Turbocharge Your Recruiting Efforts

Having reviewed the recruiting practices of hundreds of carriers, the majority leave me completely underwhelmed. Almost everywhere I go, the model is essentially the same – cast a wide net, and hope you catch a couple. No successful entrepreneur would ever recommend a business strategy were you simply copy the same model, strategy and tactics of almost ALL of your competitors. Although most of the fine people I get to work with have good and honorable intentions, many fall far short of being as effective as they could (and should be). Within the carrier I ran, 50% of all our new hires were sourced through on-road recruiters – your fine and hard-working drivers. This is likely similar to the results from the carriers reading this post, however more and more are coming via social media channels and initiatives (which is an extremely big part of your recruiting and communications strategy – something we will talk about in depth in future posts).

Today, let’s focus on arming your on-road recruiting warriors with the tools they need to succeed. First you need to figure out a proper training program for the interested participants. That training will likely include elements such as a conversational sales course. You don’t need to develop that training program in-house, in fact it would be fool-hardy to do so. We are big fans of online training. For sales training, there are hundreds of courses available on Udemy for peanuts. Find your favorite, make it the standard. Combine this external training with a tip sheet which will include all the items you would want a prospective driver to be aware of, which could potentially work at your business. These items could include the lanes you work, company’s values statement, its social support, its pay structure, equipment (type, average age, replacement schedule etc), history, and most importantly a personalized un-scripted message about why your on-road warriors continue to work for your company despite thousands of competing offers.

In our business, we also had decals made for the side of their trucks calling attention to the fact that the driver of the vehicle was an on-road recruiter for us. We had business cards stating the same, and they had our value statement printed on the back. They had the recruiters name on them and a direct line to our recruiting department.

Further, there were two other key elements to the program, first our philosophy was that when an on-road recruiter brought a prospective new driver to our company we would go through the same criteria for pre-employment, as we would any other driver coming to our business – no exceptions. If we decided that the driver was a good fit for us we paid the recruiting fee to the on road recruiter immediately, mile one. If that new hire quit or was fired shortly after – that was on us, not the on-road recruiter!

The second element was recognition, when an on-road recruiter brought a new hire in the doors, we celebrated in our newsletter on social media, and at company events. Everyone likes a pat on the back when they succeed, and we did it loudly We had special plaques made for the best recruiters, we had one gal who was an O/O at our company, bring in six new drivers one year. They made an additional twelve thousand dollars through this program. I know some TPP members who have drivers making $30,000 to $50,000 per year in referral fees alone – wow!

Need some help turbocharging your retention efforts, take this free survey today – www.tcaingauge.com/retentionscore.

Are You Looking for a Professional Driver?

I have been speaking and consulting about retention, almost exclusively, over the past number of years. What I have found, and it is my experience, that high turnover in any trucking company can be brought under control.  That’s a fact, been there – done that, bought the tee shirt. Any half insightful management team that can muster a measured amount of committed effort, can show impressive decline in lost drivers in a matter of three to twelve months. With ongoing programs, it can be maintained indefinitely.

Recently I have been asking my trucking executive audiences how many of them would prefer to hire professional drivers.  To put this in context I classify drivers in three categories.  First, the lost and forlorn, they’re just driving until they find their real calling (and BTW, they rarely do). Second, there is the truck stop cowboy, these folks are in love with the image of being a truck driver more than being proficient at what they’re doing. The 3rd is a professional, always looking clean and sharp, concerned with doing things properly and being accountable and responsible for all their actions. After I ask what type of Driver and Owner Operator they would like to hire, what I see is a room full of hands that have shot in to the air for, of course, the professional.

So, here’s the nest question to the group, so you all want professionals in your company, okay that makes sense, so what do you do to foster that desire, this is when I get the glazed over look. Most companies currently have professionals in their infrastructure that they support. You may have a CPA that you assist in making sure is current with all accounting rules and probably pay for their annual CPA dues. You may have a head of HR that you support who needs to be kept abreast of all the new labor rules. How about your Safety Manager? The company likely sends this individual to regular safety council meetings and has paid for them to get their CDS designation. This is to name just a few positions.

