Should You Take the Plunge?
Near the end of the 20th Century, Fortune magazine wrote, “Forget your tired old ideas about leadership. The most successful corporation of the 1990s will be something called a learning organization.”And “learning” along with “continuous improvement” certainly became the buzzwords of the day. The trucking industry especially saw rapid change affecting the way it operated during the nineties. The need for change continues today with an increased emphasis on building “people skills.” Motor carriers require flexible thinkers to adapt in their constantly “learning” situations. They need employees who can work independently yet be part of a team. They must do their jobs conscientiously, resourcefully, efficiently and on time.
Yet a number of small- and mid-sized trucking companies don’t even have an HR department. Human resource agencies such as TSI Group, Keith Bagg Group and In Transit Personnel Inc., meanwhile, have been helping some carriers find the best fits for their companies through this “learning” experience for decades. They believe they have evolved their services, including recruitment, training and pre-employment testing, to meet increasing the HR pressures affecting carriers.
But is outsourcing your HR function really the best approach?
In discussing how agencies can help, Pamela Ruebusch, one of the principal owners of TSI, Tracy Jobe, president of In Transit, Silvio Rossi, senior associate of Fulcrum Search Science, a division of the Keith Bagg Group, and Steven Munro, director of sales and development for a newer player in the HR field called Hire Performance Inc., concur on the benefits:
ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES
An agency is not on the company’s payroll or benefit plan. When times are slow, the client company doesn’t have to lay off HR staff. Meanwhile, the agency has the resources to find out if the people who join an organization are who they say they are. They check candidates out thoroughly (and this is a very time-consuming task) to help minimize any potential risk for an employer bringing someone who is legally liable into the company, such as a person with an unreported impaired driving or criminal record.
On the other hand, hiring temporary managers is a great concern to carriers, notes Jobe. “If you have an interim manager and he goes on to work for somebody else, what is to prevent that manager from carrying around your client contact list anywhere he goes and possibly passing it on to your competition? Unless you have rock solid contacts and relationships, you are potentially diluting your revenue stream by employing part time or interim managers.”
For carriers with their own HR departments, HR plays two roles in placing permanent positions, explains Rossi. “Day to day recruiting, which takes up a lot of time, and scouting for talent to fit the strategy of the company, to help it grow and take it to the next level. It’s very difficult to do both successfully.”
“For one thing,” adds Ruebusch, “trucking is a very high stress environment with things going wrong every day. Finding the right people is tough. What the carriers expect doesn’t necessarily exist out there. The tyrannical, almost military-like style of management once practiced is not working for people choosing to enter the industry today. From the human capital side of the equation, carriers don’t pay enough attention to the costs of retention, the costs of turnover, employee alignment between cultural fits to the company’s values and beliefs, or to its corporate environment.”
In fact, the industry has not done what it needs to do to educate the public to attract young people to transportation as a career. Ruebusch believes carriers have to invest in making stronger presentations at the high school and college levels to show how sophisticated, challenging and important trucking has become to the overall economic management of business and the country at large. Do they even know how logistics has driven the business process to become leaner and more efficient and that the intricacies of warehousing and distribution are where the greatest gains in profitability can be found?
And because of this dearth in education, Rossi stresses carriers need to outsource to an HR firm to identify gaps that could produce disastrous results for them. Maybe they don’t conduct thorough enough interviews, for instance, or do proper aptitude testing or detailed reference checking, and end up hiring someone for the job they eventually have to fire. That costs them time and money, and often, he notes, valuable customers.
The questions Ruebusch, Jobe, Rossi and Munro agree a company needs to ask itself before considering outsourcing are:
1. Are there things we would like to improve in our HR practices or the people in the organization and how do we get there?
2. Where is the company being challenged from a human capital perspective?
3. Is it a department?
4. Do we have the resources to identify these problems?
5. How can we make this a good place to work?
6. Is there a common vision or mission that is driving our organization?
7. If not, how do we decide on one?
8. Are we asking the right questions to ferret out an applicant’s true competencies?
9. How do we know for sure this applicant will fit with our team already in place to help it become even more productive?
10. How can we find out this applicant’s true leadership potential?
11. This person’s skills and experience look terrific on paper, but how do we know for sure this is a manager we want in our company?
12. How do we know the references listed on any application form are the right people to talk to about an applicant’s previous performance?
13. How do we know the educational certificates, credits and licenses the applicant has listed for the manager’s position are authentic?
14. How do we find out if this driver we want to hire has a hidden criminal record that could increase our risk of legal liability?
If a company can’t answer these questions satisfactorily, then it is definitely time to seek outside help.
There are a plethora of pre-employment services that agencies such as TSI, InTransit, Fulcrum and Hire Performance offer including driver abstracts (history records), personality profiles, aptitude tests -whether they are sales, mechanical or administrative – professional reference reports, credit analysis reports, education and technical certification verifications, and executive or customer surveys. Each is applied to different positions available in a company, but these agencies see these services as an HR Toolbox. Each one is separate, but, put together, they make up a complete story on any applicant to help select the best fit for a company’s needs.
TSI works in three stages with companies: the discovery process, corporate interaction, and then one-on-one coaching. It has also developed a trademark test it calls the CEO Process-Corporate Evolution Optimization. This stands for helping companies evolve and optimize to what they want to be.
