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18 Listen to the "buzz" in the industry about your company The participating systems were identified and selected with and working for your company. the assistance of the project's Expert Panel. One group of oper- Recruiting telephone lines should be staffed by knowledge- ators was selected from systems considered stable from the able people who are there when calls come in and who can standpoint of recruitment and retention of paratransit opera- respond to questions; never put an employment call on tors. A second focus group was conducted with operators from hold; and staff on recruitment lines should have good tele- agencies considered challenged in the areas of recruitment and phone manners. retention of operators. In three of the systems considered sta- Consider ex-military applicants and use post-military ble, operators were employed to drive both paratransit and recruiting programs. fixed-routes. In the challenged systems, operators were hired Be sure that applicant expectations and descriptions given solely to drive paratransit vehicles. For both groups, two oper- of the job match the reality. ators were selected from each agency. In order to get the views Emphasize hiring an attitude and then training the skills. of both newer and veteran operators, the team, with the assis- Use applicant tests to assure a good match. tance of provider managers, selected from each agency one Consider selective advertising on applicant pools that may operator with less than two years of service and one with more have people with the right attitudes. than three years of service. In most cases, both operators who Provide good training and use this as a recruitment feature had been selected joined in on the focus group call. Each par- and provide ongoing training opportunities. ticipant received a $50 stipend for their participation. Attend job fairs. The nine participants in the supervisor focus group were Try to design shifts that are attractive. all direct supervisors of vehicle operators. The manager focus Train supervisors in good management skills. group consisted of a combination of nine operations man- Build a team and co-worker relationship. agers and general managers. Offer trip assignments in a way that more evenly distrib- At the beginning of each focus group, the moderator made utes the most desirable work. overview comments, which are summarized in the following Sponsor company breakfasts and lunches and develop statements: company social events. Distribute awards at public events attended by worker Each session was scheduled for two hours, with a 5-minute families. break midway through the session. Seek input from vehicle operators. A series of pre-approved questions was asked during this Develop opportunities for feedback and company inter- session. Each person was to give their first name with each action. response to ensure comments were accurately recorded. Create a news and information system about the company. The session was being recorded digitally to facilitate accu- Give operators access (open-door policies). rate recording and analysis of comments made during the Avoid mediocre job and employee performance require- session. ments. If there was time left at the end of the session, participants Create a suggestion box. would be given an opportunity to provide additional infor- Pay attention to the company image. mation that may help the research team better understand issues related to paratransit vehicle operator recruitment and retention. Focus Group Findings Input on recruitment and retention was also obtained from Subsequent to the introductory remarks, the moderator operators, front-line supervisors, and managers through a series asked participants to introduce themselves and tell how long of focus group meetings. To allow for a broad cross-section of they had been employed in paratransit services and how long participants, the focus groups were conducted remotely via they had been in their current positions. The following sec- conference calls. Participants from across the country were tion captures the essence of focus group findings. identified, contacted, and asked to call in to the meetings. Four focus groups were conducted--two with operators, Attractiveness of the Operator Position one with supervisors of operators, and one with managers of paratransit services, representing nine transit systems. Two Operators in both groups reported that they were attracted objectives formed the basis for questions asked during the to the position of paratransit vehicle operator for a variety of focus groups: (1) to get views of participants on factors that reasons. The most frequent response was the desire to help affect paratransit vehicle operator recruitment and (2) to get people, followed by liking to drive, being outside, and being views on factors that affect retention of vehicle operators. independent. While the most frequent position previously