KANSAS CITY, Mo. — National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) conference attendees learned ways to build and maintain driver satisfaction while also increasing fleet productivity at a session here on Monday.
Shawn Smith, the transportation director for Aurora (Colo.) Public Schools, shared with attendees the challenges and successes of driver retention and the key leadership skills that are needed to make an impact on drivers.
Using the Aurora Public Schools transportation department as an example, Smith talked about the importance of conducting a holistic, internal review of the department’s standard operating procedures and leadership practices.
For improving management, Smith advised attendees to “shake the leadership tree,” and steer away from previously adopted strategies that may no longer serve the department. This included eliminating the seniority policy for increasing driver pay and eliminating outdated professional development courses.
As a replacement for those procedures, Smith encouraged the use of quarterly performance evaluations and driver recognition ceremonies. For the evaluations, each employee is assessed by the entire department and receives a score based on their performance. From there, each employee has the opportunity to see the level of transportation service achieved by their peers, which Smith said can breed a nature of competitiveness that could increase driver morale in the long run.
In addition, the evaluations help transportation staff create an understanding of workplace diversity based on a driver’s skill level, personality, and cultural background. Some audience members agreed that by listening to drivers and asking for feedback, they can better support a driver’s individual needs.
Smith also recommended attendees hold individual and monthly staff meetings to be transparent in their leadership policies and team development strategies.
“I have an open door policy in which I meet with every employee after [their] training,” Smith said. “I give them my background, expectations for behavior, and the things that I will commit to.”
Some of these commitments, Smith said, include offering resources for student behavior management, giving drivers status updates on vehicle repairs, and delivering live access to the department’s driver performance list.
Smith said meeting with drivers one-on-one also gives the driver the opportunity to share if they have any expectations of the department.
Smith noted the additional resources attendees can provide to drivers, such as CPR certification, CPI training, and individual coaching sessions. By offering more resources that enhance professional development, more adjustments can be made to a driver's job description, and ultimately to a driver's wage if there is a clear advancement in their responsibility and skill level within the department, he added.