If you’re an employer it’s not an easy position. If you’re a truck driver right now, you have choices.
Among healthcare, transportation, and foodservice industries, hiring or sign-on bonuses are increasingly common to slow staffing shortages.
“If you’re an employer it’s not an easy position,” says Brent Vander-Pol, President of Peninsula Truck Lines in Federal Way, Wash. “If you’re a truck driver right now, you have choices.” Industry group American Trucking Associations estimated in October an unprecedented driver shortage of more than 80,000.
November’s spike in resignations topped off an unprecedented year when more than 38 million American workers left their jobs. What’s more, as 4.5 million workers quit, employers advertised for over 10.6 million jobs, surpassing 10 million the sixth month in a row.
Roughly 1.5 million jobs remained available for each of the 6.9 million unemployed Americans in November. The most in 20 years.
American workers haven’t had similar leverage since the end of World War II when the workforce couldn’t fill the country’s available jobs. Unions gained power and expanded immigration policies enlarged the workforce to ease the labor shortage.
Today’s circumstances are significantly different, but just this month goliaths Amazon and Starbucks faced major challenges from pandemic-weary workers.
Recruiting Is Hard, Retaining Employees Is Harder
Nobody knows when workforces will stabilize, but in 2022 a poorly executed, outdated, or constrained onboarding process can shutter an operation.
Employee turnover is expensive.
Kitsap Transit, which operates passenger ferries in Kitsap County, Wash., just announced that they’ll drastically cut, if not eliminate entirely, ferry service to nearby islands for the foreseeable future.
The service is, in large part, at risk because onboarding new crew members takes roughly two years. The service is logistically frozen.
“We may need to cancel trips on our ferries,” according to Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson in a prepared statement asking for the public’s patience.
While early retirement and other factors are at work, the service is, in large part, at risk because onboarding new crew members takes roughly two years. The service is logistically frozen.
Merchant mariners, like truckers, are mobile with choices and can find better work, and pay, fast. To be sure, trucking companies are taking unusual, if not extraordinary, measures to hire drivers and relying on the basic maxim that 'money talks'.
According to industry groups and January job listings, trucking companies offered incentives ranging from $1,000 signing bonuses to lucrative sign-on bonuses that pay extra-large sums over the year’s course to ensure drivers are happy or, least, not so dispirited they quit.
Vander-Pol, who saw pandemic fatigue up-close when his wife quit her job and left the workforce in 2021, hesitantly admits his regional trucking company is “probably pretty behind” in its onboarding procedure.
He says companies such as his can’t afford extravagant bonuses and — “for now,” he says — his standard pitch of nights and weekends at home and a good medical plan needs to be enough.
“I don’t have a secret sauce,” says Vander-Pol, a former president of Washington Trucking Association. “I don't know if there is a secret sauce."
Peninsula Truck Lines didn’t lose drivers in November, but Vander-Pol continues a daily struggle to find enough drivers to cover his routes.
An Onboarding Process Sets the Foundation for Workplace Culture
Business owners, workers, and human resources professionals say few companies if any can afford to take onboarding for granted or as an afterthought in a worker’s market.
The challenges are abundant. Workers are demanding more, from increased wages to flexible work arrangements to help with childcare to healthy workplaces.