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Chapter 1: Guidebook Introduction Over the past decade, the transportation industry has experienced unprecedented pressure to develop its workforce due to evolving recruitment and retention challenges (e.g., Cronin et al., 2007, Warne, 2003, Skinner, 2000). NCHRP Synthesis 323: Recruiting and Retaining Individuals in State Transportation Agencies found that transportation agencies are struggling to recruit and retain individuals with the right skill sets and as a result, to deliver quality products and services to their customers (Warne, 2003). Difficulty in recruitment and retention is a problem that is experienced at all levels and disciplines, and in both public and private sector organizations. In response to these challenges, this guidebook provides user-friendly information on specific recruitment and retention techniques that transportation Human Resources (HR) managers and hiring professionals can use to improve the recruitment and retention of qualified employees in their organizations. This introductory chapter provides an overview of overarching transportation workforce challenges, the project methodology, and the remaining guidebook chapters. Each of these topics is discussed in the following sections. 1.1 Transportation Workforce Context Technological, demographic, cultural, and political changes over the last 20 years, while holding great promise, also have introduced a host of difficulties. More specifically, the issues driving the concern with workforce development are: Demographic changes in the workforce Competitive labor market New technologies Demand on the transportation industry Demographic Changes in the Workforce. The retirement of the "Baby Boomer" generation has been cited as one of the greatest challenges facing transportation organizations. TRB Special Report 275: The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit Agencies, indicates that 50% of the transportation workforce will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years, double the rate of the nation's entire workforce (TRB, 2003). In many cases, those eligible to retire are the individuals who are most likely to possess specialized knowledge and unique experiences that are critical for efficient operation of the organization (Rothwell and Poduch, 2004). According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), "Baby Boomers" constitute such a large portion of the total population that the age 65+ group is predicted to grow at a rate that is four times that of the entire population, indicating that every one out of five people will be in this group by the year 2030. Thus, while transportation demand will continue to increase, personnel losses for most transportation organizations will be significant. Adding further complexity is that the loss of these personnel will also result in core competency gaps needed to perform mission-critical requirements. An MTI Report entitled Paving the Way: Recruiting Students into the Transportation Professions, specifically identifies the growing shortage of professional engineers and planners within the transportation industry. The report points out that the transportation industry must encourage "more civil engineering and urban planning students to specialize in transportation while completing their degrees." (Agrawal and Dill, 2009). The "Baby Boomers'" retirements will result in new opportunities for the next generation. However, the influx of younger workers into leadership positions presents its own set of challenges. Jobs that were typically male dominated, such as engineering, are becoming less so (Cronin et al., 2007). APTA notes that the ratio of working women to working men has increased from approximately .5 to 1 to .8 to 1 from 1
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2 Strategies to Attract and Retain a Capable Transportation Workforce 1970 to 1998. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Department of Education, women have been earning more bachelor's degrees than men since 1982 and more master's degrees than men since 1981. In the 2005-2006 academic year (the most recent year for which data are available), women earned 58% of all bachelor's degrees and 60% of master's degrees. By 2016, women are projected to earn 60% of bachelor's, 63% of master's and 54% of doctorate and professional degrees. At the same time, the number of ethnic minorities in the applicant pool is also increasing. In his discussion of Transportation in the 21st Century, Robert E. Skinner, Jr., the Executive Director of the Transportation Research Board stated, "We are becoming a nation of immigrants again. The immigrant population nearly doubled between 1950 and 1990. A net population growth from immigration of 820,000 per year is assumed in Census Bureau projections through 2035" (Skinner, 2000). A Fortune report also notes that minority-friendly companies consistently outperform the Fortune 500 index in terms of financial performance (Colvin and Gunn, 1999). Thus, transportation organizations should rethink their development and retention strategies to tailor programs to the evolving composition of their applicants and workforce. As demographics change in the workplace, employee perceptions of work are also changing. Research suggests that younger workers, women equally as much as men, are looking for jobs with greater responsibility. In comparing 1992 with 2008, the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce found two emerging trends that are striking among Millennials (under 29 years old): women are just as likely as men to want jobs with greater responsibility, a change from 1992 when significantly more men under 29 wanted jobs with greater responsibility (80%) than women under 29 (72%) (Galinski, Aumann, and Bond, 2008). The information is important, because over one-half of participants in one study indicated that lack of awareness regarding advancement potential has at least some impact on why young people are not pursuing jobs in transportation (Cronin et al., 2007). Research has also shown that employees--men and women-- are taking routine time away from their job for the care of their children. For example, in today's workplace, men and women are spending about the same amount of time with their children under 13 years old on workdays (3 hrs for men, 3.8 hrs for women). This is 50% more than men did in 