How to Improve the Driver Recruitment Journey

How to Improve the Driver Recruitment Journey

Simplify the driver recruitment process by learning from a leading recruitment agency.

It’s very easy to think of head-hunters as hard-bitten salespeople who take no prisoners in their mission to find the right talent.

Working for soulless corporations and drinking far too much caffeine, they do whatever it takes.

Fortunately, this isn’t always the case.

In this article, we were lucky enough to get in touch with the perfect antidote to these stereotypes and discuss how to improve the driver recruitment process with a specialist of a leading recruitment agency.

But without getting ahead of ourselves too quickly, let’s address the fundamental issue here:

Why is it so tough to improve driver recruitment?

Many of us take bus and coach drivers for granted.

However, there is a big problem. The UK industry is facing a recruitment crisis, and it is difficult to find the drivers we need to get from place to place. This certainly puts pressure on those who wish to improve the driver recruitment process.

Happy driver

Across the industry, companies cannot fill their driver quotas, and solving the problem has become a priority for the government, employers, and unions.

Many factors contribute, including antisocial hours, abuse from customers, and low pay. Other problems are the cost of training and earning a license.

On one side is simple competition. Recruitment is a lucrative industry, and new companies spring up, crowding the marketplace and fighting for their share.

On the other hand, the transport industry suffers from a decreasing pool of suitable candidates. This is a particular problem when recruiting bus and coach drivers.

A Background: The Rise of Woodrow Mercer

Logo Woodrow Mercer

It’s hard to believe that Woodrow Mercer didn’t exist seven years ago. From a team of two, working in Birmingham, UK, the company has become a leading recruitment agency. Now, there are additional offices in London and Leeds, and plans to expand into Europe.

Woodrow Mercer’s key to success lies in exploiting niches. The company specializes in recruiting candidates for a number of fields, and has a simple philosophy of focusing its efforts into specific areas. They make sure that their recruiters become experts in their field.

Despite the brutal marketplace, Woodrow Mercer is succeeding. Using technology and a new approach, they have risen above these problems.

Their innovative, constantly evolving approach uses modern IT solutions that match candidates with jobs. However, they also take a refreshingly old-school approach of learning the business and seeing things through the eyes of clients and candidates.

So what can we learn from Woodrow Mercer?

Quality Over Quantity

Aware of the problem associated with recruiting new drivers, Woodrow Mercer had to fight to succeed in a competitive industry with a diminished pool of skilled drivers.

Accordingly, they developed a strategy of developing expertise to improve the driver recruitment process and emphasize high quality candidates.

How so? By being the market experts that they are and communicating with their candidates to have a better understanding. This idea of openness and honesty is something that recurs frequently, alongside focusing on working smart.

Drawing of a five star rating

A good line of communication with the hiring manager allowed them to find out the extensive details of the role. By focusing on the quality of the applicants increases their reliability and retention rates.

Perception and Reality

According to one of Woodrow Mercer’s recruitment specialists, there is some truth in this but perceptions are usually driven by those who have had the bad experiences themselves. In fact, unsociable hours are part of the job and this will probably never change. Understandably this may discourage people coming into the sector.

However, companies can mitigate this problem. For drivers with families and other commitments, operators have a level of flexibility, but it is simply not practical to employ everybody on this basis.

Enhancing pay rates isn’t the answer, but the recruitment specialist believes that drivers working unsociable hours should be rewarded.

Enhancing pay rates can help in this situation but, if someone is prepared to work unsociable hours for more money, they could have worked them in the first place, so it is a pay related issue.

That said, people who do work these more unsociable hours should be rewarded.

That seems like a fair compromise to us!

Abuse and Protection

We have all seen bus drivers receive abuse from Friday night drunks, or unfair complaints from stressed commuters. There is no doubt that this is a contributing factor to people leaving the sector

It is an area where companies can support their drivers and turn around the negative images.

Operators who fit extensive CCTV/monitoring equipment can massively reduce, eliminate, or deter any potential abuse. In addition, operators should eliminate any wrongful complaints and protect the employee.

