Management

5 Lessons in Recruiting Drivers

O. Shelley Kemp
Posted on October 30, 2015

I have learned a few valuable life lessons over the last year as a school bus driver recruiter — all because I’ve changed career courses. Some lessons have been glaringly evident, while others have been difficult to spot. Regardless, my time recruiting school bus drivers has been time well spent — an investment even — in my 20-year career as a professional recruiter.

I offer these lessons now to others hoping to impart a wiser, more approachable method for leading teams, prioritizing both personal and professional goals, and appreciating those who take on the task of driving school buses.

Lesson #1: Whether parents like it or not, school bus drivers have an incredible amount of influence on our children.
Because of how bus routes are set up, children can be on the bus anywhere from 10 minutes to even 90 minutes each way every day. Yes — that’s an hour-and-a-half each way, or three hours a day, if you count the afternoon ride. Our children watch drivers. Do they use their mirrors? Are they talking on the phone while they’re driving? Do they curse under their breath when another driver cuts them off?

I know this because my son tells me weekly when his bus driver is or isn’t wearing her seat belt, whether or not she stopped at the railroad tracks in our community, and he’s always quick to tell me if she has her safety vest. Ultimately, not only do kids learn their future driving habits from us as parents, but they’re also taking notes (though not literally) on how their school bus driver navigates the streets to and from school.

These drivers — they also consider your kids “their kids.” They get attached to our children as they see them twice every day, and they prefer to be their driver until they actually graduate from school. Drivers will celebrate your child’s birthday with them; drivers will correct your child when they’ve behaved badly; they will even celebrate the grade your child received on a math test.

I witnessed one driver who saw a child in junior high become depressed and withdrawn over the course of a few months. The driver had a heart-to-heart talk with the child that probably saved the child’s life.

As a parent, it pains me to think that I may not notice my child’s depression, yet someone who sees my child for maybe an hour each day is able to address something as important as whatever was going on with this junior high school student. School bus drivers are the everyday heroes who go unnoticed in our communities, and their influence on our children is important to recognize.

Lesson #2: Not everyone can or should be a school bus driver.
I have conducted possibly over 1,000 interviews in my 20 years recruiting people, and it has been my experience that not everyone who interviews for a position is actually qualified for that position.

Eight years ago, I was recruiting bank tellers and finance managers. As you may suspect, not everyone can work as a bank teller. Perhaps they aren’t great at counting money; perhaps they don’t have great customer service skills; or, perhaps it’s overwhelming to some candidates to handle thousands and thousands of dollars daily and have to account for every penny. Not everyone can be, or should be, a bank teller. I certainly would not want to be in charge of that much money — especially when it’s someone else’s money.

The same holds true for school bus drivers. Not everyone can be a school bus driver.
School bus drivers must have patience. They must have good conflict management skills, or at least be coachable to handle conflict; they need the ability to communicate effectively to a supervisor or dispatcher; they must be safety-minded and be able to be prompt — every day; they must possess the ability to get along with their peers; and, above all, they need to know how to keep the customer in mind: the parents, the principals, the community at large, and, yes, the kids.

As the recruiter, my job is to discern who is least and who is most qualified for this position. At the very essence, I not only must remember my role as the filter, but I also have to remind others in my business to hold the same standard. School bus drivers aren’t simply the everyday person from your community; they have skills.They are communicators. They are educators. And above all, they are the safest drivers out on the road.

Kemp says she learned that safety has to be the No. 1 priority in school transportation, whether it’s remembering to reposition a side mirror, hesitating for five more seconds before pulling out of a parking space, or picking up a piece of paper on the ground.
Kemp says she learned that safety has to be the No. 1 priority in school transportation, whether it’s remembering to reposition a side mirror, hesitating for five more seconds before pulling out of a parking space, or picking up a piece of paper on the ground.

Most outsiders think my heavy work season is during the school year, September through May. The opposite is actually true. While I continue recruiting during the school year, the high volume recruiting season is April through August. Having a working calendar to show the events, advertising and the strategic plan for recruiting anywhere from 50 to 200 drivers each season helps me manage all of my projects and serve my internal customer. While other professionals may be able to work without managing a chaotic calendar, this industry requires recruiters to manage multiple priorities daily.

O. Shelley Kemp, who has been a professional recruiter for 20 years, learned in the past year as a regional recruiting specialist for Durham School Services that “this industry thrives on overachievers.”
O. Shelley Kemp, who has been a professional recruiter for 20 years, learned in the past year as a regional recruiting specialist for Durham School Services that “this industry thrives on overachievers.”

Benefits include:

  • Summers off.
  • Split shifts, which provide a lot of freedom in the middle of the day.
  • No required weekends.
  • Extra work available if wanted.
  • Regular training and development from the company at no cost to the employee.
  • Health benefits.
  • Opportunities to work with a wide variety of people.
  • Ability to work outdoors.
  • Comfortable footwear is allowed.
  • The opportunity for retirees to earn extra income.
  • Holidays off.

Related Topics: driver recruitment/retention, Durham School Services

Comments ( 5 )
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  • Christ

     | about 3 years ago

    The problem with retaining drivers is mostly school districts are not doing enough with contractors and drivers with ridership safety and complaints.Make the parents accountable because if a driver does the least a contractor will switch drivers at the customers request.A lot of schools will request another driver to keep parent from taking their child out of school for funding.Speaking for myself as a driver for 18 years,If a student has challenges to where the student can not behave on a bus than a school should have students put in bus restraints with or without parents permission. it should be discussed in part of the ridership student/parents handbook

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