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My name is Thi and I’m a millennial.

Yes, one of those dreaded millennials you read about in the news, the supposedly entitled ones who want trophies for everything and spend all their time on their smartphones.

But if you work with millennials, as I’m sure most of you do, you’ll know we’re not all like that. While media outlets like to blast millennials, hiring and working with this generation does have its benefits.

A coworker brought up this positive trait about millennials in the workplace: The fact that we grew up with technology means we are more likely to embrace rather than fear or get frustrated by it.

That means millennial technicians may be more eager to work on vehicle technologies and new diagnostic tools. They may be more comfortable working with a complicated fleet management information system. They may have less of a learning curve adopting new software into the fleet.

Millennials & Fleet’s Future

People can’t seem to agree on the boundary years for millennials, but The Pew Research Center’s categorization of those who are 19 to 35 seems reasonable.

Using this definition, 12 of our “20 Under 40” fleet professionals in the January issue are millennials. I’m impressed with the entire group of 20, who have made an impression with people in their own organizations and within the industry.

How is this group different from others? I don’t have hard statistics for comparison, but 25% of the “20 Under 40” are women and 30% have master’s degrees, which seems higher than the norm.

We also asked what they were excited and concerned about for the future and nearly all of them mentioned technology. Most fleet managers I talk to, no matter their age, say that rapid changes in vehicle technology make it an exciting time, but this group will still be working for the next 30 years or so, dealing with the challenges these new technologies will create, along with data management. I imagine integrating autonomous vehicles into a fleet will be interesting.

Generalizations Don’t Apply to Everyone

I may have generalized above, but generalizations about millennials don’t apply to everyone. There are stereotypes about each generation, but the people within each group can be as different as night and day.

Bradley Northup, fleet coordinator for San Diego County, Calif., turns 32 this January, and he thinks someone on the older end of this generation is much different from someone on the younger end.

 “There’s a huge difference between someone who was born in the early ’80s vs. the late ’80s and what they were exposed to as they grew up,” he said. He said that includes memories of wars, growing up without cell phones or the Internet, and how 9/11 impacted them.

And he and I both agree there are so many negative connotations about being a millennial that it seems better to keep some distance from the term.

My 75-year-old aunt-in-law is on Facebook all the time, while my mother, a baby boomer, never touches the computer. My millennial coworker is trying to teach me how to use Snapchat, but I wonder what the point is in sending out silly messages that just disappear.

Some generalizations are true, but giving 75.3 million Americans the same characteristics can’t be accurate. Your Gen X employee may be the tech guy on the shop floor, and your 23-year-old technician may not know how to tweet. While it may be helpful to generalize, once you get to know someone, you see everyone’s a little different.

Since Northup works for a large fleet, he has coworkers from all generations. “The more diverse the workforce you have, the greater respect you have for all age groups,” he said.

What are your thoughts as a millennial or your experience working with millennials?

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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