TORONTO, Ont. – It’s a well-known and often-used industry truism that he who has drivers wins.
Attracting the right type of driver is key to carrier growth, and particularly challenging as the industry is hit with the double whammy of an aging work force nearing retirement and the younger generation’s lack of interest in the trucking way of life.
The strategy required to fill those empty seats was the key issue discussed at this year’s Canadian Recruiting and Retention Conference, held Sept. 22-23 at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto.
The first step in successful recruiting is developing an effective recruiting department. That may sound obvious but it’s telling how often the industry falls short, said Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Transportation Solutions.
“If recruiting is just an afterthought or if your recruiter wears several different hats, then that person isn’t solely dedicated towards bringing in solid recruits and that means your trucks will likely remain parked in the yard,” said Anderson.
The first line of communication between a potential driver and a company is the telephone, he pointed out. Because it is the first point of contact, the phone is very important in the hiring process. Yet many recruiting departments have automated answering services, which tend to drive people away, Anderson said. Sixty-four per cent of callers hang up when they get connected to voice mail, and within that 64 per cent are potential qualified drivers, he said.
The speed of the hiring cycle is also important, he added. The slower the hiring cycle, the more qualified drivers will be lost to other companies, Anderson warned.
“There’s no reason why we can’t begin the process over the phone and get the information we need to start looking into the person’s application. It will speed up hiring and it will make the driver feel like he doesn’t have to apply to other companies,” said Anderson.
Since people tend to be committed to people rather than companies, it’s also important to emphasize the human aspect of the hiring cycle and recruitment department.
“When I was a recruiter, I used to give the potential driver a ‘commitment number’ as soon as I had them on the phone,” said Anderson. “It would show the driver that I’m committed to his application and ultimately to him.”
Anderson believes that conditional hires are the way to go: “There is no harm in starting to process an application simply from the information learned over the phone. When the applicant makes his way into the terminal, part of the application is already done. If it turns out that the driver has a criminal record or fails a drug test, then the application and the commitment number can both be terminated.”
Giving the driver a number it makes him accountable for orientation and for showing up at the terminal to finish the application process, said Anderson. And, perhaps most importantly, it shows him that you care.
It’s easy to get the information needed to begin processing the applicant by having a phone conversation, rather than expecting the potential driver to fill out an application – in fact you will get more information than you need through conversation, Anderson advised.
Seventy five per cent of turnover happens within the first 90 days of employment, so another good practice to get into is sending “re-hire” letters to drivers who took other jobs or quit. Such letters take away the fear of rejection and if the driver’s new job doesn’t work out, you may get him back.
Letters are most effective when sent 45 days after the driver has left the company, and then again after six months, and always on Dec. 1 because Christmas time is often a time when people are seeking employment, Anderson said.
With more technology trends finding their way into the trucking industry, Internet recruiting is becoming a good way to find qualified drivers too but it has to be used properly, he said.
“Sixty-four per cent of one Canadian carrier’s drivers were hired from Internet applications, it is possible to find the quality drivers that the industry has to offer through the Internet,” Anderson said.
It is important to have very few required fields on Internet applications, he added. And including an electronic authorization field will allow the recruiter to begin processing the application and doing a background check.
Be sure to get back to online applicants quickly with a personal e-mail message and if possible with general information about the company attached so that they know their applications aren’t floating in cyberspace, added Anderson.
Another recruitment method worth consideration is a driver referral program, he said.
“A sign-on bonus can make you look desperate, but a bonus for drivers who refer other qualified drivers to you is a good place to invest your money,” he said. “It works best if you can approach drivers individually and ask them for their help. The response is usually quite phenomenal.”
Anderson suggested the payout time has to be minimal for referral and sign-on bonuses because the driver shouldn’t be left hanging. He also questioned if cash is the best reward.
“Surveys I’ve conducted show that drivers prefer to receive gifts as bonuses rather than cash because cash is spent before they get it. But a set of tires for their truck, or clothing, or a deep freezer full of meat will last much longer and will be appreciated even more,” said Anderson.