Many ready-mixed concrete managers will tell you high driver turnover, which creates scheduling problems and high rehiring and retraining costs, is one of their biggest problems. An almost universally low supply of competent, skilled people who will tolerate working in a tough environment and regional labor shortages intensify competition by creating high market wages. Plant managers will often do anything to get new drivers if some trucks are idle. They may even ask competitors whether any former mixer drivers need work or if anyone knows other former professional drivers who need a job.
But the "growing your own" hiring strategy, developed by the National Business Institute (NBI), attacks the driver staffing problem at an earlier stage than training programs. In this strategy, recruiting consultants find good people first; only then does training start. Managers take a low- risk gamble because applicants have completed a nominal four-week training program, which indicates dedication. Although startup time is longer, producers who incorporate this approach into their strategic planning retain drivers longer and avoid hiring emergencies later.
In most cases, the program seeks candidates who don't hold a Class B commercial driver's license (CDL). Why? Producers who adopt the "growing your own" approach realize you can't compare driving a mixer truck with any other professional driving job. A recruit who has previously driven for a living may never appreciate the uniqueness of mixer-truck operation. The program meets CDL requirements, but the main emphasis is on industry-specific training. Trainers stress unique maintenance and safety requirements in mixer driving.
One producer knows too well the costs involved in replacing drivers. In the four years before this producer adopted the new hiring approach, the annual attrition rate for the company's 150 drivers was 29%. It also cost an estimated $3,000 to recruit, hire and train a new driver.
In the "Growing Your Own" approach, a company first polls its managers and develops a list of positive and negative driver attributes and creates an "ideal driver profile." Managers select training areas that will develop recruits' ability to meet profile criteria.
The recruitment process starts with newspaper or radio advertising or job fairs. The pool of respondents shrinks as candidates are screened over the phone; remaining candidates attend an interview that provides driver requirements. The pool shrinks further as recruits' employment histories are verified, they take a drug test and U.S. DOT physical, and participate in an interview that evaluates motivation and attitude.
Managers at the participating company also interview recruits and reserve the right to reject recruits based on the interview or background check. The result is a 1-to-1 ratio between recruits and available positions.
Trainees are not employees until they complete the program. The company pays for training when it is completed and is reimbursed by driver paycheck withdrawals. Some companies forgive part of the training costs if the driver is still employed after a given period.
Producers who grow their own drivers can quantify reductions in driver turnover. Producers also report substantially fewer customer complaints and an improved safety record for drivers hired under the new approach.
KEYWORDS: employee relations, hiring