Authenticity in Recruiting Is Crucial to Creating Relationships That Endure

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by Tom Gresham

JEREMY REYMER, FOUNDER of DriverReach, said he remembers early in his time in the trucking industry occasionally encountering an old school mentality that “drivers are a dime a dozen.”

“The attitude was, ‘If someone leaves, just hire another driver. It’s fine. They leave all the time,’” Reymer said. “Fortunately, you don’t see that as much anymore.”

Driver recruiting is one of the most critical elements in the success of a trucking company, and it deserves a level of attention and care that matches its importance. Even today, successful recruiting sometimes is seen through a simple, short-term lens – the hiring of drivers. However, that mindset and a focus on immediate results frequently will lead to problems not very far down the road with drivers churning on and off your payroll and a culture of itinerant drivers taking root.

Recruiting should be about more than just hiring a driver – it should be about hiring a driver who will be there for the long term.

“You’re not trying to bamboozle them into making a decision that they don’t want to make,” Reymer said. “You are trying to help them come to a good decision.”

In today’s climate, a personalized emphasis on authenticity in recruiting is crucial to creating relationships with drivers that endure.

BUILDING AND MAINTAINING A CULTURE DRIVERS APPRECIATE

Page Siplon, CEO of TeamOne Logistics, believes that recruiting does not stop once a driver is hired; companies should bring a recruiting-style mindset to retaining their drivers. In essence, companies should consider themselves in an ongoing recruitment battle with their rivals for their drivers.

“What a lot of companies have a problem with, particularly in the trucking industry, is that they lose sight that their easiest and most important asset from a recruiting perspective is to hold on to the folks they have,” Siplon said. “You always need to be thinking about, ‘How am I recruiting that driver to stay?’ Because frankly, if you’ve got good drivers, everyone else is recruiting them, too.”

Siplon said drivers want to be recognized as offering more value than just driving the truck. They play an integral role in customer relations, for instance, and can provide valuable insights and intelligence toward business development, recognizing opportunities from their unique vantage points and interactions.

“Recognizing that goes a long way with drivers,” Siplon said. “That’s the kind of team drivers want to be a part of. They want to be listened to and appreciated for what they can offer. They’re more than just a steering-wheel gripper. If you can do that and be genuine about it, then you can be somewhere where drivers want to be.”

Building strong relationships with existing drivers through communication can prove highly attractive to prospective drivers. Drivers talk to each other, trading stories about their work experiences, and referrals also are a particularly effective tool in recruiting, Siplon said. If your relationships with your drivers are steadfast, it creates a space for them to help bring in more quality drivers.

“Are you telling your drivers, ‘Hey, you kick butt, go find me three more of you. Do you have any friends that you feel are your caliber? Because if you do, not only could we really use it to help grow the business and be competitive with our customers, but I’ve also got a financial incentive for you with a referral bonus,’” Siplon said. “There’s a real opportunity there.”

However, she continued, it is important to understand that referrals will not work without the foundation of an excellent culture for drivers.

“You’ve got to have the culture first, and you’ve got to have good drivers who are part of your team and believe in that culture,” she said. “Then you can incentivize them to go find more like themselves.”

Training and safety are baseline must-haves, but companies that approach them with creativity – that make the process both effective and relatively painless – can prove attractive to drivers, Siplon said. Communicate with drivers and learn to understand their preferences, habits and concerns, and you can build a culture that other drivers will seek out.

How companies communicate with drivers and prospective drivers also is critical. A driver who prefers text should be able to communicate via text, and ditto for one who prefers phone calls. In that vein, companies recruiting drivers should help drivers apply in the format that works best for them, using technology to make it easy for them rather than creating unnecessary obstacles for those who are not tech-savvy. Siplon said that means using technology in concert with “white glove service” from recruiters. “It’s not one-sizefits-all – you’ve got to be flexible.

“Drivers aren’t going to sit around and wait for you to figure out how to get an application to them or how to get their information from them to complete whatever you need them to complete,” Siplon said. “An onboarding or an application checklist should be super easy.”

Reymer said some trucking companies don’t engage with prospective drivers if they don’t have a need for them at the moment. Then, when a driver shortage occurs, they ramp back up the outreach. He said companies should continue to connect with prospective drivers, regardless of need. That way they build connections with drivers and will be better positioned to fill open positions quickly with experienced drivers. That means using tech tools to collect prospective drivers’ information so that they can be contacted when positions open and staying in contact with them by sharing targeted communications with them.

“You want to build a pipeline of people because the freight market will get better again and then there will be another rush and panic to hire drivers,” Reymer said. “You want to be in the front of those drivers’ minds.”

RECRUITING WITH HONESTY

While referrals and word of mouth can be powerful, Siplon said it is still true that the largest pool of drivers will need to come through your recruiting team, which Team One Logistics calls talent managers. These talent managers need to be able to hold authentic conversations with drivers grounded in an intimate understanding of the driving experience.

“When we hire a talent manager, they’ve got to know what they’re talking about,” Siplon said. “Hopefully, they’ve run an operation, they’ve run a terminal or they’ve been a driver themselves. That’s critical, because experienced drivers want to know things like ‘What kind of equipment do you use? What is the route? What is the customer like?’. Our talent managers need to be prepared to not just read it off a card, but be able to talk shop, right from the very first conversation. The talent managers are the tip of the spear for telling our story, and if they can’t really talk shop and don’t know what they’re talking about, the drivers smell it from 100 miles away.”

Reymer said trucking companies too often do not treat hiring and training recruiters with the kind of care and consideration it deserves. Recruiting has a clear overlap with sales, and the people who fill recruiting roles should display similar aptitudes and “wiring,” he said. Once they are in the position, they need thorough training and coaching about how to have better conversations with drivers, including learning to understand drivers’ perspectives and preferences and how they match an open position.

“Recruiting is such a critical part of a company’s operations, and yet it’s arguably one of the least supported by training,” Reymer said.

Recruiters have to “understand the opportunity that they’re selling” so that they can adequately communicate that to drivers, Siplon said. They also need to understand different drivers’ needs, comprehending not just what they are saying, but what they might be leaving unsaid.

A poor fit typically leads to a bad experience for both driver and company, and if that fit was made after misrepresentations by a recruiter then that likely will hurt the company’s reputation in the process, Siplon said.

“Too many recruiters try to make a square peg fit,” Siplon said.

Ineffective recruiting frequently involves the person doing the hiring telling a driver what they want to hear, whether it is true or not. That approach might get someone in the door, but their employment likely will prove unhappy and short-lived, making it a waste of time and resources.

“When you have the right types of conversations, you can weed that stuff out,” Reymer said. “There’s nothing wrong with saying to a driver, ‘I just don’t think this is going to be the best fit.’ If you have somebody who’s having really good conversations, then you’re going to have a heck of a lot less problems on the other side – a heck of a lot less turnover.”

Ultimately, a focus on each driver as an individual can drive hiring decisions that measure success well beyond just getting new people in the door.

“Transportation and logistics will always be a people business,” Siplon said. “You never want to lose sight of that.”

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