Turning your talent pool into an ocean

CALGARY, Alta. – Isabelle Hetu of Trucking HR Canada says hiring more women, minorities and Millennials will help alleviate some of the shortages the trucking industry is and will be facing in the coming years.

Speaking during the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) Employment in Trucking Expo Oct. 24 in Calgary, Hetu also said a company’s willingness to look at a variety of applicants makes finding the right person easier.

“A more diverse workforce can lead to access to more labor pools,” Hetu said, adding that a company with a diverse employment base helps the industry overall and creates a snowball effect throughout the trucking sector.

The ability to bring new ideas, various backgrounds, problem solving abilities, language skills, and technical savvy people to your company were other benefits Hetu underscored in her presentation “A Business Case for Diversity in the Workplace.”

Within the trucking sector, women represent 27% of the total employment base, with 3% of drivers, mechanics, technicians, and cargo workers being female. Eleven percent of managerial staff are women, and 18% of dispatchers.

Visible minorities make up 19% of the driver population, and with more than six million Canadians identifying as a minority, or 22% of the workforce, Hetu said there is a wealth of opportunity for trucking companies to tap into.

Those looking for a younger talent pool, Hetu, in addition to Millennials, said Indigenous Peoples are often forgotten in the hiring process.

“They are eager to find employment and are a great pool for employers to look at,” she said, pointing out that Indigenous Peoples are the fastest growing demographic in Canada, with 46% being under the age of 24.

Hetu said Millennials currently make up 37% of the Canadian workforce and will soon surpass 50%, with nine million Canadians between the ages of 18-35. In the industry, 15% of drivers are Millennials.

Women were also a segment Hetu said was looking to have greater success breaking into the industry.

“Overall, women are really under-represented in the industry,” she said, “which is ironic, because I think there’s a about half-and-half in the room today.”

Hetu said the most important thing women look for from their employer is the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced employee, and then be a mentor themselves later on in their career.

As for Millennials, flexibility is key.

“Flexible work opportunities are not just about working from home,” Hetu said, highlighting part-time agreements and load sharing as examples. “Those who have access to those flexible work opportunities are more likely to stay with your company.”

Shortages in the industry are not just about filling the driver gap, but various mechanical, technology, and administrative positions, as well.

“I know drivers are the backbone of the industry, but several other positions are facing shortages,” Hetu said, adding that 50% of trucking companies have no plan in place to hire today’s younger generation of worker.

Hetu said companies must develop a plan to attract, recruit, and retain new workers, using Trucking HR Canada’s “Three Cs” as an example – clear policies, consistent application of those policies, and that they are communicated to employees.

Sixty-seven percent of Trucking HR Canada’s Top Fleet Employers have committed to diversity programs that go above and beyond what Canadian law requires.

Of which, 77% have an employment base made up of more than 20% Millennials, 92% offer flexible work opportunities, and 85% have a formal commitment to mental health and wellness.

Hiring right the first time

Adding the topic of hiring new employees, Lisa Thompson, national account manager for Drake International, said finding the right person for the job goes far beyond the actual hiring process.

“Poor hiring practices do impact your bottom line,” said Thompson, highlighting the planning process, sourcing, evaluating, interviewing, and validating as examples.

Thompson said a company is three times more likely to make a quality hire if the business is properly branded, and that where to find candidates has also changed, with social media being a viable location to find those you wouldn’t normally be able to access.

On Facebook, for instance, companies can post a job advertisement and target hat posting for anywhere from $10-$40.

“If you’re getting candidates and people are sharing it, then how exciting is that?” Thompson said. “Use the people who want to do (social media) and manage it.”

During the interview process, Thompson said companies must validate the claims of a candidate, and should also have an understanding of objectives, create a safe atmosphere, avoid jumping to conclusions, uncover real weaknesses, listen, watch for non-verbal clues, take notes, ask why, and develop the relationship throughout.

Thompson also stressed the importance of retaining quality employees.

“Hold on to those employees you already have and have a succession plan,” she said. “Hiring right is about keeping your people as well. Don’t let the talent walk out the door, because sometimes they can be difficult to replace.”

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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