Trucks at Work
Talent matters, especially in trucking. But it’ll stay hard to find and keep.

Talent matters, especially in trucking. But it’ll stay hard to find and keep.

One of the many definitions of the word “talent” is “a special often athletic, creative or artistic aptitude.” And that fits perfectly with the needs of the trucking industry, for the skills required to safety pilot big rigs on our roadways – much less what’s needed to keep them up and running day in and day out – can certainly be labeled “talents.”

Take this recent analysis brief published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Though based on what the agency quantified as a “limited sample” of 943 drivers of large trucks who were all involved in fatal or injury crashes of varying severity, FMCSA found that experience pays big dividends in terms of reducing crash risk.

In particular, for drivers of big rigs with fewer than five years of truck driving experience, the risk of being tagged as “the critical reason” for a crash is 17% higher compared to drivers with five or more years of truck-driving experience – which means to me, at least, that time on the road helps refine the talent for driving a big rig safely.

Yet finding, much less keeping, folks with those kinds of talents continues to get tougher in trucking – indeed, it’s getting tougher for all sorts of industries.

For example, check out the Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey for 2017; a report compiled annually by consulting firm Harris Allied. More than any other concern as it relates to hiring and retention, finding and hiring top talent keeps the majority of the 120 executives at major technology corporations polled by the firm up at night – more than keeping the team they have in place and more than staying competitive with regard to salary and bonuses.

Indeed, half of all executives in that report define it as their “biggest worry” and that number has continued to grow by 11% in the last three years alone, noted Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, in the firm’s report.

“We know from experience that many factors contribute to an individual’s desire to change jobs,” she explained. “It’s very important for technology professionals to have opportunities for professional growth, as well as to work on exciting projects and contribute to the success of an organization.”

Now, sure, this is a survey geared to the needs of the technology industry – not exactly one that draws many parallels to driving and fixing trucks.

Then again, don’t forget trucking is an industry that is rapidly digitizing, so the need for information technology (IT) specialists in the freight-hauling world is only going to grow.

So what are some things trucking might do to improve its “talent attraction and retention” capabilities? Again, while the Harris Allied survey is focused more on technology companies, there are some strategic similarities worth considering.

First, while being able to offer excellent compensation and benefit packages often got cited as “important recruiting tactics,” being able to attract new employees with an “amazing corporate culture” or a “company’s unique industry position” ranked as the “next-most” important strategies, according to the firm’s poll.

An environment that is creative, inspiring and fun (63.4%); being industry-leading and innovative (54.8%); and having the chance to work on interesting projects (51.6%) were cited most often as contributing to an exceptional corporate culture, Harris Allied said.

[Think this kind of stuff is too over the top for trucking? Remember, you’ll be recruiting mainly Millennials and Generation Z workers from here on out – and they respond to such incentives.]

According to Harris Allied’s findings, “corporate culture” also plays a critical role in employee attrition. Nearly 26% of survey respondents said that people left their company for more exciting opportunities and the chance to work with new technology; another 16.7% said they thought it was because their corporate culture was very challenging. Again, though, competitive compensation and benefits packages always play a role, too, with another 19.2% citing that as a reason people had left the firm.

So what do executives feel they should be doing, or doing better, to attract and retain top tech talent? Among the executives polled by Harris Allied, their answers were fairly evenly split among improving professional development opportunities, increasing employee compensation, improving corporate culture and employee morale, and improving benefits, vacation and PTO [paid time off].

“All of these are important elements of a sound recruiting and retention strategy, because they influence how a prospective or current employee views the company,” noted Harris.

“At the end of the day, an employee won’t change jobs solely because they are being offered a few thousand dollars more or more PTO,” she stressed. “Companies that offer exceptional corporate cultures and are well positioned in their industries are highly desired by job seekers. Employees want to know that they are contributing to an organization that is successful and growing.”

Here are a few other findings to think about:

  • Social media plays an important role in a company’s recruitment strategy, said 86.7% of those surveyed.
  • Offering both competitive compensation packages and outstanding benefits packages were considered an important part of any recruitment strategy. And for trucking, driver pay matters big time.
  • Offering employees the opportunity to telecommute came in as a close second. And while that’s not doable for most trucking jobs, for some “back office” functions, it might be something to consider.
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