So, you want professional drivers and Owner Operators at your company, what do you do within your fleet to support this claim? How do you make information available so that your people have a source of knowledge that will allow them to excel at their trade, such as: how to be a successful Owner Operator; new proposed rule-makings; advanced defensive driving; new equipment innovation; and conversational sales, to name a few examples? If your answer is nothing, then you should stop claiming to want professionals at your company because you do not have an infrastructure that supports that claim. If you want professionals, treat them like professionals.  As Don Cherry would say “It’s not nuclear surgery”.

And it is so easy. There are so many great resources for educating oneself these days on how to be successful. This is not to say that there wasn’t some good information back when I drove but back then it was in book form and after I put in my long days’ work it was time to hit the sack. Reading a couple chapters and absorbing anything of value from a general business self-help book was not in the cards. And when I got home it was down time – get recharged and then head back out.

Today there is a great wealth of information specifically on being successful as a driver or Owner Operator and it is available in the most convenient forms – whether streamed from internet, YouTube, listening to satellite radio and online courses. Much of it can be listened to while the driver watches the miles go by.

For those drivers out there thinking of purchasing a truck and possibly becoming an owner operator or even starting a small trucking company, here are some of the materials that I would suggest that you get a hold of and listen to as a way of formulating a plan to move forward.

I would listen to Trucking Business and Beyond by Kevin Rutherford on Sirius XM Radio’s channel The Road Dog. I would also check out the training he offers here .  Kevin is an old friend of mine, and has a sea of knowledge on how to become a master Owner Operator. I took Kevin’s Certified Master Contractor course some years ago and it was excellent – well worth the money. I would check out ATBS’s Knowledge Hub program as it is an excellent resource of valuable information, a great website ..  In addition, there are many good industry publications whose editorial has valuable information that is there for the reading. On any variety of business topics and life in general I happen to love Udemy . The volume of quality educational content is staggering and very economical. If there isn’t something there that peaks your interest, maybe it’s time you consider retirement.

The list of good information that is there for the listening can go on and on. Much of it is free and the rest is very economical. I remember being at a seminar where the speaker was then Miami Dolphin coach Jimmy Johnson. During the Q&A period he was asked this question. Coach Johnson, how do you mold the crop of young boys you get each year into men who are professional football players? The coach’s short answer was “talk to people that look up to you the way you want them to behave and they will become that. Talk to them the way they are, and they will stay that way.” You want professionals? It’s simple, treat them that way.

Take Good care and Safe Trucking,


Storytelling Your Way to Better Recruits

To get the next driver in the seat, most trucking companies rely primarily on some firmly entrenched tactics: 1) Advertise in various driver recruiting publications (print and web), 2) Attend truck shows and job fairs, and 3) Visit truck stops. These are time-tested ways to solicit new employees and independent contractors, but they can be costly and time consuming. These are also rather passive ways to get your message out, and passive doesn’t cut it in today’s environment.  Some larger trucking companies have the luxury of resources to promote and incent potential recruits using all of the above media outlets. This coupled with sign-on bonuses, streamlined onboarding and structured orientation, you would think the deck is stacked against the small and mid-sized carriers. I would argue the opposite is true. Most of these larger companies have been doing much of the same for decades – their tactics and strategies have stayed the same. Enter Social Media. The whole purpose of Social Media is to amplify a message, reach people you would never have reached via traditional media, and most importantly make a connection with the person on the other end. In short – a Network Effect.

Throughout this article, I would encourage you to keep the following in concept in mind. The best marketers and recruiters are effective Storytellers. Although this label may seem a bit fluffy to you, when each of us think of the most effective and charismatic leaders, without fail they are all great storytellers. You know, the ones that can convince us to do something we’ve never done before or consider a new way to think about an old problem. To reinforce the value of storytelling in recruiting and business, here is a great article by Peter Gruber on “The Four Truths of the Storyteller”.

