Driverless trucks may loom in our future, but for now professional drivers will still haul our goods. With the economy improving, the pressure is increasing for logistics providers to tackle the driver shortage head on. A good place to start is to avoid a few of the most commonly made mistakes in driver recruiting and retention.
Turning these pitfalls into advantages was discussed by a panel of experts at the recent Intermodal Expo, held by the Intermodal Association of North America. Their observations bear close listening to because they were in total agreement on almost every point.
The single biggest mistake is failing to create and adhere to a well-thought-out recruiting strategy, they agreed. "That includes creating a brand identity that distinguishes you from other trucking employers, and keeping in contact with them throughout the hiring process," says Karen Adcock, national sales director for Conversion Interactive Agency, a recruitment consulting firm.
"The problem with most companies is that they only recruit people who want to be recruited," Adcock observes. "Make sure that you recruit the people you want to recruit. Act quickly and respond quickly. If you can't bring in that person in a short time, someone else will."
Brad Coffey, a driver for TCW Inc., cites the example of applying for a job where he wasted time talking to five different people, none of whom had talked to each other.
After he hadn't heard anything for over a month, he called to find out his application's status. Coffey was startled when he was offered a job on the spot, but by then he had found a job elsewhere. "Be proactive and don't let them hang on for 30 days," he stresses.
Coffey also underlines the importance of assigning one person to shepherd an applicant through the hiring process. Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Training Solutions, also emphasizes tasking a single manager to own the process and manage it from start to finish at a central location. "Too many carriers do it through a terminal manager who doesn't have the time because of other responsibilities," she points out.
However, she and Coffey also agree it is vital to retention to make sure the applicant at some point in the hiring process can talk to the person who eventually will be their direct supervisor.
Coffey also says this relates directly to the biggest mistake that undermines retention—not informing the applicant of all aspects of the job they are expected to carry out before they are hired. Adcock agrees: "You need a mutual understanding of expectations, both yours and theirs."
Maintaining a clear and consistent approach to recruiting is key to retaining drivers, and so is how you manage them after they come on board, notes John Vesco, executive vice president of the Hub Group.
Not only should they meet who will be managing them, but also make sure that manager understands that they are expected to be the primary point of contact for drivers. It is this supervisor who should address their concerns and follow through before they become big issues. "If a driver has a problem with payroll, the manager can't just send them to accounting; the manager should look into it," he says.
Vesco and the other panelists also take a dim view of the fad of changing their dispatchers' job titles to "driver managers" without providing them with the necessary training to fulfill that role.
Another key to retention, the panelists agree, is regularly making sure that drivers know they are appreciated and are making a vital contribution to your company's success. That should be easy, but how often do you do it?D