The Millennials are Coming: Is the Freight Industry Ready?

By: Lance Healy

No matter your opinion on them, the millennials are coming. In some workplaces, older millennials are already entering management positions and making business-altering decisions. If you’ve been online recently, it’s been mostly doom and gloom: Articles about millennials “killing” industries have been making waves as further proof that millennials are eventually going to destroy everything near and dear to the older generations’ hearts.

However, for many companies, millennials make up almost the complete bulk of new hires. When a new generation enters the working world, there can be an adjustment period. This rings especially true for industries like transportation and logistics management; professional areas that haven’t seen a difference in the way they do business for many years.

Much like adapting to the latest technological trends, understanding the next generation of employees is an important step for your business’ health. Our latest article kicks off a three-part series on millennials in the workplace, especially within the freight industry. Part One features statistics that show the changing trends, as well as some examples of workplace approaches that are already drastically changing.

Changing Scenery

According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials became the largest generation in the workforce back in 2015. Since the millennial generation is loosely defined as containing those born in the early-80s to the early-2000s, it is safe to say that millennials will still be entering the workforce for years to come. Time Magazine predicts that 3 out of every 4 workers will be a millennial by 2025. When such a large percentage of the population all comes of age at roughly the same time, they will inevitably bring new perspectives and opinions on how business should be conducted.

According to an Ernst and Young survey of millennial workers, 87% of those millennials in managerial roles, had been placed there within the last five years. Compare that to 38% of generation Xers and only 19% of baby boomers–within that same period–and you’ll see why workplace trends are changing so rapidly. This shows that millennials are being placed in management positions at faster rates than both older generations.

How Millennials are Affecting the Workplace

Millennials have taken a different approach to their work than previous generations. Part of this is that millennials place a higher value on personal happiness than professional happiness. According to Officevibe, an employee engagement software company, 84% of millennials say making a difference in the world is more important than professional recognition. That’s a huge number of working Americans who are saying that their workplace focus should be shifted. When millennials who think this way are placed in managerial roles, this mindset trickles down to the rest of a company’s employees. That is why many companies today focus on community outreach and involvement as a way to keep their employees engaged in more than just their work.

Other than saving the world, millennials are also interested in where they are saving it. Because millennials care more about the impact and meaning of their jobs, they are less likely than older generations to care about the rigidity of a 9-to-5 workday. If a career is meaningful to a millennial, they are more likely to pump out extra hours at all times of the day. According to a Gallup poll and ABC News, millennials have higher expectations for their work’s value in the world, causing them to shape an ideal career around their life. Because of this, millennials are eschewing stringent work hours and are instead asking to work from home multiple days of the week.

While older generations might look at that and think millennials are just trying to get in some more nap time, the study shows the opposite. In fact, “the study discovered that engagement climbs when employees split their time between working remotely and working in an office with their coworkers.” Going even further, the poll states that the optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 3 or 4 days—in a five-day work week—working remotely. Those are surprising statistics that go to show the different approaches different generations bring to their work. Those numbers are compelling, but what is best depends on the industry and work being done. While there is no clear answer to what is best for any given company, it is interesting to see the difference in thinking between generations.

How this Affects Logistics

Like the rest of the industries in the US, the transportation and logistics industry will soon be overrun by millennials. People are split on this: some think that the industry is perfect for millennials, while others believe that the industry needs to be adapted to appeal to the upcoming generation. Either way, when millennials become the bulk of transportation professionals, they will bring new attitudes and methods to a largely staid industry.

The most prominent, and obvious, business solution that millennials will bring to the table is more technology. In an industry that sees major companies relying on spreadsheets to book shipments, this could come with a bit of a learning curve. Don’t fear baby boomers! Millennials are the first generation to be raised in a digital world. Therefore, they are completely comfortable handling and learning about new technologies. Millennials will use technology to their advantage by streamlining entire processes that move businesses forward. Look for new apps and easier-to-use web services to make transportation management as streamlined as possible. 

Millennials are the first generation to work to live, instead of living to work. What that means is that millennials are more interested in their work-life balance than previous generations. Because of that mentality, millennials are more engaged with their work if they perceive a sense of difference-making or quality-of-life improving. Members of older generations view these attitudes as a sense of entitlement or millennials setting the bar on their own value too high. At its most basic level, transportation and logistics do make a difference in the real world. Delivering on promises and providing people with everything they could possibly need is a big deal. Millennials will bring this feeling of the “bigger picture” to the workplace by taking the long view of their work and understanding that what they do has a large impact on people’s lives.

Another area where millennials are changing the workplace is how they are managed. According to Jeff Fromm, a millennial marketing consultant, millennials respond better to “a coach, not a boss.” What he means by this is that millennials respond better to environments where the upper-level managers act more as mentors over taskmasters. Jeff cites a survey that shows the number one reason why millennials leave their jobs is because of their boss. Another area connected to managing millennials is how their performances are reviewed. Millennials see an annual review process as deeply flawed. Instead, they see more frequent check-ins as the way to better understand their job performance. As more and more millennials enter management positions, transportation and logistics companies will soon see an overhaul in their review process. Instead of Michael Scott, get ready for Coach K.


This post is the first in a series we have planned here at Banyan Technology. We believe that changing workplace dynamics are going to have a major impact on the overall health and well-being of the transportation industry. To prepare companies for that change, our three-part series will dive into the perspectives of millennials in the industry, as well as older professionals who are getting accustomed to these younger coworkers.

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The way your workplace will function depends on you having the knowledge and information handy to effectively manage your workers. Stay informed to keep your business operations running as smoothly as possible.


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