As published in "The Coal Transporter," Issue 2, 2018
Millennials. Who are they and how do they think about the world? And why should this matter? By 2020, Millennials will comprise 50% of the entire global workforce, and 75% by 2025. Managing them effectively will ensure success in the corporate environment. “In 2005, 75 percent of our employees were baby boomers,” says Diana Sorfleet, vice president and chief human relations officer at CSX Transportation. “Now, we’re about a third Millennials, a third Gen Xers, and a third baby boomers.”
Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history. They have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization, and economic disruption that has given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents. They are the first generation of digital natives, and their affinity for technology will help shape how they operate in their personal and professional lives. They are used to price comparisons, product information, and peer reviews. For the first time, technology is ubiquitous. Functioning as global citizens is becoming an important part of how society functions.
In the last 5 years, 87% of Millennials took on management roles, and these types of statistics are only accelerating as time goes on. This change in the workforce comes at a time when the railroad and fossil fuel industries are looking to make a shift towards technology. Class I executives are looking for an improved, targeted quality process as their competitive advantage, and a way to put greater focus on capital efficiency. Miners and drillers are looking to leverage data sources through data scientists, AI strategists, and other specialists to utilize technology while improving processes and systems.
So how does this apply to the rail and coal industries? Until now, these industries have suffered from a lack of resources and incentive from senior management to implement the technology that will facilitate upgrades. Professionals have been forced to accept an overall environment of disconnected data, pricing discrepancies, and an opaque market which has made their processes highly inefficient and arduous. However, Commtrex has emerged as a leading developer of automated processes by providing secure cloud-based exchange technology available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. On this type of online platform, industry professionals can negotiate deals, acquire market-based data, and access stored documents. It also becomes easy to facilitate shipper connections with lessors, storage facilities, railroads and service providers -- e.g., repair facilities, transloaders, etc. Negotiations and RFP’s are expedited by as much as 85%, business decisions are bolstered with market insight, and companies find themselves more efficient and at a greater competitive advantage.
There will still be some who are hesitant to learn technology, believing it has no material application to their job performance. The rail and coal industries have historically been relationship-based businesses, and rail logistics or fossil fuels managers have not needed the support of technology to be successful in their roles. However, taking the time to learn will help create bonds with the next generation and better understand how they look at the world. Never again will we see Fuel and Fleet Manager positions as long term career jobs. These roles will be transitory positions for the next generation, and technology will be essential to ensuring accurate knowledge transfer between individuals to facilitate successful transitions. The average Millennial stays in a job position for 2 years, versus a Gen Xer’s 5 years and a Baby Boomer’s 8 years. Based on that data point alone, it is incumbent upon those currently in the railroad and coal industries to ensure that the next generation of leaders leverage technology to facilitate information flow for the managers who will be in these transitory positions. We are currently undergoing the next major Industrial Revolution, and yet there are not enough skilled resources to address the future needs of the rail and coal industries. It is more important now than ever that we recruit the right talent from this next generation to safeguard the future of our industry.