Recruiting, retention, and reflecting demographics

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MISSISSAUGA, ON – The trucking industry’s average employee is seven years older than a typical Canadian worker, and overwhelmingly male. But a potential generation of new recruits is within reach in the form of largely untapped resources – millennials and women.

There have always been women in the trucking industry, stressed Jane Jazrawy, Chief Executive Officer of Carriers Edge, during a presentation at the Fleet Safety Council. Even Queen Elizabeth assumed a role in trucking during World War 2. But the current recruiting environment requires more women than the past.

Fewer than 3% of Canada’s drivers are women, even though they represent half of the nation’s workforce. In the overall transportation sector, including other modes, just 27% of employees are women.

One of the ways to recruit and retain more members of the demographic group is to create a more welcoming workplace, Jazrawy says.

This can involve tackling factors that create a toxic work environment. “It happens everywhere,” she stressed, referring to environments inside and outside a fleet office. “Tell them how they can report things. Ask them what’s going on. Ask, ‘How can we make it better?'”

 “We need to start showing women in other [roles] despite being pretty,” she added, noting how Challenger Motor Freight successfully uses recruiting ads that highlight women.

Millennials present some unique requirements of their own.

The demographic cohort typically begins looking for promotions after 15 months on the job, says Isabelle Hetu, director – programs and services at Trucking HR Canada. “Don’t be surprised if a first- year driver, a millennial, comes to you and says they want to be a driver-trainer.”

“That’s not a lot of time,” she admitted. It may not even be practical. But rather than dismissing the interest outright, it is possible to identify the steps needed to meet the next goal in their career path, she said.

Millennials are looking for training, professional development, and a sense of purpose, she added. “They want to be connected, and part of that is related to coaching and mentorship.” Not surprisingly, all of the employers recognized through Trucking HR Canada’s Top Fleet Employers program are committed to training, offering such things as in-house programs and reimbursed tuition.

Training is a two-way street. Two-thirds of women already in Canada’s trucking industry are both looking for mentoring opportunities and want to be mentors, Hetu said.

As important as recruiting strategies are, there are retention challenges as well. Trucking HR Canada research found this year that 75% of surveyed millennial drivers and 36% of non-driving employees plan on leaving the trucking industry within the next five years. It’s similar to other industries like mining and construction, Hetu said, and it’s not uncommon to new employees from other generations.

But different generations of workers may also have more in common than some people think. A Trucking HR Canada survey of millennial employees found that 45% were attracted to independence and autonomy, 45% to travel, and 42% to the variety of work. “Travel, independence and autonomy was what really attracted drivers to the industry in the first place,” Hetu said. Non-driving millennials in trucking were looking for career opportunities (62%), a variety of work (48%), and were drawn by family members (39%).

Millennials and non-millennials alike share an interest in finding a work-life balance and career advancement. “That’s why they joined the industry in the first place,” Hetu said.

The way compensation packages are presented can make a difference when convincing them to stay on the job. Rather than discussing pay per kilometer, a total rewards statement will identify the value of everything offered to the employee, she said. “We see a lot of bonuses out there. It’s actually really appealing.”

Rather than describing such things as flexible work in a convoluted policy, explain it in the language an audience will use, she added.

“Flexible work opportunities don’t mean that you work from home every day,” Hetu stressed. Yes, JG Drapeau gives some dispatchers the opportunity to work from home. But for drivers, employer support might come in the form of part time work if a personal issue needs to be addressed, or load sharing that sees routes split in two.

Diverse workforces play their own role in retention. Millennial-aged women say they want to leave trucking because there is a lack of workers like them. It’s the same for any under-represented group, Hetu said. “I want to work with people who share similar experiences.” Targeted social events like multicultural dinners will help.

Jazrawy referred to Prime Inc.’s Highway Diamonds program that brings together women drivers. Hetu referenced Kriska’s own affinity program specific to its women drivers.

“There’s not a better brand ambassador than those women for Kriska,” Hetu said.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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