Millennials and the Forwarding Industry

AIT Worldwide Logistics’ Vice President of Human Resources discusses her company’s approach to millennial employment trends

By Matt Sanders

Countless news stories cast an unflattering light on the millennial generation and their relationship with the workplace. But according to Elena Trujillo from AIT Worldwide Logistics, there’s little to be gained by lamenting or bucking against the prevailing millennial trends.

Trujillo is Vice President of Human Resources at the global supply chain solutions provider and rather than wading against the current, her strategy is to pursue a model that embraces millennials’ tendencies while creating positive outcomes for both AIT and its 900+ team members.

Logistics as a Career

Commenting about whether millennials are attracted to the prospect of working in the forwarding industry, Trujillo says, “We’ve found a high level of interest in supply chain management careers among young professionals. Our Human Resources team works with many colleges and we participate in numerous recruiting fairs – there’s never a lack of interest in AIT and our industry. Supply chain majors are more popular than ever and we see plenty of interested people approaching us.”

According to Trujillo, the industry offers a myriad of learning opportunities making it attractive to millennial job-seekers. “If you’re looking for your first job out of college, there are career paths in logistics where newcomers can quickly take on a lot of responsibility,” she says. “That’s especially true at a company the size of AIT.”

“Logistics also offers nearly endless career opportunities with a variety of branches. In particular, there’s a fair degree of fluidity between Sales and Operations roles,” she adds. “A fast-paced industry like ours cultivates rapid learning and careers can blossom quickly in comparison to other fields. There are also avenues available to pursue global career trajectories for those who are willing to work overseas.”

Engagement with Company Culture

Newly hired AIT team members quickly discover a variety of ways to engage with the company’s culture. Trujillo explains that the organization has ramped up companywide efforts in recent years to provide opportunities for teammates to engage with leadership and each other in structured settings.

She cites last year’s firmwide initiative that organized small group meetings to discuss AIT’s Core Values. Participants who attended these workshops and webinars responded via surveys and described behaviors that they thought should be associated with each Core Value. Thousands of individual suggestions were gathered and an intense process to identify trends in the data set ultimately yielded five Behaviors linked to each of the company’s Core Values.

As a result, Trujillo reports that the Core Value Behaviors are recognized as bona fide grass roots ideas conceptualized by team members from across AIT’s network. “By definition, everyone has a stake in the Core Value Behaviors,” she says. “While there’s value firmwide, we found that this process was particularly meaningful for our millennials. They witnessed the process up close. They saw the leadership’s sincere interest in listening and engaging. Now I think we are all realizing how the time, space and resources that were invested are beginning to pay off and strengthen our organization.”

Talent Pool Influence

A 2016 Gallup poll finds that millennials are more likely to switch jobs and more open to new job opportunities than their generational counterparts. Trujillo’s team has incorporated an understanding of these generational attitudes towards work as part of their overall approach with AIT’s workforce.

“As a company, we welcome young people onto our team and provide them with on-the-job training,” she says. “We hire college graduates who are eager to learn and we realize their first job out of school is often a temporary stop and part of their development.”

Such a statement may give pause for some employers, but from AIT’s perspective, hiring millennials is frequently a win-win situation. Trujillo says, “We generally experience great performance from our millennials before they move on to their next challenge. We hope they stay and some of them do, but sometimes they simply want to move on – no matter how great the company is. AIT respects this mindset and we have integrated it into our model.”

Attempts to retain millennial teammates who are inclined to switch jobs frequently as part of a broader lifestyle choice may be futile. Instead, Trujillo channels her team’s efforts into promoting rewarding work experiences for the company’s employees.

When considering all the former AIT team members in the marketplace, she says, “People who have previously worked here are ambassadors for AIT. Wherever they land, they’re arriving with AIT standards embedded in their skill sets: our customer focus, our proactive communication, our collaborative practices and all the other Core Values have an influence in any new role. Their performance at other companies and the opinions they share about their time at AIT are more influential than any recruiting or branding message we could ever put out there.”

Trujillo concludes, “One comment getting back to us over and over again is that we are known for having great teammates. Almost across the board, AIT employees are fond of the people they work with. We build upon that by promoting an atmosphere where leadership is listening and incorporating feedback to make improvements. We collaborate within and across teams to develop solutions. We band together to give back our time and talent with volunteer efforts in our communities. Most of all, we encourage a fun working environment where we take our tasks seriously, but not ourselves. I think that’s the reputation we’re reinforcing every day at AIT.”

Published in the Fall 2017 issue of Airforwarders Association's FORWARD Magazine.

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