COLUMBUS, Ohio — Inclusiveness, the importance of effective teams, and sharing knowledge were the main messages from the keynote speeches and sessions at the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) conference on Sunday.
Mindy Feldbaum, the vice president of workforce programs at AARP Foundation, outlined for attendees how employers can navigate a multi-generational workforce and how an age-inclusive workplace culture is better for productivity, recruitment, and retention.
She noted that although there are now five generations working side by side — Greatest Generation/Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z — that are at different life stages, they all want many of the same things from work. Workers of all ages seek meaningful employment with benefits, flexible schedules, upskilling opportunities, financial security, and a respectful, inclusive work environment.
In the midst of megatrends shaping the current workplace — automation, inequity, education, training, and job quality — it is particularly critical to create age-inclusive workplace culture, Feldbaum said.
Creating this culture, she added, means planning for employees who are delaying retirement, offering more flexible schedules for caregiving for spouses and aging parents as well as children, building a culture of lifelong learning, and creating intergenerational mentorships.
Moreover, inclusiveness is essential for forming teams that work effectively, as Karen Main, the founder and CEO of Innovations in Training, demonstrated in a hands-on exercise with attendees.
Main directed attendees to work with the people sitting at their table on a team name, list three characteristics of an ideal team player on a large sheet of paper, sign the paper to indicate their agreement, and to collaborate on building with Legos a model of a small building that was located outside the conference room in 17 minutes. Each team member had assigned Lego pieces that only they could place. They were only allowed to go outside the room to look at the model one at a time.
After attendees completed the exercise, many said that it was stressful, there were distractions, and they didn’t want to let their team down — very much like their jobs.
Also mirroring their daily work experience, some said, was the fact that adapting to the rules of the game to complete the task together was key.
“It’s OK to not get it right the first time because then you form a strategy,” one attendee said. “You don’t have a strategy the first time, because you’re learning and figuring it out.”
Main pointed out that because players couldn’t place any Legos other than their own, each of their contributions were important.
To underscore the importance of a solid team, Main shared that people who don’t consider themselves part of a team at work are 8% engaged. Engagement goes up to 17% among those who are on a team. And engagement shoots up to 45% among employees on a team with a leader they trust.
“Instead of just showing up, we want people to be interested, feel they belong, that they are a part of a team,” she said.
Continuing the spirit of sharing, some presenters discussed their experiences with implementing different types of technology on school buses at their districts in peer-to-peer learning experience sessions.
Presenters from school districts, a school bus company, and the related technology suppliers, walked attendees through equipping buses with Fogmaker fire suppression technology, converting to new routing software from Tyler Technologies Versatrans, piloting Safe Fleet’s Predictive Stop Arm technology, and rolling out onboard Wi-Fi from Kajeet.
Additionally, Alfred Karam, the director of transportation for Shenendehowa (N.Y.) Central Schools, reviewed New York’s physical performance test (PPT) standards in light of some of the recommendations that stemmed from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB’s) investigation into the fatal Iowa school bus fire in December 2017.
In New York, Karam said, prospective drivers are required to pass a PPT before they are allowed to start driving a school bus and current drivers need to pass the test every two years.
The test requires drivers to walk up and down the bus steps three times in 30 seconds; move from the throttle to the brake 10 times in 10 seconds; depress the brake pedal or clutch three times; open and close the door three times; touch various hand controls and then the steering wheel in eight seconds; evacuate the bus through the emergency exit in 20 seconds; and drag 125 pounds 40 feet in 30 seconds.
Drivers cannot get behind the wheel until they pass the test, Karam said.
“Even if your operation is short on drivers, don’t compromise,” he advised.