It seems no one can find employees these days, and those that can find a worker can’t hold onto them—and often at no fault of their own. The work truck fleet industry is no exception. In fact, some might say our industry has led the workforce in the labor shortage for years before the pandemic. Lance Christensen, the senior director of strategy at Bayard, shares his insight on the topic.
LABOR SHORTAGES ABOUND ACROSS MANY INDUSTRIES IN THE COUNTRY—THE WORK TRUCK INDUSTRY HAS SEEMED TO LEAD THAT CHARGE. AS THE CURRENT WORKFORCE LOOKS TO RETIRE, HOW CAN TRUCKING COMPANIES APPEAR MORE DESIRABLE TO A YOUNGER GENERATION LOOKING FOR WORK?
CHRISTENSEN: As Gen Z and the youngest of Millennials contemplate careers in the trucking industry, their expectations for employers vary greatly from previous generations. Raised with an almost infinite amount of information in the palms of their hands, the latest entrants into the workforce value the purpose, culture, reputation, and transparency of an employer far more than previous generations.
But it starts at the hiring process. Trucking companies, or any company for that matter, should be aware of the time the hiring process takes, as instant gratification is the new norm. If the hiring process takes too long, applicants will move on to companies hiring quicker. It’s also important to note that in 2022, flexibility is key. Traditional rigid work schedules and regimented vacation policies do not appeal to younger workers who want greater flexibility. Companies must do their best to offer flexibility wherever possible to compete for talent.
Finally, newer, clean, and well-maintained equipment is a must. Any old or damaged equipment should be kept out of sight from any jobseekers. If they arrive for an interview and the only piece of equipment they see is low-quality, they will likely assume it will be assigned to them.
ONCE A COMPANY HIRES AN EMPLOYEE, WHAT ARE SOME STEPS IT CAN TAKE TO ENSURE THE EMPLOYEE STICKS AROUND?
CHRISTENSEN: One way to retain talent is by creating a competitive and gamified structure in onboarding, training, safety, and performance. With a focus on competing, there is less time and interest for seeking other employment opportunities. Another way is by employing a simple, straightforward pay structure. Confusing and complicated pay structures are viewed as duplicitous. Even if designed to pay for high performance, they are often perceived as a way to avoid paying earned wages.
Additionally, it’s important to maintain an appealing employer brand that is visible across the digital landscape. Saying that a company is a great place to work with a fantastic culture that values its employees is great, but these and similar claims must be reflected in a company’s online presence and reputation as well. Corporate and employee personal posts need to be genuine and authentic.
WHAT STRATEGIES SHOULD COMPANIES EMPLOY WHEN IT COMES TO POSTING POSITIONS?
CHRISTENSEN: While compensation still weighs heavily in the decision-making process (favored by 40% of 18 to 25-year-olds in a recent ATRI survey), this younger generation is quick to turn from employers that do not share similar values. In fact, in a recent ATRI survey, 84% of 18 to 25-year-olds consider company culture important. From the job posting, it’s imperative to give accurate details about compensation and make sure the compensation range matches across all postings. Likewise, a company’s online reputation and presence should match what is being sold through the job advertisements. Advertising perks like great pay, excellent benefits, and flexible schedules will backfire if current and former employees complain on social media that the company has terrible pay, basic benefits, and no work-life balance.
Further, bonuses cannot make up for below-market compensation. Advertising a $5,000 sign-on bonus will not make up for a pay rate that is $4/hour less than the competition. Set your pay between the 50th and 75th percentile, and use sign-on bonuses sparingly with a clear purpose, such as to entice job seekers to a new location.
YOU MENTIONED JOBSEEKERS ARE LOOKING FOR ‘AN APPEALING EMPLOYER BRAND.’ CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF THOSE ASPECTS?
CHRISTENSEN: The aspects young jobseekers are looking for in a new job include values, long-term employment potential, culture, and advancement opportunities. They will look at whether a company shares their values and what the organization’s views are on transparency, culture, and social causes. Jobseekers will often envision themselves in the role to make sure they’re suited for all aspects of the job: the type of work, the equipment used, the work schedule, the pay rate, etc. They will also look to employees who are already at the company to see if they are enjoying their positions and being properly appreciated by their supervisors. A major factor for young jobseekers is if leaders started in an entry-level role at the same company. This will allow them to measure the possibility of advancement opportunities at the company.
HOW CAN A COMPANY ENSURE IT DELIVERS THOSE ASPECTS?
CHRISTENSEN: Ensure the needs and desires of young jobseekers by allowing a space to provide feedback, creating a mentor program, and tracking promised perks. Give new hires an easy way to provide feedback with an option for anonymity. Encourage and reward the feedback, even if it is difficult to hear, and never retaliate for candid and honest feedback.
Having a well-organized mentorship program with a mentor assigned for each new hire can set new hires up for success in the beginning of their careers. Careful and thoughtful selection of mentors is important, as they must be approachable, sincere, and able to identify and communicate unspoken needs to leadership. Have a mentor or supervisor monitor data and performance of anything promised: pay, benefits, hours, days off, schedules, etc. These should be tracked closely over the first 90 days. If anything is falling short of what was promised, it should be rectified immediately.
HAVING NEW EQUIPMENT IS OFTEN MENTIONED WHEN DISCUSSING DRIVER RETENTION. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THAT?
CHRISTENSEN: Having the latest technology is nearly unavoidable in new work trucks, with many of the new features improving both user experience and safety performance. Keeping a balanced fleet of new and well-maintained equipment is a winning strategy. Always account for current drivers’ requests and feedback when considering fleet upgrades. If drivers prefer their older well-maintained piece of equipment, avoid forcing them into something new, if possible. When a tenured driver is requesting a new truck, make it happen as soon as possible. Avoid giving new trucks to new drivers until you can complete the requests from the tenured employees.
However, while new drivers prefer new trucks, they are typically satisfied with newer, well-maintained trucks. It is more important to ensure that any truck they have been assigned is dent free, well cleaned, and ready to run.
CHRISTENSEN: At the end of the day, respect goes a long way in the recruitment and retention of drivers. Listen to what they have to say, and act on requests when possible. Take time to explain when actions cannot be taken. Reward drivers when they come up with good ideas—especially if it improves the bottom line.
While the retail, hospitality, and tech industries have already made significant changes to attract and assimilate this emerging workforce, unfortunately the transportation industry has lagged, thus making it even more critical to adapt soon.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Lance Christensen is the senior director of strategy at Bayard. In his 30 years in the transportation industry, Christensen has traveled from the driver’s seat to the boardroom with many steps in between. After selling his stake in a trucking company, Christensen has spent the last 16 years as an executive in the recruiting, retention, and capacity side of transportation where he enjoys pushing the limits of technology, tools, and media wizardry to build industry leading talent attraction strategies. Reach him at email@example.com.