TORONTO, Ont. – Freight has to move when it needs to move, and breakdowns need to be quickly repaired so trucks can return to service. But there are still plenty of opportunities to give fleet employees the chance to work flexible hours — establishing a valuable recruiting and retention tool in the process.
“Transportation has a stigma that, ‘You’re a dispatcher, you have to work in the office. You’re a planner, you have to work in the office.’ That’s not the case,” said Challenger Motor Freight HR manager Randi Butcher, during a presentation at Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive conference.
There are limits, though.
“We don’t have a work-from-Maui policy,” she quipped. And the flexibility is extended only as long as employees can demonstrate the work is completed and that they’re good performers. If they have to stay late to perform a particular task, they will.
In the shop, meanwhile, personnel can be hired to work different shifts, taking advantage of the opportunities that emerge in an operation that runs 24/7. And driver coordinators have the ability to work at home on occasion.
“Personal Days” help to offer flexibility to other employees.
“We understand that life comes up,” Butcher said.
A better fit
Stephanie Carruth, who supports research and development efforts at Milton, Ontario-based One for Freight, has experienced the benefits of flexible hours as well.
She admitted that she’s less productive between 1 and 3 pm, no matter when the workday begins. Rather than muddling through work tasks during those hours, she uses them to run errands, and offsets the lost time by working later into the evening.
“The typical 8:30-to-5 doesn’t fit in most of our lifestyles anymore,” she said, suggesting that everyone will find that there are windows of time when they’re less productive on the job.
Technology enables many of the opportunities for such flexibility. One for Freight operations teams, for example, have proven they can successfully dispatch equipment from afar.
Those who are offered the flexibility typically demonstrate an increase in output and a higher quality of work, she added.
Admittedly, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some employees are unable to work from home. And her father, fleet CEO David Carruth, was initially skeptical about the idea.
“He didn’t really believe me for awhile there,” she said. “I had to prove myself.”
The flexibility can be particularly important for fleets that want to attract more female candidates, Butcher suggested.
“Rightly or wrongly, a lot of parental responsibilities tend to fall on women.”
Advice for fellow women
Both fleet managers also had some career advice for other women looking to climb corporate ladders in their respective trucking jobs.
“The first thing is showing initiative … whether it’s putting your hand up, joining committees,” Butcher said.
While trained in human resources, she admits that she lacked experience in the transportation sector. But that gap was offset by setting out to understand various roles by partnering with operations and logistics teams.
Carruth, meanwhile, participates in an HR roundtable that openly discusses HR challenges, all under the protection of a confidentiality agreement. She also sees a value in mentors from outside the business.
“Have a mentor outside of your organization, because sometimes you have some tunnel vision about what is going on within your space,” she said.
“Tell leaders what you want. As women we generally have a little bit of a problem when it comes to expressing our desires,” Carruth added. “Oftentimes, our male counterparts will jump at something even if they don’t feel they’re necessarily qualified for it.”
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