and demands that we truckers have not had to deal with, ever.
Like the old farmer, trying to hire one of these young people, and after he told the kid what he wanted him to do, the kid asked the farmer what he was going to pay him. The old farmer said, "I'll pay you what you're worth." And the kid said, "Well, I won't work for that." This younger generation tends to know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and that doesn't bother them a bit. It bothers us, but not them. They are not hooked into our value systems, and their priorities have much more to do with relationships and technology, and in fact, they trust the latter far more than the former.
Another complication is that as we talk a lot about this newer generation of drivers, and call them the "New Normal", we need to be aware of the fact that most all of the new driver managers, dispatchers, customer service reps and planners also come from this newer generation. I talk a lot about the folks who live inside the wall and the drivers who live outside the wall. Well, our world is changing on both sides of the wall.
Second, I think it is critical that we do our best to retain those basic core values and do whatever we can to instill them in the perception and behavior of our new hires. There is nothing wrong with our younger generations, but I think we would do them and ourselves a big favor if we installed a few "add-ons" to their perceptions. Certain things simply don't change. If you are a member of any one of the four working generations in the workplace today, you need to be taught and reminded regularly that:
* If you're in the trucking business, first of all, you're in the people business and secondly you're in the trucking business. This business is not just about the loads and the roads and the routes and the rates and the maps and the phones and the fuel. This business is primarily about mamas and daddys and husbands and wives and sons and daughters.
* Trust and Respect, (two words that mean the same thing), is never given. It is only loaned and is loaned only for as long as it is earned. It is loaned only to those who practice dependability and consistency in their leadership style. It is loaned only to those who practice courageous honesty. Who see the truth and who say the truth. And it is loaned only to those who are inclusive and encouraging, involving other people in their leadership style.
* The Law of Perception: I do not deal with you in terms of what you are really like. I deal with you in terms of how I perceive you to be. One huge responsibility we owe to the younger generations is to manage how they perceive us. No, we don't need their approval. Not important. But we cannot work with them and through them if we don't have their trust and respect. We must learn to be what we want them to see.
Somebody said a long time ago that just because everything's different, doesn't mean everything's changed. What hasn't changed is what brings us all together and links our generations. A fun challenge, if you ask me.