Social media is now used for just about everything in life by many people.  It offers you a way to build both a relationship and trust with many prospects that would be otherwise hard to connect with.  Media agencies like Ideas That Evoke uses the following strategy – “Meet your audience on their platform of choice” – Forbes Nov 21, 2017.  This was originally how they handled B2B marketing, but with the large number of millennials using social media every day, it has now become the best way to meet your next associate.

Most companies have a favorite platform, and essentially ignore most others. This is a common error, and is typically the result of a perceived lack of resources. The Hightower Advertising Agency has listed (not ranked) the most important media sites for the trucking industry (see article here).  First is LinkedIn.  When it comes to recruiting, LinkedIn is hard to beat as it is made for job seekers and businesses to connect.  You can create a large professional network without having time or geographic restrictions.  Next is Facebook, because it is the most popular social network.  It’s ability to let you target very specific demographics allows you to have your message reach the right people.  Third is Twitter as it allows you to present your message to people outside of your own network of connections.  The sharing or re-tweeting of messages allows you to get a large reach with only 140 characters.  You do need to make sure that you are offering valued content that is relevant to your audience.  Finally, there is YouTube.  This platform allows potential recruits to connect visually with your people, places, equipment and culture. To see how other industries use these social media platforms for recruiting, see this article on L’Oréal here and how Deloite uses it in a tight Dutch labour market here.

You are probably looking at this list and are saying – so what? How are these going to help me put drivers in seats?  The Society for Human Resource Management recently found that 84% of organizations use some form of social media to recruit.  This is because passive job candidates (ones who are not actively seeking to change jobs) use social media as a way to become open to new opportunities (see this TCI Business Capital article for more information).  There is not a lot of trucking industry specific research, but these findings make a pretty strong case that they will work.

The new skills trucking companies need within their walls are content creation and marketing.  Most companies think nothing of loading up on more admin people and would never think about hiring a graphic designer or social media expert on a full time basis. These companies will eventually this has a strategic flaw. Content creation and marketing is not making a job posting – it’s telling the company story visually and audibly – with consistency and honesty.  With social media traditional “push” messages just are not effective.  The point is to build relationships and give people a reason to interact with you.  Let your people create! Let them tell their story. Let your people create! Give them a reason to come back to you – just throwing up a “we’re hiring” post will only attract the people currently looking for a job – your ideal candidate is not currently looking.  If you engage them and get them to interact with all your social media platforms as well as your website, you start to gain mindshare with them.  They may not be currently looking to leave their current job but if you show them why you are better and provide them with interesting content that they come back for more you will start to have them begin to question why they are not driving for you.  Now you have an engaged candidate who will give you a much higher candidate to new hire ratio!  Recruiterbox.com offers this short article on using social media to hire.

Regardless of which platform(s) you use, here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Just like anything else, discipline is key. Make a structured publishing schedule – and stick to it!
  2. Make sure your people are trained on effective Social Media and Inbound Marketing. Udemy is a favorite with the inGauge team for learning new skills. There are currently 960 online courses on Social Media / Digital Marketing. Take one, take many! Get better!
  3. Find out what platforms your targets prefer and interact with them there. Sounds simple enough?
  4. Offer content that is valuable to your audience. Create items that not only bring people to your content but keep them coming back for more and participating in conversations with you.
  5. Do not just blast out job postings and nothing else. It may be a ‘check’ on a to-do list, but it won’t get you the people you need.
  6. Use the content to draw positive attention to your company. Monitor your media platforms for negative comments and engage those users (ignorance = acceptance).  Find out why they feel that way and offer an alternative point of view without trashing their point of view.  Ensure that responses are done in a timely fashion and aren’t just automated and canned responses.
  7. It’s all about mindshare – give drivers a reason to seek you out instead of the other way around. At the end of the day you will cut down on the tire kickers and retreads and get more applications from the kind of driver you want and who also wants to drive for you.
  8. Get scientific about lead capture and tracking. Ensure you have a mechanism to capture leads throughout your social media channels – targeted ads, and urls with ‘calls to action’. Further, once you capture those leads, you then need to nurture them over time (newsletters, micro quizzes, and follow requests are all great ways to keep you on their mind).
  9. Finally, like any other business strategy, you need to test and iterate. If something isn’t working, change it or stop doing it. Although this may sound like a ‘catchall’, it is the most important point listed here.

