Bus and Motor Coach Library

Rethinking the Hiring Process

 Author – Joan Crawford (2004)

Every company, regardless of its size and business, is concerned with attracting, selecting and training those candidates who are best equipped with life skills, applicable knowledge, and abilities.  The process itself is a time-consuming and expensive one, when you consider that unsuitable candidates do make it through the system, including training, and then to the front line.  My philosophy is one that focuses on not just finding the right candidates, but the right candidates for the job of recruiting.  This becomes even more crucial to me when decisions are being made on front-line employees.  After all, these are the employees who will be most directly representing your company, your brand, and your values to your customers - the public.

Strangely enough, this crucial HR function is often seen as a junior or clerical responsibility.  I have seen companies where the person doing the hiring is actually far less experienced in his/her position than those who are applying for employment. 

So, what are the potential consequences of passing this decision to someone who is not well versed in effective human resources management?  Candidates who may look good on paper, with good initial demeanor, who are nonetheless not a good fit with your company's vision, policies and practices.  That is an expensive mistake, as eventually, perhaps long after money is spent on training and orientation, that person could be on the road under-performing and costing the company in customer satisfaction, fuel efficiency, and other crucial areas.

Retention is another important consideration when hiring, especially these days.  When the right candidate is placed in the right job, from the start, the company has a much better chance of keeping that employee over the long term.  And, they will best represent the company's business values and goals.
The best person to decide who to add to your employee roster is someone who:

 - Knows all the requirements of the job for which they are hiring

 - Clearly understands the company's business strategy

 - Is skilled in reviewing and screening resumes to accurately identify viable candidates

 - Has the ability to correctly translate applicable abilities and life skills into specific industry skills.

At this point, most HR professionals like to categorize employees and potential employees as 'human capital' to justify their importance to the business.  This is where I depart from the pack!  I have always strongly objected to that term, 'human capital', because I feel that it actually dehumanizes employees' contributions.  'Human capital' is a term that was created in order to better fight for the value of capital investments in soft skills training, communications, suggestion programs, and recognition and rewards programs. 

In my view, 'human capital' is a limited view, as it relegates the diversity and value of employees' contributions to the same level as a piece of equipment.  Historically, it has been the only way that HR could get some managers to think of their employees as valuable and related to the bottom line, instead of recognizing the countless intangible contributions they make.  This term ultimately limits decision-making, as it restricts hires to those who can be seen to contribute directly to the bottom line.

Furthermore, 'human capital' seems to then seek to find means of tangibly measuring employees' contributions, again as strictly related to the bottom line.  This is fine to a point, because that is something to which businesses can relate.  Realistically, however, it will be a long time before we have robots driving buses, therefore you still need good people whose intangible contributions can't be traditionally measured. 

That brings us back to having those making hiring decisions equipped to select those with the life skills that ultimately make a difference to customers.  These positive skills include a professional attitude, customer focus, caring, and loyalty, in combination with the traditional qualifications. 

What do I mean by all this?  There are countless cases of employees who have made significant differences to the lives of their customers, their peers, and their companies.  One bus driver en route noticed a small child standing on a third-storey window ledge, called 911, stopped and waited on the ground.  The child did fall, and he caught her, saving her life.  He went on his way and would not have been recognized had a citizen not called in to the bus company to report his heroic act.  When a passenger collapsed in his bus, a driver administered CPR until paramedics arrived, and was credited with saving the victim's life.  Yet another actually helped apprehend armed robbery suspects.  And I know there are many, many other examples, not just of drivers, but mechanics, dispatchers and others who have positively impacted their communities, passengers, and ultimately their employers.

This is why I believe so strongly that employees go far beyond being 'human capital' - their total contribution includes intangibles such as creativity, dedication and loyalty, common sense, and innovation.  By fitting people into pre-determined slots, companies miss opportunities to add value to their business.  However, if we shift our view of HR, and of the recruiting and hiring process to one that is an integral part of each company's business strategy, each employee is still linked to the bottom line, and considered as more than 'inventory'.

Taking this new look at HR and hiring, requires a shift in your organizational strategy, too - it means making creative recruiting and hiring as an integral part of the way that your business moves forward.  My proposition is that this shift will result in businesses taking a long-term view of their employees, one that doesn't allow them to be 'disposable', or their contributions overlooked.  The long-term view, which starts with the hiring process, takes into consideration their human strength, which can become your new competitive edge.

As we face a hiring crunch over the next ten years, every bus company will be facing the task of hiring new people.  Rethinking the selection process will help us to find the best possible employees.  Treating them as more than 'human capital' will help us keep them.  After all, good employees truly set the tone for our entire industry, as they deal with our millions of passengers, every day.

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.  For the past four years, she has been working with bus professionals from across Canada, creating programs and tools to support ongoing training, development, and promotion of the bus industry.  These programs include the development of the Professional Standards for Bus Operators, 'Behind the Wheel', an interactive guide to recruitment and hiring, a national multi-media career awareness campaign aimed at attracting young people to the industry, and the 2005 launch of the National Certification of Bus Operators. 
            One of Joan's focuses throughout her career has been on refining the recruitment and selection process to ensure that the best possible candidates are the ones who are ultimately hired, trained, and retained.