Maximizing Sweeper Operator Retention and Recruiting

The impetus for this 2022 article first appeared on the Fleet Maintenance website.

In a session called “Upping Your Retention & Recruitment Game in These Changing Times,” Tony Lee, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) vice president of editorial, gave HDAW attendees what he called “13 very practical things that you can do to hire great people and retain great people.”

“We’re in a crazy time right now in terms of hiring and keeping people,” said Lee, an authority on hiring and retention who has written several books and often publicly speaks on the subject.

Although times may be crazy, Lee has some advice for those looking to keep employees happy and productive. We share it here for WSA Members. Although all of it may not pertain to — especially — smaller sweeping contractors, all of the information is certainly “food for thought.”

1. Focus on the fundamentals

The greatest bottleneck for your talent pipeline could be right at the initial application process. Can potential hires easily find and apply for jobs at your company? How long does it take?

One-third of companies require applications that take more than 30 minutes to complete, while more than half don’t optimize for mobile users. Lee noted Generation Z, or people under 25, often fill out applications at red lights while in their vehicles.

“If they can’t complete that application in that two minutes, you may have lost them,” Lee said. “I know it sounds crazy, but you’re in a business of trying to attract someone who may very well go to the Amazon warehouse down the street, or may very well go to the retailer that’s offering the $1,000 sign-on bonus.”

One way to find out how easy and quick that process takes is by filling out an application yourself, Lee said. If your application takes too long, consider keeping it to name, contact information, and what job they want.

The rest, he argued, can be sorted out during the interview process.

2. Show who you are

“You’ve got to be able to tell your story so that others don’t do it for you,” Lee said. “And the good news is, you don’t have to pay a penny.”

After namedropping Amazon for their highly produced videos on work culture, he cited a smaller Colorado company called Aspen Tree Service. That business essentially had an employee record interviews with colleagues, getting them to explain what they like about the company. That authentic content gives potential hires a good idea of what to expect, and the information can be freely shared on social media. — Jason McDaniel | Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group

3. Maximize employee referrals

Lee said research shows that turning your employees into recruiters “is the single most effective way to hire new people,” because current employees can vouch for the company.

This method also costs far less than an outside recruiter, who receives a commission based on the employee salary. Paying $500 per referral, though, is not enough, considering headhunters can get $25,000 to find someone making $75,000. “There’s a disconnect here,” Lee said.

An Atlanta logistics company upped referral bonuses to $10,000 and found their overall recruiting costs went down and quality of talent went up.

The company also found the best recruiters could be in the least likely places. The top earner turned out to be the top maintenance manager’s wife.

“She had been a part-time recruiter for a couple of years after college and then quit to raise a family of four kids,” Lee recounted. “Her youngest was now in middle school; she had some time on her hands. She started recruiting and made $40,000—and every one of the people that she recruited was a great hire.”

4. High-volume hiring hiccups

Paying your employees for finding workers? Smart.

Doling out $500 signing bonuses like fast-food chains are doing now? Not smart.

“Once you start offering sign-on bonuses, it’s really hard to stop, because people come to expect it—the market comes to expect it,” Lee said. He also added this leads to resentment among current staff who did not receive bonuses.

Beyond that, you could attract serial applicants who get hired, get the bonus, and then quit. Some companies try to prevent that by incrementally paying out over the course of several weeks, though that will not be well-received by payroll. “It’s an administrative nightmare,” Lee said.

5. Embrace predictive analytics

Fleets don’t need to be told how effective predictive analytics can be to maintain equipment and schedule work, but the power of data can extend to all levels of the business. Some companies have begun to hire data analytics in the HR department for this very reason, which, using metrics such as cost per hire and turnover rate, helps measure the effectiveness of a current HR program.

Lee pointed to a Florida company that found the workers with the longest tenure came from local community colleges, not big-name universities.

“The reason was because [the employees who attended community colleges] didn’t think they’d be able to get a job as good as this one with a company as well-known as that company was,” Lee said. They also might have wanted to stay close to home for family or other reasons.

Third-party vendors can also provide these data services, Lee noted.

6. Working from anywhere

Consider allowing back-office staff to work remotely part or full time, Lee said, because workers have become accustomed to it since the pandemic began two years ago.

“If you really want the best talent, you may have to consider a way to accommodate that person,” Lee said.

This should be done on a case-by-case basis, and the employer should confirm that the employee can function remotely.

7. ‘Millenial-ize’ your recruiting efforts

Millennials, or those born in the early 1980s to the mid-90s, make up half the workforce and will account for 75% in the next three years as more baby boomers retire. Lee cited recent research that indicated 54% are actively seeking new jobs or will be in the next year. Before the Great Resignation, millennials stayed at jobs for 2.3 years, and Lee said that average tenure is lower now.

Possible cause? Nearly two out of every three millennials believe they are underpaid.

“Everybody thinks they’re underpaid,” Lee said, “but if these folks think they’re underpaid, and they’re thinking about moving, what are you going to do to keep them?”

Figuring out a way to appeal to these workers depends on the job, but a fair salary is at the top.

8. Prepare for Gen Z

While millennials’ cultural inflection point was the 9/11 attacks, for Gen Z, it was the Great Recession of 2008-2010.

“They are very focused on money, because of what happened when they were kids during that recession,” Lee said. As impressionable children, homes were foreclosed upon, parents lost jobs, and family savings were depleted, so 35% of Gen Zers say money is their top motivation for taking a job.

A good working environment came in at No. 2, with 24% saying that was the determining factor. Ensure your shop and/or fleet culture excels at both to retain younger employees. Lee said they also prefer to hear things face-to-face rather than by phone or email.

9. Be transparent

Sometimes, you find the right person, hire them, and they “ghost” you on their expected start date. Lee said these things occur because the recruit researched the company more, saw negative reviews on or another job review site, and got cold feet.

To avoid this, foster a positive candidate experience and honestly communicate, from the first interview to the first day on the job.

10. Tap untapped talent

Remember that good workers come in all shapes and sizes. “Research shows that people with disabilities are incredibly loyal employees,” Lee said. “If they’ve got a job, and you treat them well, they will never leave.”

Others to consider include military veterans, older workers, and people with criminal histories.

“Drug dealers are incredibly great managers” Lee asserted, as audience members chuckled.

Lee then argued his reasoning, (which makes perfect sense for fans of “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad”). “They’re entrepreneurial,” he said. “They know how to run the business; they know how to keep the money coming. They know how to deal with and discipline employees who aren’t following the rules.”

11. Refocus diversity hiring

The C-suites at more companies are keen on meeting diversity quotas nowadays, and if this is the case, the first thing to consider is who is doing the hiring and how to motivate them. In a recent trend, companies incentivize hiring managers with bonuses for reaching a certain level of diversity.

12. Start recruiting early

This means reaching out to community colleges and vocational schools. Offer to assist their curriculum creation. This way, local graduates have the exact skills your shop needs.

“Community colleges and high schools are waiting for you to come to them with that,” Lee said.

To address the diesel technician shortage, the commercial vehicle industry is doing just that.

13. Start retention early

Here’s the worst-case scenario: You find the perfect hire and they accept. But then when they put their two weeks’ notice in, some crafty boss finds the money to make staying more enticing.

To avoid this, make your company more enticing. Have an employee at your company reach out and talk about why this new job will be great. And if the new hire shows up, your current worker gets a small bonus, around $250.

The coup de grâce? Have the new hire fill out a form during the recruiting process on various things they like, and send a gift basket to their house based on that intel.

That is likely to leave a lasting impression on them and their family, Lee concluded.

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