Emotional Intelligence

During the TCA Annual Convention I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a General session entitled “Creating a Dedicated Skilled Workforce”. This panel session featured Karen Smerchek (President of Veriha Trucking), Brent Nussbaum of Nussbaum Transportation, and Steve Hitchcock, COO of Duncan and Son Lines. This panel was actively moderated by Jim Ward, President & CEO of DM Bowman. Although the premise of the session was building a skilled workforce with driver value proposition as a main feature. The panelist went off in many, very interested directions.

One key path that I focused on was when Jim Ward brought up the fact that Veriha trucking had an abnormally high percentage of female and millennials in their office and on the road. As Jim reinforced, the percentage of women in leadership roles has continued to be low in trucking. Further the workforce in general has shown a continued disdain for the growing population of millennials in the workforce. Considering these two facts, Karen was quick to point out that these two groups are not a result of a novel strategy.  It was a gradual tide that has led to a renewed and thriving business. Of course, trucking isn’t conducted in vacuum, so you have to give some props to the strong market. With that being said, I think Veriha’s workforce diversity could be a great indicator of the future of trucking.

During the session, Ms. Smercheck mentioned one term that struck a cord with me – Emotional Intelligence. Her hypothesis was that women have a higher Emotional Intelligence than males, which (paraphrased) leads to continued introspection and empathy for fellow team members. Without going into the rabbit hole of gender stereotypes, I think she is spot on in this regard.

Building on this thought, here is the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of Emotional Intelligence:

“the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems”

 Now, let’s put that definition in context. Without fail, every person I speak to these days say the same thing (essentially) – “I have tons of demand, at great rates, but am short on driversLess pedigree more people skills

So, as a trucking industry leader, if you have finished this post with some lingering skepticism, or perhaps a realization that your Emotional Intelligence quotient is low, maybe you should start thinking of hiring more with a higher quotient. Maybe your next company President is female, maybe she is a millennial, maybe she is currently serving you coffee at the local Starbucks. Trucking needs new blood, and different opinions.

How to Turn Around Your Driver Referral Program

Found this quote on Wikipedia last week:

“Strong culture is said to exist where staff respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values. In such environments, strong cultures help firms operate like well-oiled machines, engaging in outstanding execution with only minor adjustments to existing procedures as needed.
Conversely, there is weak culture where there is little alignment with organizational values, and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy.
Research shows that organizations that foster strong cultures have clear values that give employees a reason to embrace the culture. A “strong” culture may be especially beneficial to firms operating in the service sector.” Read more here: Organizational Culture

The key word in all of this in my mind is Values, every company has a visible set of values whether they know it or not. They may have formalized those values in a company statement or not –  they exist and they are visible in a multiple of ways (both positive and negative).

This is the essence of culture, you cannot impose values on to people, values develop over time and depend on one’s environment and life experience. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we typically align ourselves with people, friends,  spouses, and work environments that align with those values. When we don’t align ourselves in like values we struggle and typically we end up in divorce, leaving our jobs, leaving a misaligned community etc.

If you employ people or contract services, whether you realize it or not your most successful relationships likely mirror your own values. We like it when our values align it fits our comfort zone, we typically know what to expect and over time these relationship strengthen, we build a team we can depend on and get comfortable with, these relationships endure the test of time.

