View from the Edge

The Recruiting Spiral of Death

In this issue, CarriersEdge co-founder Mark Murrell looks at how truck show recruiting efforts often lead to unsatisfying results.

Last month I attended GATS - the Great American Trucking Show - in Dallas, where we exhibited during show hours and baked in the Dallas heat the rest of the time. I hadn't been to GATS in several years, but the show was as busy and diverse as I remember it.

One thing that had increased dramatically since my last visit was the number of fleets recruiting drivers. There had to be 60 fleets there, and with all of them trying to outdo each other it was a bit of a madhouse. Exhibiting companies were trying everything in the book to attract drivers to their booths: raffles; spinning prize wheels; karaoke; giving away hats, shirts, whistles; you name it. One booth near us had straight up alcohol and gambling as the centerpiece of their exhibit.

Unfortunately, many of those fleets will be disappointed with the results.

That's not a crack against the show, or the people attending it, but an observation that this kind of recruiting approach doesn't work.

If you think about it for a second you can see why. When you treat recruiting like a carnival or circus, what kind of person does that attract? Does it attract serious professionals, or unserious amateurs?

Bells & Whistles and the Spiral of Death

The people who respond to "bells & whistles" gimmicks are the same kind whose job search is limited to asking how much a fleet pays and what the sign-on bonus is. The serious professionals, who are looking for a fleet that's a good match for them and a place where they can fit in and have a career, tend to walk right past the circus shows and go to the quiet booths that actually provide information about the company and job. In many cases, they've already researched the exhibiting companies and have a sense of who they want to talk to before they even get to the show.

In other words, the circus act attracts people who don't do research, don't have a clear sense of what kind of fleet is a good fit for them, and don't want to think too hard before making a decision. That's not a recipe for a successful career as a driver, so those applicants often don't work out. They end up leaving the company, the fleet's turnover numbers remain high, and management continues to struggle with a driver shortage. They get increasingly desperate, ramp up the circus tactics even more, and the process repeats itself.

That's the spiral of death.

This is an issue that's certainly not limited to trucking. In the tech industry, there's long been a battle for the best workers, and companies have fallen into the trap of focusing on outlandish perks when trying to attract people. As a result, the vast majority of applicants expect tech companies to have foozball tables, free meals, beer fridges, and various other things that have become synonymous with the image of tech. However, just like in trucking, those things attract a particular kind of applicant, which often isn't what the company is really after. Those perks attract young workers, maybe fresh out of school, who are looking for a social group as much as a work experience. They may be decent workers, but they also tend to be jumpers who don't hang around long. For some companies, that's okay. For most, though, it's a bad fit.

One colleague, who made the conscious choice to not go that route, put it very succinctly: "if your workplace is full of toys, you attract children".

Avoiding the Trap

It's an easy trap to fall into. When you see crowds of people milling around other booths, it's easy to get caught up in the circus show and think you need to follow suit to stay in the game.

However, it's a losing proposition. Hiring drivers is about quality, not quantity. Fewer people coming to the booth is just fine, if they're a better fit for the company.

Instead of succumbing to the temptation to be bigger, noisier, and more chaotic, think about what kind of driver is most likely to have success at the company. Spend time evaluating the strongest and weakest performers to develop a clear picture of the characteristics that lead to success, and what those characteristics look like in an applicant. Then think about the values that the company wants to convey through its exhibit space (staying away from the clich├ęs like "we're a family", "open door policy" and "name not a number" junk that everyone claims). Put all of that together into a package that reflects those pieces through booth branding, messaging, and staff presentation. It might be quieter, and will definitely attract fewer people, but it will also attract people who are a better fit, increasing the success rate and ROI from the show.

That's how you break out of the spiral of death.

View from the Edge is a periodic review of best practices in risk management, driver development, and technology for the trucking industry, produced by CarriersEdge.

CarriersEdge provides interactive online driver training for the North American trucking industry. A comprehensive library of safety and compliance courses is supplemented with extensive content creation and customization options, full featured survey tools, detailed management reports, and the industry's first dedicated mobile app for driver training.

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