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Help Wanted

Are you currently hiring drivers, mechanics or management-level transportation professionals? Would your team recommend your district or company to these applicants? These are tough questions you may have to face as an industry leader.

It all starts with hiring the right employees, organizing them into effective teams, and promoting a good culture. But this is no easy task.One effective way to build a high-performing culture is by using positive reinforcement and recognition. These simple acts can have a significant impact on the morale and motivation of school transportation professionals. By recognizing their hard work and dedication, you can boost their confidence, increase their job satisfaction, and inspire school transportation team members to continue performing at a high level.

Another important factor in retaining and hiring school bus drivers, mechanics and anyone working for you is by offering competitive compensation and benefits. In order to attract and retain high-quality professionals, it’s important to offer salaries and benefits that are comparable to those of other transportation professions. This can include health insurance, retirement benefits, paid time off, and other perks that make your organization an attractive place to work.

For example, Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado offers a retention bonus to transportation staff twice a year. As a result, Executive Director of Transportation and Fleet Services Greg Jackson said he has seen a positive change in morale and an increase in attendance. “The quality of the service we offer has improved, too,” added the 2019 STN Transportation Director of the Year. “The feedback we received was that the staff really appreciated the bonuses, especially with inflation on the rise. In turn, we asked if those staff members would act as advocates for the district, to share with others that Jeffco is a great place to work.

“Our team loves food, so we offer appreciation meals each month at every transportation center we operate,” he continued. “The staff gets excited to come to work for those events. We’ve provided turkeys and apple pies for the holidays. It all helps with retention.”

One of the most significant benefits of positive recognition is improved employee retention. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to stay with their employer. This is particularly important in the school transportation industry, where driver and mechanic shortages are significant challenges. By recognizing the hard work and dedication of your drivers and mechanics, you can create a positive work environment that encourages them to stay with your organization for the long term.

“Make sure your district is outfitted with the latest technology, newer school buses, routing software, GPS and support staff. It makes a big difference to a prospective employee you are looking to hire,” said Tim Ammon of the Center for Effective School Operations. “Make sure your transportation department is making a visible investment in the quality of the workplace and equipment.” Positive recognition can also enhance safety and performance. When drivers feel recognized and appreciated, they are more likely to take pride in their work and prioritize safety. This can lead to better overall performance, including improved on-time performance, reduced accidents, and better communication with parents and school administrators.

Creating a positive work environment is another important factor in retaining and hiring transportation staff. This can involve providing ongoing training and professional development opportunities, implementing safety protocols that prioritize driver and student safety, and offering a supportive and collaborative workplace culture. Additionally, recognizing the hard work and dedication of your drivers through positive recognition can help create a positive work environment that encourages employee retention and satisfaction.

School transportation professionals play a critical role in the safety and well-being of students. By recognizing and appreciating the hard work and dedication of these professionals, you can create a positive work environment that encourages employee retention and satisfaction and enhances safety and performance. As leaders, we have the responsibility to move this great industry forward and it takes good quality and high performing teams to do it. Remember to invest and acknowledge in the passionate people that work with your company or district. It will pay dividends in the future.

Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the March 2023 issue of School Transportation News.

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