If your still reading this, then I haven’t bored you to the point you have turned the page then here is my point. I have tried to help many companies get their heads around why their efforts to have their current driving force assist in the recruiting of new drivers to their company, and show them why their efforts haven’t worked to the extent they expected they would like. Here is what most of them don’t realize, it is their culture that is restricting their results, among other things but primarily it comes back to culture.

If your culture is weak, I can guarantee you have poor communication channels, and likely no communications strategy within your business. A good communication strategy would encompass your drivers, contractors, employees, customers, suppliers, enforcement, and the communities you service. Sound like a monumental job, it really isn’t, it is quite easy in reality. It just takes focus and structure. If any of you has worked within a culture where communication is poor, you know that it is the worst situation you can be in, it is check your brain a the door and do no more or less than what you were hired for, it’s boring and unrewarding, it sucks.

Drivers who are asked to assist in recruiting new drivers to this type of company will resist for a number of reasons. Here are a few, first, and I think foremost they don’t have any confidence that you know how to run your business, they think you’re going to over hire and threaten their livelihood. I drove for ten years, I heard it over and over again, believe me this is true and if you have poor communication why wouldn’t they think that way? They’re in the dark about what you might need. You haven’t told them anything that is going to motivate them to help you. So why would they? Certainly not because you offered some “never-never” plan as a monetary incentive. The ones that pay a cent a mile for a year or quarterly installments designed to appear as though there is a windfall coming sometime in the future. I think some of these are designed to motivate drivers to recruit for the company, and to incentivize the driver to stay a little longer at a carrier to realize the future gain, how’s that working for you? My guess it does neither very effectively.

If your culture is strong, an effort to get driver to assist in the recruiting effort looks entirely different. First you have developed an inclusive value statement, you’ve done this by asking everyone in your business to contribute to it’s content, and you have asked them to bless the outcome, you’ve asked them. Does it cover their and your core values, can they work within the confines of it?

Secondly, your people know what is going on within the company because it has a strong communication strategy, it informs them, keeps them abreast of what it happening, it tries to involve community, customers, suppliers and (most importantly) reaches out to the individual employee’s families. You have told them, and they believe you when you say that your customers are busy and are demanding more trucks to service their needs. You need the additional drivers to keep the accounts you have, there is no threat to livelihood of the current drivers, and in fact, it is preservation of the account and their miles that you’re trying to achieve. If you have a brokerage operation, show everyone where that overflow freight is going – you have the data – give it to them. Stop playing your cards so close to your chest!

Finally, get rid of the “never-never” plan as an incentive to help your company hire new drivers; you pay cash, in full, the next pay period after the new recruit turns the first mile period. Your drivers have been schooled as to what type of individual you’re looking for, they have shown the potential candidate the value statement that the company works under. They have stressed whatever information you feel necessary that the potential new hire must understand and agree to be successful at your company. You screened them, you tested them, you accepted them, you put them in the truck, if the individual doesn’t workout how is that the driver’s problem? You owe them, pay them, you do it for your in house recruiters why not your on-road recruiters. Want to make an impact with on road recruiters; this is how to do it.

A Better Driver Referral Program

As many of you know, recruiting and retention has become a passion of mine. Having progressed from the Driver’s seat to the C-suite, I have seen first-hand what a united workforce looks like. Conversely (unfortunately), I have also witnessed what can happen when that workforce takes their ‘eyes off the road’. The one area I would like to focus on today is understanding the recruiting and retention process from the Driver’s side.

One significant thing many companies fail to acknowledge is that some drivers sincerely do not believe that you know how to run your own business. I have been behind the wheel for a million miles myself, I can tell you first this hand. Your drivers believe that you will, if given the opportunity, hire them right out of a job. They believe that by your hiring more drivers, their miles will be threatened and their livelihood will be impacted. Don’t believe that? It is the number one reason they do not recruit for you – guaranteed. To protect their paycheck, they will tell other drivers to stay away – ‘money is no good’, ‘no miles’, ‘companies a hard place to work at etc.’

