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Opinion:  The Digital Revolution and Driver Recruiting

This week, our very own Kelley Walkup was featured in Transport Topics for an opinion piece she wrote on The Digital Revolution & Driver Recruiting. Check it out!

By Kelley Walkup, Senior Vice President, ACS Advertising

The driver shortage is not a new issue for the trucking industry. It’s been at the top of the list of challenges facing fleets for years.

In the past, fleets might have been inclined to throw more budget dollars at newspaper advertising, place a recruiting phone number on the back of trailers, or add a driver recruiting magazine ad to their “strategy” for recruiting drivers.

Not today. The days of running Sunday newspaper ads to fill your trucks are long gone, and that can be credited to the digital revolution.

For years, the media mix employed by most driver-recruiting departments was filled with newspaper ads that drove incoming phone calls to those departments. Advertising agencies dreaded hearing, “Our phones aren’t ringing,” from their clients. So, what did the agencies do? Throw more money at classified ads. My, how times have changed.

Yesterday’s media mix has been replaced with today’s digital recruiting strategy. In 2001, 87% of the media mix for driver recruiting included newspaper advertising. Today, that has been replaced by social- and digital-media strategies. For example, last year, digital and social media made up more than half of the driver-recruiting media mix — and this year, it’s trending to a more balanced media mix targeting drivers at all points of the hiring conversation.

With more than 73% of truck drivers owning smart phones, according to a Pegasus Transtech survey, and 79% of them using the Internet daily, according to a 2014 Connectivity Study from Randall-Reilly, if your company hasn’t joined the digital revolution and made it a point to mobilize its strategy, it’s time catch up.

Today, it’s more important than ever to be at all points of the conversation when recruiting drivers. Today’s drivers are not reading newspapers; they’re conducting online searches using search engines and job boards — and they’re checking out Facebook and Twitter pages of the carriers they’re interested in driving for to find out what other drivers think about the fleet.

The media mix has evolved, and defining a strategic media approach to target drivers who are the right fit for your fleet is imperative. That’s because today’s drivers are tech savvy, and they make decisions quickly.

However, the driver-recruitment playing field is not level. Those recruiting departments that have adjusted how they work and process leads are winning, and those that still employ what can be called “old-school mentality” are not surviving.

In the past, phone calls reigned supreme in the world of key performance indicators, KPIs, for recruiting departments. Traditionally, a successful recruiting department was one with phones ringing off the wall. Those phone calls ideally would turn into phone applications and eventually hires for the company. Those who are still judging success by the number of incoming phone calls or “cost-per-call” will soon have their very own wake-up call — if they haven’t already.

Today’s carriers that are having success hiring drivers have a completely different recruiting department than they did just five years ago. Today’s successful driver recruiters have mastered the art of multitasking. They are working a digital lead form, as they’re confirming a driver for orientation, while conducting an online chat with a driver who has some specific questions about lanes and home time. In some cases, recruiting departments are assigning recruiters to specific social media pages, specific online lead submissions, message boards and more.

Fleets also are investing thousands of dollars to be sure they’re the first one to reach out to a driver who may be completing an online application. Research shows that carriers have a 900% higher chance of hiring qualified drivers within five minutes after they submit their online lead form than waiting 10 minutes after it’s submitted.

Today’s successful recruiting departments are taking a new approach to working driver leads more effectively. Instead of requiring a complete application from a candidate, recruiters are offering up short lead forms to capture the most important information to better source leads.

While they understand the full application is needed to actually hire the driver, they also understand that in today’s digital world, most candidates don’t want to take the time to fill out the entire application. By capturing some key information from the lead form, recruiters can prequalify the driver, connect with them, and then request the full application on the back-end of the recruiting process.

With constantly changing technology and driver behavior, carriers must adjust their recruiting approach to meet the needs of the market they’re going after — even if it means restructuring the entire recruiting department.

Today’s driver recruiting-and-retention market is tough. The numbers are not in your favor. But implementing a new approach and evaluating the strategies you’re implementing can be effective in tackling the challenge.

Employ a “new-school mentality.” Evaluate everything you’re doing to attract and retain drivers. Be at all points of the conversation with drivers. Quantify your efforts and establish and review KPIs regularly. The challenge isn’t going away, but you can face it head-on with strategic planning and tactics that breed success.

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