RST Sunbury Transport didn’t actively participate in Trucking HR Canada’s Top Fleet Employers program when Stacey Miller was promoted to director of human resources in 2017. But she quickly recognized the program’s gala as a place where the business could celebrate strategies among an elite group of trucking companies.
This year, she was celebrated in her own right.
Miller has been named 2022 HR Leader of the Year, recognizing her work on initiatives including a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, and steps to welcome and support New Canadian truck drivers and their families. RST Sunbury Transport secured an Award of Excellence for diversity and inclusion as well.
“New Brunswickers speak two languages, English and French. We are all pretty the same. So very quickly, within the first year, I realized that we need to look different here,” she says. “Atlantic Canada is very Caucasian. It’s only been the last few years that we’re really seeing that our workforce is really diversifying.”
Having a robust diversity, equity and inclusion strategy makes good business sense, she adds.
“Employees and potential recruits want to work for an organization that respects the unique perspectives and potential of all team members.”
The fleet strategy, led by an employee committee, now incorporates initiatives like unconscious bias training, women’s leadership summits, multicultural potlucks, and scholarships. HR employees and other leaders are also tested to understand individual biases. “Because we all have them [biases]. It’s really about self-awareness. It opens the discussion to talk through these things,” Miller says.
While making employees feel safe and welcome does help with retention, an immigration strategy plays a central role in sourcing new recruits.
When Miller first joined the company five years ago, RST Sunbury’s recruitment team completed a mission overseas, hiring 50 qualified drivers from Eastern Europe. And the process has continued, helping New Canadians settle into their new jobs and communities.
While this is a challenging task, she describes it as “the most rewarding experience I will ever have in my lifetime.”
The fleet’s settlement team and immigration specialists start discussions with new drivers months before they arrive in Canada. Everything is considered, Miller says. Among other things, they get information on grocery stores, how to open bank accounts, where and how to apply for a Social Insurance Number, where places of worship are, and the schools their kids will attend.
At first the drivers arrive in Canada alone, to complete training and obtain a Class 1 licence. Once the transition to the fleet is complete, however, the families join them. And if their partners do not speak English, the team helps set up language training for them as well.
“We’re making a huge investment in people, and we want to create that stickiness so that they want to stay and live their life in St. John, New Brunswick. We make sure they have everything they need to be successful,” Miller says.
An inclusive workplace
As people from countries including Ukraine, Israel, Nigeria, and Russia joined the company, she quickly realized how important an inclusive workplace would be.
“Now, all of a sudden, we’re starting to look different. We sound different. We eat different foods. We have different cultures. That’s when I quickly realized we need to get more aggressive in terms of unconscious bias training. We need to have more discussions.”
Just recently Miller deliberately hired Russian, Ukrainian and Mexican people to be a part of her team. They have settled in Canada with their families and speak the same language as many newly recruited drivers.
Knowing there is someone “just like you” helps the newcomers, Miller says.
But she knows that teams also need to ensure all drivers and employees are content in their roles.
“It’s one thing for me to feel good about it. But does the driver feel good about it?” Miller says.
Some of the answers to that question emerge through the concerns, suggestions and feedback expressed through an anonymous annual engagement survey. And even though the numbers have been favourable so far, Miller says her team has learned a lot through the communication tool.
To further strengthen the communication channels, the fleet recently launched a newsletter. And last year it named a high-performing driver to the new position of driver experience specialist. It’s a role that offers an unbiased ear to better understand driver opinions and concerns, while also leading driver engagement initiatives and training.
“He’s just the guy that will pull into whatever yards, bring coffee and snacks, and sit around with the drivers and have a great conversation with them — with nothing more than building relationships,” Miller says. “If [drivers] have concerns, sure, he’s the guy that’s going to follow up. But really, it’s about making sure drivers feel that there’s a safe, respectful space to chat.”
She says she’s proud of the honor of HR Leader of the Year but is especially grateful to have the HR team’s efforts recognized — because their efforts and creativity make it all possible.
The Top Fleet Employers gala has sparked new ideas and helped strengthen the fleet’s brand within the job market, too.
“We’ve seen an uptick [in] applications and their caliber,” Miller says.
That’s certainly worth celebrating as well.
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