So how do you get around that? As a President, here is what my senior managers and I did – we educated them. Part of my managers daily responsibility was to spend fifteen minutes each morning, and afternoon in our driver’s room, which gave them an opportunity to discuss such matters person to person. I used to tell them that this was the most important thirty minutes of our entire work day. To talk about their family, kids’ sports, community events, whatever. People talk to people, I also wrote a memo to the drivers informing them of our customer’s needs, and that they weren’t prepared to deal with multiple vendors to service their accounts, it cost them too much money. I told them bluntly, if we couldn’t keep up with our customers volumes, they would find trucking companies that would, in other words if they’re not helping our recruiting efforts, they are potentially undermining their livelihood not protecting it.

Implementing a Driver Recruitment program has benefits in terms of the number of good candidates that come your way, as well as the benefit of engaging some of your existing drivers and owner operators in contributing to the company in a meaningful way. Many do want to help, more than you might think, they have chosen to spend their careers with your company, why not.

For our company, once we got the program up and running,we were getting 52% of new drivers through the Driver Recruiter channel. First of all, we asked for volunteers, then we screened them for the role. We looked at whether or not they were good drivers who represented the kind of people we wanted in the company. We looked at their attitude and how they were at talking to other people – were they amiable, honest and positive?

We found that there were different things motivating our driver recruiter volunteers. Some were simply in it for the money, which was fine, as long as they screened well. Others like the recognition, because this was a role with a profile, and the reward was more than just money. We recognized good achievers at our Christmas party, company newsletters and online, presented top recruiters with a plaque etc. And then there were those drivers who simply responded to the call for help. They just wanted to contribute.

A critical part of the program focused on training the drivers for the role. It is important to help build their confidence to prepare them with the skills and tools to succeed. For our program, we gave the drivers training to help them in terms of what kind of candidates they should target, what to emphasize about our company values and objectives, as well as to be completely honest about the demands of our business and customer obligations. We gave them training in conversational sales, we gave them business cards identifying them as Recruiters – and made sure our Value Statement was printed on the back. This was to be a point of discussion with any candidates. And then we put decals on their truck saying “I am a recruiter – talk to me.” This was a popular program with our drivers.

Since this was a valuable service, we were willing to pay for it. Some positions are harder than others to fill so we scaled our compensation to the type of opening being filled. It will be different for you, but in our case, at the time, we paid $2,000 for a flatbed candidate and $1,000 for a van driver.

This could represent a significant boost to income for successful driver recruiters. We had drivers who were responsible for up to 6 new recruits in one year. They pocketed between $6,000 and $12,000 extra that year. And he received solid recognition within and beyond our company.

Pivotal to our program’s success was the payment method we used to compensate our driver and owner operator recruiters. I have seen various programs like deferring payment until after a certain probation period, or so many cents per mile for a determined period of time (or miles) – and even sliding scales over a year or two! For my money, and our results speak for themselves, pay up front once you have hired a candidate. This is most impactful to the drivers – and to any drivers who are not now, but could become recruiters for you. Cash in hand speaks volumes.

Our logic was that once a candidate came our way it is up to us to determine if this would be a good driver for our company.  We put the candidate through our normal hiring/screening process. If we bring that candidate on and it did not work out, that is on us, why should that be on the recruiter, we made the decision to proceed, we made the mistake if the candidate doesn’t work out and we benefit if they success. The driver recruiter did his or her job in bring the opportunity to us. Payment is due, want to support driver recruiting by drivers this is how to do it.

Your drivers will be uplifted by the rewards, recognition and sense of additional purpose that their role will now mean. While delivering benefits to the drivers and to the company, we are also mining just another avenue for building that sense of belonging and community that is the foundation of everything when it comes to Driver Retention.