“We measure the mission and vision of a company versus the employees and what they believe in,” Ruebusch explains. “We diagnostically merge them together and see where the gaps are. From these results, we can then design a program specifically around where that company is challenged to help it achieve self-actualization: that is, getting everybody in the company to work for its common good. Until you know what the people really think, then the company’s vision and mission might not mean anything to anyone.”
RETAINING QUALITY PEOPLE
To keep well-qualified managers that trucking companies value, Ruebusch recommends a book called Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. “What he says is that you have to get the right people on the bus, and the right people have to sit on the right seats on the bus. But, it’s also imperative that you get the wrong people off the bus because it’s not fair to the right people to keep the wrong people on too long.”
Jobe gives the example of a company with an excellent dispatcher. S
he says, “You are dealing with gold. You are talking about somebody who is going to be a positive force in client and driver retention, but even more so in business practices because he or she is going to optimize the use of the trucks. This takes supreme interpersonal skills, and not enough truckers recognize or acknowledge the value of this ability to motivate people to excel and to make drivers feel respected while, at the same time, letting them feel comfortable with themselves.”
OUTSOURCING HIGH RISK PLACEMENTS
In light of today’s security-versus-human rights demands, however, there is more at risk than just finding a productive worker who fits the company culture. International carriers have to qualify for the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) and Partners-in-Protection (PIP) programs if they want to transport goods to and from the U.S. in an efficient manner. FAST and PIP make accurate background checks on drivers, dock workers, shipping clerks and receivers as well as traveling sales representatives and company executives mandatory.
In Ontario, particularly in transportation, it is already legislated that anybody who works in a vulnerable sector such as people who deal with children, the elderly and the handicapped – bus drivers, teachers, day care workers, hospital workers – requires a criminal check every year. New security legislation to come into effect in Ontario in 2004 will further make background checks mandatory for all company employees – whatever they do – and affect how personnel documents are handled. Yet again, this Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Document Act will force carriers to change the way they operate.
“In this age of global terrorism,” explains Mark Rohlehr, a security consultant and college instructor located in Pickering, Ont., “an organization has to know that it is not bringing a terrorist with a hidden agenda into the company. We have isolated critical local targets as well as cross-border risks, and that is why this act is necessary.”
Few carriers have sufficient human resources to specialize in all facets of selecting the right person for the right job because different positions require different sets of services.
“The background check you would do in an investigation on a CEO is quite different from the ones you would do on a dock worker, a driver, a shipper or a receiver,” explains Munro. “Everyone has skeletons in the closet. We’re not looking for everybody to be perfect, but we’re not going to recommend hiring an accountant who has been charged with fraud. Companies in transport have to be especially careful. Your driver could be clean, but the guy loading the truck could be a terrorist.”
Constantly changing conditions finds the trucking industry on what seems like an endless “learning” curve, but as more companies outsource specialized HR services, they have a better chance of reshaping themselves into a sleek tank that can abandon old ways and drive through today’s economic turbulence to reach greater success sooner. It all boils down to giving a qualified recruiter a chance to help them meet their HR objectives, concludes Jobe. “Take a chance. Trust the program.”
Personality profiling key to hiring the right fit for your company
Since 9/11, what trucking companies need to know about their employees has greatly changed, and what they don’t know is potentially dangerous. Traditionally, most carriers haven’t always done a thorough job of checking applicants’ references, but skipping this bit of homework before hiring today can cost them dearly, especially in cross-border shipping.
Enter Hire Performance Inc., a pre-employment screening firm that has the expertise and equipment to bridge this gap in carriers’ hiring procedures. “Since 9/11, as the global spotlight has shone on security and the measures that encompass security, companies like ours have played a new role to make sure that the people companies hire are not security risks,” explains Steven Munro, director of sales and business development for Markham-based Hire Performance Inc.
“For instance, you could receive a clean driver’s record from the Ministry of Transportation, but when we do a criminal check, we find impaired driving charges against the applicant prior to the Ministry’s three-year limit and a recent spousal abuse charge not registered yet. Would you want to go on a long haul with this guy and share a sleeper cab with him?”
For a criminal background check on an employee or prospect, Hire Performance delivers the results of its investigation within 72 hours. “We also do the less requested federal bankruptcy search and personal property registry search,” says Munro.
Probably the most overlooked test in a trucking company’s selection process is the Personality Profile. Yet, how an employee behaves, socializes, thinks and prioritizes tasks ultimately affects how well he or she gets the job done.
Profiling an applicant’s personality is even more critical in filling a managerial position. Not only are managers responsible for company productivity and profitability, they must also be compatible with the organization’s style of management and personalities of other team members. The first thing to understand, says Munro, is that no person is only one personality type. “We’re all a blend. We change to meet the situations we face. For that reason, psychology is very grey. There is no right or wrong personality – only the one that fits with the people already in place,” emphasizes Munro.
There are four personality types. While most people express a mixture of these four, one type tends to dominate the rest. They are:
A – Very strong, decisive, independent, risk taker, take-charge type.
B – Outgoing personality, good sense of humor, talkative, enthusiastic.
C – Deep and thoughtful, analytical, and usually a perfectionist.
D – Low-key personality, calm, usually patient and consistent.
E – An equal combination of all four personalities.
Once armed with a detailed analysis of each applicant’s potential, the company’s own interviewer can then use probing questions Hire Performance provides to narrow down the final and most suitable person for the job.
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