Treat Recruiting as a Sales Department
While the industry has proven its ability to recruit drivers, many companies overlook the fact that the recruitment process is an excellent retention tool. The entire process provides your first and best chance to sell the benefits of your company. Companies should hire recruiters with proven selling skills, knowledge and personality attributes.
These professionals should recognize that selling is a process that involves four key points:
- Prospecting: Advertising must be high quality, professional, strategically placed and consistent. This includes promotional literature that sells your company to the applicant, just like you would do with a prospective customer. Advertising and referrals should create the opportunity to sell to a qualified prospect (applicant) on joining your company.
- Qualifying: The interviewing process should also serve to qualify the applicant against a set of standards. This applies to phone interview or face to face interviews. The recruiter must find out why the applicants want the job and if they will pass being screened and qualified.
- Selling features and benefits: If the person qualifies, sell the company, the job, their quality of life and the future.
- Closing the deal: Any sale requires a commitment. Get a signature on something, an employment/compensation agreement. That will ensure truth in the recruiting process and a commitment to coming to the orientation program.
New employee orientation isn't just a necessity. It's an opportunity, and one that should never be overlooked. In fact, the orientation process is the very first step of retention. This is typically the biggest sin of omission or poor quality within most trucking companies. Orientation should be for the benefit of the new hire and not just a risk requirement of the company. The orientation process is not training. It is orientation. The new driver has already been trained to drive. The orientation process shows how they can apply their skills at your company and be successful in the process.
Quality orientation is as good an investment as is preventive maintenance for a truck. It should contain these ingredients:
- Verify their qualifications. The first step is a driving test, physical and urinalysis. Often, orientation is the first opportunity to fulfill these requirements.
- The new driver made a good decision by choosing to work for your company. Be sure to let him or her know this. Confirm the quality of your company, personnel, customers, equipment and facilities. Make certain new employees realize there is a bright future by working for your company and that you are glad they are there.
- Show drivers their part of the equation. Explain how they apply their skills (driving) to the company. Explain the expectations of customers, how the company fulfills customer expectations and how the driver is an essential part of that process.
- Driving requires specific levels of performance from the new driver. Identify the productivity requirements, policies and procedures that affect the new driver and what they need to do to fulfill them. Also, identify the people who will assist the employee and hold them accountable in the process.
- Explain that drivers are responsible for the care and use of valuable company equipment. Identify the type of truck and trailers he or she will use and how they must be maintained. Demonstrate key equipment like the on-board communication system, how it works and how it is helpful to drivers.
- Review key pay and benefit issues, including how employees get paid, receive benefits, what types of incentives are available and how drivers progress within the company. Carefully define the compensation plan, process and the procedures they are expected to follow.
- Finally, the new employee will graduate from orientation and be granted use of a company truck and his or her first work assignment. Graduation should include a certificate, signed by the driver that recognizes the accomplishment and acknowledges the drivers commitments. Keep a file of the certificate in the employee's file.
Obviously, the orientation process cannot be accomplished in a few hours. In most cases it should be accomplished over two or two and a half days. Special training, such as HAZMAT or bulk loading/unloading, may extend the process.
If possible, orientation should take place at the company's home office and involve the key personnel who will interface with the drivers as they perform their job, fulfill safety requirements, maintain their equipment, fulfill documentation requirements and get paid.
The next best thing would be a remote presentation by key company personnel with quality visual aids. The least desirable scenario is having one person conducting the entire orientation in a single room with no participation from management.
This is a valuable investment. It properly prepares the new employee and creates a commitment by both parties. The result will be a better-prepared driver who will be committed to the job and the company. The orientation process should be reinforced by a driver manual that identifies policy procedure, examples and company contacts.
In part 4 of my 5-part series on driver retention I'm going to discuss the importance of Creating a Career Path for your drivers, as well as the role that Reviews and Communication play in an effective driver retention program.