Experts Share Hiring, Retention Tools at TSD

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Attendees answer a question on hiring practices that was posed by panelists during a session on optimizing hiring, training and retention strategies.

FRISCO, Texas — One of the best retention tools is a driver who leaves a school district or bus company for what appears to be a better opportunity but soon realizes the grass isn’t always greener.

That driver could end up wanting to come back or could be your operation’s best recruiter for current and future drivers.

“Periodically go through the files of the drivers who have left and who you’d like back,” said John Benish, chief operating officer at Chicago school bus contractor Cook-Illinois Corp. “Invite them for lunch or to job fairs or just to stop by and say hi. Never burn a bridge. Leave that door open.”

That was a main point made during the Saturday session “Optimizing Hiring, Training and Retention Strategies” at the 24th Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers National Conference.

“Turnover is not necessarily bad,” commented Mark Hinson, the chief human resources officer for Adams 12 Five Star Schools near Denver and along with Benish a member of the TSD National Board of Advisors. “You need some fresh faces, some new ideas.”

When it becomes a problem is when turnover is indicative of systemic issues in the organization. Compare turnover rates, he added, with those of reported by the local economic commission. If your department is exceeding those figures, a different kind of change is needed. Focus groups and anonymous surveys are also enlightening to positive changes that will be embraced rather than rejected by staff members.

“You’ve got to get to the issue of why we are losing people,” Hinson recommended.

Fellow panelist Josh Rice, director of transportation at New Caney ISD near Houston, said exit interviews are great ways to gauge any internal issues through honest feedback, as these employees often have nothing to lose in being honest. Additionally, exit interviews are helpful to HR to build better wage and benefits packages.

Hinson added: “You’ve got to know why other local businesses are attracting talent you are not.”

Aaron Hobbs, the executive director of transportation at Dallas County Schools, said the amount of guaranteed hours a day is vital for many drivers and other transportation staff. He added that he is currently pushing for a minimum of six hours a day. Rice pointed out that driver who makes, say, $13 an hour but only get four hours a day and 20 hours a week might choose to work at Walmart for 9 hours a day but a guaranteed six to eight hours a day.

George Horne, a consultant and retired director of transportation and school superintendent from the New Orleans area, advised attendees to know the rules about their local and state retirement pension plans.

“Know the terms of that,” he added. “Can they keep retirement and come back later (to work)?”

Julius Ceaser, the director of recruiting for Cook-Illinois Corp., advised that transportation management make simple videos or encourage drivers to do the same to create a grassroots employment ads. Such programs could build camaraderie in addition to highlighting all that is good with your operations.

“Making your employees happy is the key to your success,” he said. “Make them feel appreciated.”