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Bus and Motor Coach Library

Making the Connection -Human Resources and Your Ridership

Author – Joan Crawford (2003)

Joan Crawford, Executive Director, Motor Carrier Passenger Council of Canada (MCPCC), is a Human Resources professional who has spent over twenty years directing the effective planning, recruiting and training of employees, both nationally and internationally.  Now, she is working with bus professionals from across Canada, creating programs and tools to support ongoing training, development, and promotion of the bus industry.  Here, Joan explains the ways in which your employees can represent your unique brand, delivering consistent messaging and exceptional service, which will positively impact on your ridership, and your bottom line.  The MCPCC, led by Ms. Crawford, is now spearheading the implementation of a national bus driver training & certification initiative, which is supported by both the Canadian federal government and the bus industry.

Every bus company, whether it's school, tour and charter, intercity, urban transit or accessible, has a distinctive 'brand' character, which tells its existing and potential customers what it offers, and how it delivers on those promises.

There are no better ambassadors for that brand than the employees of that company.  They are your best advertising, and your most positive public relations representatives.

“We easily recognize the costs of rolling stock and overhead expenses, but don't always realize the untapped potential that lies within the thousands of dollars of expertise, training, and advocacy right there in our workforce,” says Joan. 

She continues, “Human dynamics are the key to keeping our customers engaged with our services.  The bus industry has both a challenge and an opportunity to have the public prefer our service to using their own vehicles.  Your company will thrive, if you come up with creative solutions to that challenge, along with future changes to the industry, the environment, and our economy.  Your employees can contribute a great deal to those creative solutions.  For example, your drivers are the gatekeepers of customer intelligence.  They're able to tell you a great deal of specific information about the ways in which your company and services are perceived, how these services are used, and the changing likes and dislikes of your passengers.  But, in order to use that knowledge to your advantage, you must first ask them for it.”

According to Joan, keeping the lines of communication open between you and your employees in order to gather vital information on your service delivery, equipment and customers, is crucial to the future healthy state of your company.

“We spend a lot of time researching, designing and testing equipment.  But, we also need to spend time with the people who run and service that equipment, who observe it in the real world, in order to truly satisfy the needs of our passengers and our budgets,” Joan says.  “In addition, it is important that companies take this information from the field and feed it back to manufacturers, so that they can apply key learnings to their future products”, offers Joan.

Other human resources areas that are directly linked to your ridership include service delivery, which encompasses both customer relations and efficiencies in dispatch and scheduling, the effectiveness of your training programs in developing skills, and the role that leadership plays, whether it's in the garage or on the road. 

So, what can you do to create an environment in which your company makes the connection between your customers and your employees?

Joan outlines, “In addition to those steps I've already outlined, there are some excellent ways for our industry to capitalize on the intelligence, training, and professionalism of our employees.  I believe that bus companies should actively promote their employees, in their regular advertising, through newsletters, in-bus cards or by whatever means they can devise to put a friendly, knowledgeable face to the service provided.  That's exactly how employees become part of your unique brand, and an integral part of your offering to your ridership.

Along those lines, MCPCC is launching a national career awareness campaign this fall, aimed towards encouraging young people to consider the bus industry as a viable career option. 

This multi-media campaign highlights the individual and the numerous benefits that a career in either driving or mechanics offers.  The creative focuses on the industry's job satisfaction, professionalism, and the variety of opportunities within the industry. 

Joan says, “As the Council, we are taking a proactive approach to creating and reinforcing the image of the people within our industry.  We work closely with a wide variety of industry representatives, who all agree that it's crucial to recognize our employees in ways that are meaningful to them, and to the riding public.”
One of MCPCC's most important ventures has been the on-going development of the National Voluntary Certification of Bus Operators scheduled to launch in 2004. 

“Our industry has undertaken this initiative for a number of key business reasons, not the least of which is promoting the proficiency of our drivers to our passengers.  By participating in the certification and accreditation process, companies will ensure that the public understands and appreciates the professional standards of those who are safely delivering millions of Canadians to their destinations, every day,” says Joan.

“This Certification program will also go a long way in appealing to potential bus industry professionals”, adds Joan.  “We know from our in-depth research that our existing bus industry employees are really excited about the recognition of their professionalism that certification represents.  We believe that nationally recognized credentials are taking on increasing importance in attracting and retaining competent people to our industry.”

“Like every other industry, we will be facing a serious labour shortage over the next few years.  Society is placing more emphasis on measurable skills, and certification will display confidence in our drivers, from both their peers and the riding public.  We know that this program will position our industry as vital, interesting, and as a viable career option.”

“If we in the bus industry seek to make that crucial connection between our people and those in our riding public, I think we will make huge inroads into attracting new passengers, and expanding usage by our existing customers.  As a bonus, I believe that we can also leverage this new image, and new strength into making the bus industry a career of choice for those entering the workforce.  If we create an environment which recognizes and rewards our employees, we can attract and retain good employment candidates,” concludes Joan. 

In summary Joan explains, “All in all, the bus industry has an opportunity over the next few years, through certification, new training and development programs, advertising and internal changes, to really make that vital connection, and strengthen our industry from within.”