Driving Force task force unveils a driver retention toolkit for operators

In the face of an industry driver shortage, retaining employees is even more important than recruiting new workers.

“It is much easier to keep drivers, rather than start fresh and get a new driver,” said Erin Ducharme, director of accounting and financial control at Bloom’s Bus Lines in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Ducharme is chair of Women in Buses, a council of the American Bus Association, which created the Driving Force task force in December and quickly got to work. She and other Driving Force members joined United Motorcoach Association Town Hall on July 1 to share strategies for retention, a follow-up to their June 24 presentation on recruitment.

Ducharme was joined in presenting the various components of the program by Brent Maitland of MCI; James Blain of PAX Training; Adam Hall of Bridgestone Americas; Mike McDonal of Saucon Technologies; Mike Van Horn of Betterez; and Pam Martinez of DATTCO.

Tips for driver retention

The task force is providing industry operators with tips and tools to recruit and retain their most valuable asset: drivers. The task force has released several tools to recruit drivers, which can be found on the ABA’s main Driving Force webpage, www.buses.org/about/drivingforce. Tips, a webinar and a Driving Force Toolkit also are available. 

The task force presentation touched on these key points: 

Orientation and Onboarding. These first steps are the best way to set the tone for a new hire and make a great first impression. Although these two practices are related, onboarding is the entire process of getting your employee (driver) established in your organization. Orientation is part of onboarding but is typically limited to a period of time where the new hire learns about the company, culture and key job responsibilities. During orientation, it is important for the employee to meet coworkers and begin to feel part of the operation. 

“You ideally want every single person that you bring on to go through the same process. The way you do that is you’re going to create an outline for onboarding. If you’re not doing it the same way every time, you’re giving different people different impressions,” Blain said. 

Assign Mentors. A mentor is an experienced employee that can help make the transition from new hire to seasoned driver easier. The role of the mentor is to show the new driver the ropes and be a helpline for basic questions.

“You want to make sure that the mentors you select are going to be people that you as a company can trust to make sure that they are going to be representing your company well,” McDonal said. 

Develop an Employee Communication Plan. Frequent and clear communication is an important element of employee satisfaction and retention. It’s also a critical part of the culture. A communication plan should be multifaceted, with employees hearing both information useful to their jobs as well as information on company status and strategy. Hearing from owners and executives is also important. Effective companies use multiple modes, ranging from in-person, Zoom, video, newsletter, email and social media.

“All good communication is a two-way and not a one-way directive,” said McDonal, adding that when an employee offers a suggestion, it should be acknowledged. “Say, ‘This is a great idea, maybe not something we’re going to deal with right now, but this is something I want to definitely look into the future.’”

Employee Engagement. It is important to build a team atmosphere and an open and communicative environment. One way to do this is to celebrate milestones and success. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a monetary reward. It can be a designated parking space for the employee of the month or spotlighting them in a newsletter. “Just be creative and let your employees know they matter,” Martinez said. 

Provide Performance Feedback. Performance feedback is an opportunity to engage with the driver and focus on continuous improvement. Always remember to provide feedback on positive performance as well as what requires additional coaching. Having regular feedback will keep both you and the employee on the right track. When these discussions are handled correctly, the employee will feel comfortable stating what areas they need to work on, Maitland said. 

Metrics. Measure and learn from your success and correct your weaknesses to improve retention. Most companies do not have tracking over time for employee retention. Installing some basic metrics can show if your approach is working and provide areas in which you can improve. This will help you understand the impact of recruiting and retention on your bottom line, Maitland said.

You can watch the recorded presentation and review the slides. The toolkit is available online.


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