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56 management interaction, or supportive supervisory prac- Work Environment tices, "respondents noted that a strong support team of drivers and dispatchers is essential and is the backbone of A common theme in systems that were identified to have paratransit operations. . . . Know your people and they need stable workforces was that there was a good overall work envi- to know you." Other comments focused on employee devel- ronment. Vehicle operators from these systems reported that opment, skills training, and maintaining a positive and sup- the organization was like a "family" and that they enjoyed the portive culture for employees. people they worked with. They indicated that the organiza- A best practice identified in Synthesis 71 is for supervisors tion had a real interest in its employees and looked out for and managers to spend time each week or month riding vehi- their interest. cles and directly observing the operation. This time on-board Small efforts, such as recognizing birthdays and periodically can provide important insights into operating issues and can hosting breakfasts or company gatherings, were cited as things demonstrate real involvement and concern about the issues that helped improve the camaraderie and the overall work faced by vehicle operators. environment. Each of the other factors noted--support, recognition, and hearing and acting on concerns--also plays a part in the cultivation of a positive work environment. Some An Effective Grievance Process efforts can have an immediate impact, but more often, chang- As disputes and issues arise, it is also important to have an ing the work environment is something that requires time and effective process for receiving and handling grievances. Many requires ongoing effort to maintain. of the managers and supervisors that participated in focus Managers should also not underestimate the importance of groups or who responded to the survey indicated that it was a comfortable and inviting physical work environment. Vehi- important to maintain an "open door" policy and invite any cle operators appreciate a comfortable area to spend time on employees to bring issues directly to them. As issues are iden- breaks or between shifts and an area where they can review tified, it is then important that they are not just heard but are and plan out schedules before going out on runs. Some sys- acted on. Actions taken then need to be communicated back tems also provide exercise equipment and facilities. A com- to employees so that they know that something has been fortable and well-appointed facility lets operators know that done. Even if larger factors prevent an ideal solution, com- they are important to the company and are appreciated. municating these factors to employees will reduce frustra- tions and avoid the impression that no efforts were made or Underlying Causal Factors that "nothing ever gets addressed." That Impact Vehicle Operator Recruitment and Retention Recognition The previous sections detail the factors that directly impact All employees value and appreciate recognition and posi- vehicle operator recruitment, retention and performance. tive reinforcement. This is particularly important for ADA There are also significant underlying causal factors that often paratransit vehicle operators who often operate under diffi- have an impact. This section details one such factor that was cult circumstances. Being on the road can make operators feel raised by systems and providers. This situation is illustrated somewhat separate from the other parts of the operation, and in Figure 4-5. recognition and positive reinforcement can help make oper- ADA paratransit ridership has grown steadily since the pas- ators feel more a part of the team. sage of the ADA in 1990, with increases of 5% to 10% per year A number of systems and service providers have employee not uncommon at many systems. At the same time, many of the month and employee of the year programs or have agency budgets have not grown at a similar rate. As a result, other ways of publicly recognizing good performance. Many transit agencies and ADA paratransit managers are under systems also report that they provide awards and bonuses for pressure to deliver services as efficiently as possible and with good performance. Commonly reported programs recognize as few resources as possible. Where services are contracted and reward safe operation, reliability and attendance, on- out, cost is a major factor in the selection of providers. In time performance, low complaint rates, or a combination of turn, prospective service providers understand that keeping these performance items. the bid process as low as possible can be a determining factor In some systems, concern was expressed about the way that in whether or not they are selected as a contractor. bonuses were distributed or how the goals were set. Input This pressure on resources and costs appears to have an from managers and vehicle operators indicated that bonus impact on vehicle operator recruitment and retention. Wages programs need to be fair and meaningful. At the same time, for paratransit service are sometimes very low and fringe ben- they need to be achievable. efits are often limited. The national survey found that start-