Moving Millennials Forward

Apr 13, 2016

Led by baby boomers and gen xers, Atlas Van Lines aims to deliver for the next generation.

timeline of Atlas innovations

“You know, I have two children who are millennials and they are absolutely setting the

world on fire,” said the President and COO of Atlas Van Lines, with pride exuding from his smile.

Jack Griffin sees traits in millennials that make him believe this generation can change the world. “People in my position and with my level of experience see this tidal wave of young people coming with actions and expectations that are very different; it has caused a lot of discussion in this industry about millennials as customers and as employees.”

While this is the only time in U.S. history that there have been four generations in the workplace, millennials overtook generation X as the largest population in the U.S. labor force during the first quarter of 2015. Following gen xers are baby boomers and a very small number of the silent generation.

Each of these generations lived through different formative events that shaped their values and behaviors, whether it was WWII, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, or even pop culture phenomena like the rise of music television channel MTV™. For millennials, it was the Great Recession. They entered the job market during one of the worst economic downturns America has experienced. It caused financial setbacks and delayed major life events such as getting married, starting a family, or purchasing a home.

Going new (smaller) places
The recession caused young workers to be more flexible and willing to migrate to new areas to find work or accept a relocation offered by their employer. It also taught millennials to value jobs as means to an end rather than long-term careers, so they’re open to switching frequently and fast. This open-mindedness has made millennials more likely to move during this time of their life than at any other – whether they’re leaving college, starting out in a new city, or changing jobs.

The generational shift in the workforce has caused the moving and storage industry to think on its feet. How do you adapt a business that typically moves families with 8,000 pounds of household goods, to serve the largest age group in the population that is relocating a 500 square foot apartment from Chicago to Boston?

Atlas answered this operational challenge with Atlas flex™, a small-shipment solution ideal for moving a two-bedroom apartment, equating to 4,000 pounds or less. But, there’s more that must be done.

“We need to do more. Millennials are more educated, have a higher level of preparedness, and are fueled by technology. It’s palpable through the way they’ve used technology to Uber™-ize our business,” Jack said, referring to the popular car service that gets you a ride at the tap of a button. “As an industry leader and global employer, Atlas needs to foster an environment that gives millennials a say. We can do that by turning our online lump sum tool, movr™, into an app they use to command relocation services from their smart phone, or by putting them in a work environment that doesn’t censor their ideas.”

 Practice what you Preach
“We do have service offerings like Atlas flex™ and resources like movr™ that market our business to a younger generation. However, our traditional moving service is still thriving as families relocate across the country,” said Lauren Falls, chair of YPAtlas, the business’s young professionals group. “Atlas has a diverse portfolio that demonstrates the company’s ability to serve everyone at different times in their life.”

Accommodating generational differences isn’t just a way to serve customers; it’s inherent to the culture of Atlas. While the average years of service for its management team is 16 years, it’s not uncommon for employees to be 30, 40, or 50-year veterans. Now, the company is working to meet the needs of the younger generation in order to attract and retain productive team members.

“Tech-savvy millennials have constant access to their work, so huge productivity is generated,” said Jack. “We have a competent and inclusive pool of young leaders, now it’s up to us to share our knowledge and challenge them.”

That’s exactly what Atlas is doing. In 2015, Jack assigned his development team, known as the G12, to establish a mentoring program that pairs experienced leaders with young professionals across the family of Atlas companies.

One main area of focus for the mentoring program, titled Succeed, is knowledge share. An astoundingly large portion of Atlas employees are projected to retire in the next 10 – 15 years, leaving a number of positions open to the next generation of leaders.

Also, Succeed was designed to fill millennials’ need to be engaged and challenged. This will be accomplished by encouraging mentors and mentees to collaborate on real workplace projects, even if they’re cross-departmental. 

The G12 team, along with members of Atlas human resources, hope to have a pilot group test the mentoring program by the end of 2016 and make it available in January 2017.

In the meantime, Atlas continues to be a pacesetter. Serving and employing people of all ages, determined to help anyone go new places®.

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