1977 (Galinski, Aumann, and Bond, 2008). The number of employed men (49%) who now say they take most or an equal share of child care responsibilities is also up from 41% in 1992. This commitment to career and family can lead to feelings of conflict as well. For example, in the same study, the majority of fathers in dual-earner couples (59%) reported experiencing some form of work-life conflict, which is up from 35% in 1977. The findings indicate that balance between work and family is critical for today's worker. Demographic changes in the workforce, evolving perceptions of work, and the impending "Baby Boomer" retirement will be essential issues for DOTs to consider as agencies begin to revise recruitment and retention strategies targeted at the next generation of transportation workers. The programs described in this guidebook provide direction in addressing these challenges. Competitive Labor Market. Transportation agencies attract employees with an offer of stable employment and a variety of benefits packages that include health, retirement, vacation plans, and special training programs. However, this may not be enough to retain employees in the long term. Warne's survey of 950 professionals showed that approximately 25% were considering leaving the agency (Warne, 2003). Higher salaries and promotional opportunities offered in the private sector and other fields were strong incentives in employees' considerations to leave the agency. The workplace culture is also a significant factor in an employee's decision whether to remain with the agency. This includes such things as schedule flexibility, professional development training programs to prepare workers for leadership positions, and educational assistance (Cronin et al., 2007). Skilled leadership, reasonable workloads, feeling good about their contribution and value to the agency, and rewarding good performance with
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Guidebook Introduction 3 compensation and promotions are factors that are difficult to quantify but are important for employee retention. Transportation organizations face many challenges when recruiting high-quality employees as a result of wage disparities. For example, on average, private sector engineering jobs pay more than public sector jobs. Reese (2003) found in a survey of younger (below age 35) American Society of Civil Engineers members that the average annual salary for private-sector engineers is $1,000 higher than the average for all engineers, while the average annual salary for pubic engineers is $1,000 lower than the average for all. Results from a survey of DOT transportation employees from Nebraska, Maryland, and Utah early in the decade, indicated that 25% of respondents were considering leaving because of the potential for a higher salary or a better opportunity for promotion elsewhere (Warne, 2003). Making matters even more complex, transportation agencies often compete with each other for qualified engineers. Because the public sector has financial constraints that limit the ability to match the salary and benefit levels of the private sector, transportation organizations must be creative in overcoming competition (e.g., through offering superior career development opportunities, focusing on the contribution transportation makes to the quality of life and economy in the United States, and providing a positive work environment, including flexibility in work schedules and other areas that enhance individual lifestyle and priorities without compromising organization work product, morale, or mission). The image of transportation jobs also impacts recruitment efforts. It is especially difficult to attract individuals to entry-level positions, such as highway construction jobs, which comprise a large percentage of the transportation workforce. The positions are often branded as rigid and seniority-based (Warne, 2003). This perception pushes qualified applicants and employees to competing industries. While the industry's poor image is often unwarranted, the impact of a poor image underscores the importance of implementing innovative and effective human resource management practices. Effective strategies are needed to attract and retain high-performing, productive employees and to ensure the success of the industry (Cronin et al., 2007). Furthermore, for engineering, planning, environmental, and financial specialist positions, recruitment challenges have increased substantially. Many college students are not finding the engineering field to be as attractive as other professions (Blue et al., 2005). Despite a slight growth in the number of women and ethnic minorities pursuing engineering degrees, there is still an under representation of these demographic groups in the field as compared with the general public. Additionally, the curriculum in engineering programs is often inadequate to match the requirements of engineering practitioner jobs. Thus, finding individuals for entry-level jobs with the appropriate skill sets to accomplish the work needed in transportation agencies can be especially difficult. For this reason, this guidebook describes numerous strategies for overcoming competitive labor markets throughout the recruitment-to-retention spectrum. New Technologies. New technology has played an important role in how transportation agencies accomplish their mission. Technology advances in motor vehicle and aircraft production impacted mobility in the 20th century. In the 21st century, information technology such as computers, the Internet, Web-based and wireless communications, and advanced control systems has influenced not only what transportation agencies do but how they plan and conduct projects (TRB, 2003). Transportation agencies had to begin thinking of technology as a substitute for travel in some cases, allowing for more individuals to telework and conduct business from almost anywhere (Skinner, 2000). Increased reliance on technology impacts recruitment and retention in multiple, and sometimes contradictory, ways. For example, while technology improves efficiency, the use of these devices may push aging employees out of the workforce as job functions become more "new-age" and complex. Conversely, utilizing the state-of-the-art tools to streamline work processes may help retain other employees as certain work tasks become easier. Cutting-edge technologies, likewise, may also help to