Training and Recruitment

One problem when trying to improve the driver recruitment in the industry is that job offers are conditional on passing a test.

Drawing of a aman presenting to an audience

No pass, no job, so how can you encourage a candidate to leave another secure job?

As always, preparation and honesty are crucial. Though recruitment agencies cannot guarantee that they pass any test, they can however prepare them as best as possible.

Bus companies are more willing to seek young, inexperienced drivers and provide training, while coach companies prefer the tried and tested.

As the recruitment specialist pointed out:

Bus and coach operators seek experienced recruits because they start work almost instantly, with minimal training.

From experience, bus operators are more likely to employ younger candidates…People become trainee bus drivers, obtain their PCV, work on service routes and then either stick to that or explore opportunities in coach driving.

One problem is that, for a job with strict license requirements, who pays for the expensive training?

Naturally, companies are unwilling to pay for training without protecting their investment, but candidates might not be able to afford the expensive process.

Building a Career

A particular obstacle, when a company wants to improve the driver recruitment process, can be the perception that bus and coach driving are career dead ends.

But as the recruitment specialist points out, he has seen many drivers work their way up the ranks.

A large number of the managers I work with have progressed through from lower level roles.

Obviously, there are only so many senior positions so it will be impossible for everyone to be promoted.

I think if a driver pushes for the right development, they will give themselves every chance.

Why is Everything About Brexit?

We know that everybody is bored of Brexit, but at this point it has forced its way into common discourse.

Two-floor bus on a road

So how will Brexit affect recruitment?

Whether continental drivers are able to drive on the left is much more important. Language competency is also a factor, because customer-facing employees need to communicate.

Some operators may be reluctant to employ non-UK drivers for a variety of reasons, including driving on the left. Moreover, language poses a barrier too, especially as coach operators focus massively on customer service.

A Source of Competition

One factor affecting recruitment is competition from similar sectors. If you can drive a big bus, you can drive a truck, and some drivers prefer other opportunities.

In general, HGV Class 1/2 work does pay slightly higher than PCV driving, and a number of drivers have gone out of the sector to pursue these driving opportunities. They very rarely come in the other direction.

It’s important that recruitment agencies remain transparent and honest with candidates and allow them to freely choose which career path is best suited to them.

Beyond Driving – The Essential Skills

Someone can be the best driver in the world, but if they hate working with the public, you have a problem.

As an agency, Woodrow Mercer help candidates prepare as much as possible, and argue that those less comfortable with public interaction can find other driving opportunities.

For every opportunity, at Woodrow Mercer, they have an extensive screening process for all their candidates and provide as much advice as possible. Typically, the people who do not want to work with the public will go into more non-customer facing roles (HGV or logistics).

An Important Lesson: Expertise and Building Niches

Perhaps, we will even stop taking bus drivers for granted.

Woodrow Mercer has provided some lessons for us all with their focused, client-driven approach.

Some businesses see driver shortages as an obstacle, but Woodrow Mercer see it as a challenge that forces them to innovate and adapt.

A business isn’t defined by how it performs during the good times, but by how it performs during the tough times. By remaining focused, listening to your clients and your candidates, you can match people to jobs and develop a strategy that helps you succeed even when all around you are failing.

Too many companies simply play the numbers game and think that sending bucket loads of CVs is the answer. This article has shown us that knowledge is the key to promoting quality over quantity.

Constant learning, market expertise, and client-driven approaches are basic business principles, but many companies forget these. Instead, they rely on sound bites, business-speak, and other corporate BS.

This is crucial for industries working in niches. What sets you apart from the larger companies, with their generic approaches, is subject knowledge, working closely with clients, and developing a unique understanding of their problems, allowing you to work together to find solutions.

It might be a cliché, but rarely does win/win sound more appropriate.

Michele Zaccaria

Michele Zaccaria is the CEO & Founder of Sengerio. With his desire to improve things, Michele loves to build Sengerio (simple passenger transportation software). Being a minimalist, he loves to surround himself with interesting people and to listen.