Experts Address Recruitment and Retention Issues

by Katy de Vries

TORONTO, Ont. – Over 160 people gathered at the International Plaza Hotel for the first Canadian Driver Recruiting and Retention Conference Sept. 30 through Oct. 1, where eight high-profile speakers discussed one of the biggest problems plaguing the trucking industry.

The two-day conference was conceived when Over the Road publisher, Peter Charboneau attended recruitment conferences in Nashville, Tenn. and Dallas, Tex. earlier this year.

“It’s the first one of its kind in Canada and there is a need for it,” said Charboneau. “I’m very interested in the recruiting end of the industry and Web-based recruiting as a tool, and those interests just rolled into watching what’s going on out there. I had heard about the recruitment seminars that go on in the U.S. and after attending, I just knew we had to bring them to Canada too.”

Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Transportation Solutions, co-hosted the conference with Charboneau, and spoke in detail about hiring cycles, proactive retention techniques, and relationship-building and stress management.

Kevin Rutherford, CEO of Florida-based Alliance Group, and certified financial planner, brought his years of owner/operator experience to Toronto to discuss how drivers can be successful on the road and behind the desk.

Work Permits U.S.A. owner Richard Parenteau promoted Canadian professionals’ rights and privileges in immigration matters and discussed how to benefit from organizing businesses in the U.S.

MacKinnon Transport’s president and COO, Ray Haight, spoke about practical driver retention tactics that company executives can implement simply and quickly.

Jay Wommack is the president and CEO of Texas-based, and he brought demographic and economic information as it relates to Internet recruiting methods to the seminar audience.

Ellen Voie, executive director of Trucker Buddy in Waupaca, Wis., used her extensive trucking industry and psychological background to parallel Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the needs of the drivers out on the road. She said being able to meet these needs plays a big role in driver retention.

Roy Craigen, coach and general manager for Alberta-based Transcom, talked about the driver shortage and announced a new initiative called Career Paths that will encourage college and university students to get involved in the industry. (See related story on page 84.)

The common theme was that basic care and concern for the people behind the wheel is paramount.

The basis for Anderson’s recruiting philosophy is that recruiters often deal with phone calls instead of the people on the end of the line.

“We have to stall the driver’s phone call campaign,” said Anderson. “We want to commit to the driver by caring about them, by having a conversation with them instead of going through a checklist, by building a relationship with them. We want the driver to stop making phone calls for other jobs after he has spoken with us.”

You have to shorten the hiring cycle because the drivers are looking for a paycheck at the end of the week, and they will continue to look for a job unless you give them a reason to stop looking, said Anderson.

“The longer your hiring cycle, the lower the quality of driver you get to hire because the cream of the crop will have all taken other jobs,” Anderson said, adding drivers stay with a company because they feel appreciated and respected.

Instead of being reactive, companies have to implement proactive driver retention techniques, Anderson concluded.

Haight addressed many proactive techniques in his presentation.

“It is the people who make the company work,” said Haight, “and we have to be completely and genuinely committed to those people, it is the only way.”

MacKinnon uses performance reviews to make drivers feel like they are cared for, he said.

“We do formal reviews with everybody in the company including all of our drivers and owner/operators. It was very scary when we first began this process because we didn’t know what kind of response we would get but it went over really well. Everybody wants feedback and so we measure everything and set goals and break down expectations for each person in the company,” Haight said.

MacKinnon has implemented many practices that contribute to the company’s ability to retain good drivers, he said, among them: providing fresh fruit in the driver’s room; a book exchange program for drivers; a Road Master program; and providing drivers with access to educational materials.

Two things that Haight deems very important to the function of the company are “bull sessions,” which give drivers a forum to vent their opinions and concerns to the head of the company.

Creating and taking opportunities for celebration are also key, he said.

“We apply for any and all awards, we take note of drivers’ birthdays, anniversaries, new children or grandchildren – we want to give these people every reason to celebrate something good,” said Haight. “This is important in showing that you are sincere and that you do care about what’s going on in your drivers’ lives.”

“It’s not rocket science, the bottom line is you’re going to get what you give,” he said.

Voie’s comparison of driver retention to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (a formula best known to psychologists) was simple but effective. She said a trucking company can help its drivers meet their basic needs and actually use this to motivate them. These five essential needs, she said, appear in a list of the 12 most common reasons a driver stays with a company which was arrived at by surveying 3,000 drivers.

Physiological needs can be met by providing a paycheque, and depending on how a carrier responds to fatigue, or illness.

Safety needs are met on both a physical and emotional level through well maintained equipment, comfortable seats for support, well-lit areas to drop or pick up trailers and giving the drivers the right to stop in bad weather. As well, job security, the right to be heard by management and be informed by the carrier all provide an intrinsic emotional safety need.

Social needs are met when a carrier has uniforms or trucks that identify the driver as part of a team, company events and recognition ceremonies, mentor programs and the inclusion of a driver’s family in the company all provide the basic social needs. Companies can fulfill a person’s esteem needs by providing mentorship programs, driving competitions, or doling out awards or certificates for milestone achievements. If a driver’s basic needs are met, the elements are in place for that driver to be happy, said Voie. In turn, the driver will then see no limits to their potential for meeting their goals, which means as a result, the final self actualization need is met. Audience members told Truck News they were very pleased with the ideas they acquired by listening to the team of speakers.

“Driver recruitment and retention are very important issues to all of us. I’m hoping to bring back some good information, so far it’s been great,” said Denise Miller, administration and research for the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. “They are giving really good information and some good solid ideas. They are getting us to focus more on what’s important – on the drivers – rather than the bottom dollar,” said Miller.

Highland Transport’s manager of recruiting and training, Ann Armstrong, said the ideas were interesting and the information was helpful but there was just so much of it. “Everyone in our industry is looking for ways to recruit and retain good drivers, and I’m going to go through everything we learned and prioritize and summarize and then present all of it at our recruiter/retention company wide meeting later this month,” said Armstrong. “I will definitely attend this conference again next year and hopefully bring more people with me.”

The second annual Canadian Recruitment and Retention conference is already slated for Sept. 22 to Sept. 23, 2004. For details call Peter Charboneau at 613-224-9947.

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