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Recruiting discussed at recent summit

Trucking companies are changing the ways they appeal to younger workers.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Toward the end of May, the 2016 ALK Technology Summit was held in Philadelphia. The two-day event highlighted many current trends and issues within the trucking industry, such as data collection, driver safety and challenges with meeting compliance requirements.

But recruiting was a focal point at the summit, and it comes at a time when many trucking companies are stepping up their efforts to appeal to younger workers.

"Trucking companies are stepping up their efforts to appeal to younger workers."

However, companies simply can't make a new hire and leave it at that. Various points were discussed at the summit that highlighted some of the challenges recruiting departments face when attracting new talent.

More than a job

There is no denying that a generation gap exists in the industry. In an October 2015 report published by the American Trucking Associations, the average age of workers in the over-the-road industry was found to be 49 years old. Many companies then struggle to attain talent because the safety and professionalism are high priorities, and rightfully so.

But older drivers will eventually have to be replaced by younger truckers, and hiring isn't made any easier because today's crop of young employees differ from previous generations. When looking for a position, potential drivers have some areas in mind that may help them decide if a job in the transportation industry is the correct move.

According to Fleet Owner, one of the late afternoon panels at the ALK Summit focused on driver retention, recruiting efforts and forging career paths for drivers.

Current challenges

The panel discussed how drivers' pay is arguably the most important factor for drivers, followed by younger drivers wishing to be tasked with more job responsibilities, with an emphasis on titles. 

Transportation companies have to keep in mind that when looking to hire new talent, today's workers have numerous other options, considering unemployment rates have held steady at 5 percent. However, pay for drivers has not kept up with the rate of inflation, a condition some companies may have previously been discounting.

Additionally, the panel discussed how some new drivers are treated when they first start the job. Since they're most likely inexperienced, a mistake may bring more ire of supervisors than drivers anticipate. Companies will have to make an effort to use mistakes early on as opportunities to teach and not chastise new hires.

This way, instead of new drivers becoming dismayed and eventually leaving the company, they may appreciate the help and focus on avoiding future errors.

A driver is also placing an increased emphasis on the balance between work and life. Todd Warner, chief operating officer at Blue Bloodhound, a service that connects carriers with freelance drivers, said around 41 percent of drivers want a better balance between life and work.

Employers cannot afford to let these numbers and sentiments go unnoticed during a time when a shortage already exists and is only projected to worsen in the near future.

What can be done

Many transportation companies will have to make some changes to their current setup in order to attract new talent and maintain high retention rates. Job titles could be the first place to start, the panel at the ALK Summit suggested.

"Feedback is also an essential component of the process for new workers."

For example, if a transportation company is hiring for office help, adding the word "analyst" to the job title can go a long way toward making the position more appealing to younger prospects. Companies should also emphasize the importance of the position when it comes to handling customer relations and freight.

Feedback is also an essential component of the process for new workers. If new hires are doing well early on in their career, they should be commended for doing so. Comments can be both positive and subpar, but it's important to use the mistakes as moments to teach new hires what went wrong and how errors can be fixed.

While speaking at the panel, Lauren Howard, president of truckload operations at Celadon Group, stated that young workers care a lot about their positions and will put in the effort to make an impression.

"Millennials want to be part of a process; they want constant feedback and a career path or they will jump jobs," said Howard to the panel's attendees, according to Fleet Owner.

Transportation companies are coming to a point where changes will need to be made with regards to recruiting and attracting the best talent, not only when it comes to drivers, but all aspects of a company. When every department is working cohesively, trucking operations operate that much more smoothly.

Some changes to traditional recruiting methods may need to be made, but human resources departments should be open to connecting with potential hires in new ways. Attractive salaries, decent work-life balances and even job titles will go a long way toward grabbing the attention of young workers and keep them with companies for an extended period of time.