BY BOB CRESCENZOMatching Skills, Experience, Equipment & Routes Are Keys to Success
It’s unusual to engage in any discussion of the opportunities and challenges facing today’s chauffeured transportation industry without the issue of recruiting and training chauffeurs dominating the conversation. With an improving national economy, coupled with the traditional competition from the motorcoach and trucking industries for committed, professional chauffeurs, and in recent years the emergence of TNCs, the challenge has become more daunting than ever.
Attracting new chauffeurs today requires a more complex and comprehensive approach that focuses on the chauffeur candidates’ needs and expectations for a rewarding, satisfying long-term relationship rather than just a minimally trained licensed body to put behind the wheel of your company’s high-end vehicles.
More than ever, direct, effective, and ongoing communication skills are critical to a successful hiring and retention strategy, and the tactics to achieve that success need to be altered significantly.
Clearly Identify Your Goals ... and Communicate Them
Whether the goal is to retain experienced, long-term chauffeurs or to attract new candidates, employers need to do a much more effective job of informing, persuading, and motivating to make sure that the people who act as the face of your company represent your image and reputation as you want it conveyed to your clients; therefore, your company’s reputation literally rides on the decisions you make in the recruiting process. While word-of-mouth and referrals from current chauffeurs still might help to keep the driver candidate pipeline filled, the way those candidates perceive your company’s reputation regarding management’s relationship with its current chauffeur group is what sets the tone for the initial hiring process. In other words, your chauffeur recruitment plan does not begin when a potential hire arrives for his or her first interview, but it is an ongoing strategy to have a good candidate seek your company out as a place they WANT to work. In that case, your company’s reputation, as perceived by its chauffeurs and candidates, is the ONLY reality.
Your good (or bad) reputation precedes you, so hiring and retaining chauffeurs is primarily related to how your company and management style is evaluated by them. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only pay and benefits that chauffeur candidates consider when an employment offer is made; it’s also very much about how other employees, including chauffeurs, feel about working for your company. Until that reality is accepted—reluctantly or not—the recruiting and hiring process will be fundamentally flawed.
“Your company’s reputation literally rides on the decisions you make in the recruiting process.”
Core Capabilities Haven’t Changed
Before conducting that first interview, a little self-examination of your management philosophy might be helpful. Honestly accept your company’s strengths and limitations, clearly identify your hiring needs, analyze the costs involved with the entire process in financial and man-hours committed—from first interview to first dispatch—and, perhaps most importantly, carefully prepare and provide the chauffeur candidate with a detailed and accurate job description. Be sure to include anticipated working hours, including day and night driving, and describe the range and type of vehicles in your fleet that your candidate will be expected to operate.
When vetting candidates, go way beyond what they list on your employment application. Push hard to get a complete driving history that, if the candidate is hired, will help focus their training and driving assignments to match their experience and initial comfort level. As many TNCs have belatedly (and often painfully) discovered, comprehensive background checks are very important, as is the input from previous employers—transportation-related or not.
Finding a Chauffeur’s Sweet Spot Regarding Vehicle Preference
The company’s reputation and continued success requires much more than a simple road test to demonstrate a candidate’s driving skills, especially if you are considering non-traditional candidates. When in training, a chauffeur should be given a skills assessment-based training regimen, but not every new driver needs to follow the same program. The curriculum should not only include classroom and on-the-road exercises, but also should be performed in multiple vehicle types with different handling characteristics and limitations over different routes and driving conditions. Insurance company claim files are filled with horror stories involving chauffeurs who were extremely competent in sedans (and even stretches) on short trips in a suburban or rural environment in daytime hours, but, for example, had a terrible accident-marred trip when dispatched in a mini-bus for a nighttime event at a downtown, high-traffic location.
Despite their statements to the contrary, don’t ever assume that all chauffeurs are equally qualified to handle all trips, in all types of vehicles, at all hours of the day. It’s just not true—and you know it. Make every attempt to always match the right chauffeur with the right vehicle, on the right type of trip/route at the best time of day/night, and make sure your dispatcher is sensitive to those same concerns—and preferences.
Chauffeur Retention Is Your Dividend
Now that you’ve identified your real chauffeur needs, evaluated the cost, recruited effectively, vigorously vetted candidates, trained them in a variety of company vehicle types under various driving and traffic conditions, and effectively matched them with assignments which favor each’s skill set—what’s next? How do you keep that chauffeur, in whom you just invested a significant amount of time and money, from leaving your company for a few dollars more an hour or some more personal acknowledgement and recognition for their contributions to your company’s success?
A little gratitude communicated directly to a chauffeur before his peers is a good start. When treated fairly, good chauffeurs will become your best recruiters for new candidates because they will be more than willing to share their employer’s positive attributes ... if only to justify their own decision to be a long-term employee. Simple chauffeur incentive programs also help to build company morale and chauffeur camaraderie. For example, a modest monetary incentive for reaching safe driving goals not only inflates a chauffeur’s bank account, but his professional ego as well. Posting award recipients on your website or social media outlets is always appreciated, as is internal acknowledgement in the form of a periodic chauffeur event/luncheon to recognize achievements.
Ultimately, while the ends (a competent, content, long-term chauffeur force) remain the same, the means to reaching that goal must adapt to today’s new realities. To get ahead of these new challenges, it’s important to adjust your approach to identifying, recruiting, hiring, training and retaining professional chauffeurs to help you succeed in an ever-changing, and competitive environment. [CD0717]
Bob Crescenzo is the Vice President of Lancer Insurance Company in Long Beach, NY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.