Good Help Doesn’t Need to be Hard to Find
by Marty Kirshner, CPA, MSA & Joe Ciccarello, CPA, MST; Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP
Hiring & Retaining Delivery Drivers and Service Technicians
A big challenge faced by energy dealers is hiring and retaining delivery drivers and service technicians. This article will provide tips to help you attract new workers and hang onto the people you have.
Delivery drivers and service techs are the backbone of an energy business, a direct connection to customers at the point where your product and services are being used. Which makes it essential that you hire, train and retain the right people for this important role. But an aging workforce and competition in an historically tight labor market are making it difficult to attract new drivers and techs. We recently sat down with Gray, Gray & Gray’s very own Chief People Officer, Alison Burgett, to get her take on what energy companies should be thinking about when it comes to hiring and retaining employees.
Finding Good Help
If traditional sources of candidates for driving and tech jobs (newspapers, job boards, voc-tech schools) have not been yielding enough candidates, you need to look elsewhere. “Start by asking your employees where they have looked for a job in the past. Their experience is likely to be more recent than yours,” suggests Alison Burgett, Chief People Officer at Gray, Gray & Gray. “Other sources of finding workers might be groups that promote hiring military veterans or local organizations that are helping people return to the workforce.”
Alison also recommends that you should be using social media to advertise openings. “Create an ad on a platform like Facebook, where you can choose the audience and geographic coverage area you want to reach,” she says. “You will probably need to spend some money to boost your job post so that it extends beyond your followers.” Social media also gives you the opportunity to pre-screen applicants by reviewing their profile.
Make sure your job listing provides plenty of information about the position. The more accurate the job description, the better chances are that you find a candidate who is a good fit. Include details about:
- Expected schedule
- Full-time or part-time
- Year-round or seasonal
- Educational requirements
- Preferred experience
- Licensing requirements (i.e., CDL, plumber or gasfitter license)
- Will they be an employee or a contractor?
- Background check requirements
- Compensation range and benefits
- Training and education benefits
- Opportunities for advancement
- Information about company culture
Despite the dearth of qualified candidates, you should also conduct a competency test before hiring a driver or service technician. Put potential drivers through the paces of driving the type of vehicle they will be expected to handle daily. Set up a test to see how well a service tech evaluates a problem and devises a solution. This will help avoid hiring someone who cannot represent your company properly and may have to be let go soon. It is advisable to run any tests by an employment lawyer to help mitigate liability for any interference with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Don’t just drop a new hire into a position the first day and expect them to excel. You should have an organized and systematized onboarding process for all positions. This includes training them on company procedures, internal operations and communications, software training, health and safety training, customer service expectations and practices, and professional “rules of the road” they are expected to follow while wearing the company’s uniform.
Keeping Your Best People
Retaining good drivers and service techs is even more important than hiring new ones. “The longer an employee is with your company, the more they understand your culture and processes so they can best represent your brand in the community,” says Alison Burgett. Try this five-pronged approach to keeping the best people on board.
• Treat your team well. According to Alison, “The top reason workers leave a company is feeling undervalued.” Remember that your employees are people, not just numbers on a payroll report. Everyone should be respected and appreciated. Even as your company expands and headcount grows, make every effort to maintain open communications and a relationship with the people working for you.
• Stress safety. This is especially important for drivers and techs who are on the road as part of their daily routine.
Delineate and follow best practices for safety, keep vehicles and equipment in top condition, and reward safe driving habits. And make sure you are using routing software that makes it easy for drivers to find their destination. This will help them realize you have their best interests in mind.
• Keep training. “Everyone should be encouraged – if not required – to continue improving their skills,” says Alison Burgett. “Work with drivers and techs on customer service skills in addition to their core specialties. Encourage everyone to share what works for them.” Provide tuition assistance for advanced courses or certifications, utilize equipment vendors for on-site training updates, tap into OSHA resources for safety training, and recognize and reward those who make the effort to stay cutting edge.
• Pay well. Money is still an incentive. We know several companies in the energy field who are not experiencing labor issues, all of whom admit that they “overpay” employees. Says one company owner, “We know it. They know it. But it is what it takes to keep them, and we are willing to do it.”
• Overstaff. Yes, we are talking about the difficulties of hiring. But, where possible, bring extra people on board. This is especially critical for service technicians, many of whom must take their turn answering late night callouts. Nobody likes doing that and having an additional tech or two on the team can reduce the number of nights each must be on call.
The labor crisis shows no signs of abating, while demands on service continue to grow. Therefore, it is imperative that you break free from unproductive hiring and retention practices that may have been fine a dozen years ago, but which no longer work. Embracing new methods of communication and outreach and working even harder to create an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement within your organization will let your people know they are appreciated.
Marty Kirshner and Joe Ciccarello are Partners in the Energy Practice Group at Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP, a business consulting and accounting firm that serves the energy industry. They can be reached at (781) 407-0300 or email@example.com.