How To Keep Your Biggest Asset

Tom Halligan
Posted on January 17, 2015

Ninety-five percent of operators surveyed in the 2014 LCT Fact Book reported that a top priority should be to hire more chauffeurs.
No doubt it’s safe to predict that finding and retaining quality chauffeurs will remain at the top of the list given the rapid growth of the TNCs and competitive driver pool.

So what are operators doing to attract and keep chauffeurs in a new era of transportation disruption and competition?

That topic was front-and-center at the October 2014 LCT-NLA Show East as two panels addressed the issue head on and offered tips and advice to help operators recruit and retain chauffeurs.

Seasoned operators repeatedly emphasized that to retain chauffeurs, make sure they know about career opportunities within the company and reinforce how critical they are to the operation.

Jeff Shanker, executive vice president of A-1 Limousine (Princeton, N.J.), says his company lets chauffeurs know that they can advance in the organization.

Jeff Shanker, executive vice president of A-1 Limousine (Princeton, N.J.), says his company lets chauffeurs know that they can advance in the organization.

“We always are recruiting new chauffeurs and we often get people who come to us who are between jobs and don’t realize they can make a career with our company,” said Jeff Shanker, executive vice president of A-1 Limousine (Princeton, N.J.). Shanker, who was part of a show panel session that addressed how to keep top talent, said he makes sure new chauffeurs know how to advance their careers at his company. “They can advance to senior chauffeur and then road supervisors, so they know there is a career ladder.”

Further, offering benefit packages and incentives helps attract and keep chauffeurs, Shanker said. “We have 300 chauffeurs and we provide health and disability insurance, paid time off and life insurance is offered.” In addition, the company has a financial incentive program for chauffeurs who recruit new drivers.

Panelist Jeff Nyikos echoed the advice to promote the career potential in both recruiting and retention of new chauffeurs. Nyikos, COO at Leros Point to Point (Hawthorne, N.Y), noted that in addition to offering healthcare, paid-time off, 401K plans, and other benefits, the company also gives a signing bonus to new chauffeurs who stay with the company for three months.

“Finding and retaining drivers is at the top of our priority list. It’s a full-time operation here. We have a person who oversees recruiting and another person who trains new drivers,” Nyikos said. Operating a 200-plus vehicle fleet, Nyikos said the company employs some creative chauffeur programs and policies that support retention, including a short-term loan program.

“If a chauffeur is in a pinch and needs, say, $1,000 for a personal need, we provide a no interest loan, and then just take $50 or $100 out of their weekly paycheck until the loan is satisfied,” he said.

The company also holds periodic raffles for the chauffeur pool, giving away free tickets to sporting events and shows. “We also don’t penalize drivers for bad behavior. Instead, we reward good chauffeurs with $5 to $10 reward cards for Dunkin’ Donuts and other incentives.

Shanker and Nyikos recognize the fact that TNCs siphoning off potential chauffeurs is an industry-wide problem. “That’s why it’s important to create a career path for chauffeurs and to offer benefits as well as training because that sets us apart from the Ubers of the world. In fact, chauffeur training is critical for our industry because that is a major differentiating factor between us and TNCs,” Nyikos said.

Diane Forgy, president of Overland Limousine Service near Kansas City, Mo., said looking for chauffeurs is a full-time job, and that chauffeurs want “stability.” Offering benefits helps to “make it more of a career than just a job,” said Forgy, at a Women Owners’ Strategy Panel.

Because of driver competition from TNCs, Forgy said her company had to step-up its promotions and recruitment initiatives to highlight more about what the company offers chauffeurs compared to independent TNC drivers.

“We are doing a better sales job to attract and retain chauffeurs,” she said. “We have to differentiate ourselves from the TNCs, promoting things like we withhold taxes, provide paid time off, matching 401K, and other benefits.” She also noted that just demonstrating to chauffeurs the company’s commitment to them pays dividends in retention. “For example, when chauffeurs notice we put money back into the company and invest in technology and the best tools for vehicles, they see that as a benefit and incentive to work here.”

Kyara Kahakauwila, co-owner of L.A. Limousines & Transportation Services (Victoria, Canada), keeps her chauffeurs happy by offering her 50-plus full and part-time staff flexible schedules to accommodate personal situations and workday preferences. “We try our best to accommodate chauffeurs who prefer weekdays or weekends, or if they need certain days off for personal reasons, such as a Saturday to attend a child’s soccer game or visit a sick parent,” she said. “Of course, when we need everyone working because of an event, no one complains because we have accommodated them with flex scheduling.”

Kahakauwila noted that the company also provides benefits and supports chauffeurs if they are involved in personal causes or charities. “We try to incorporate and support what they are involved in and build that into the company culture,” she said. “We try to zero in on what drives them. Is it the paycheck? Something else? We have chauffeurs with us for a long time and we want to keep them happy because they take pride in their work.”

Face of the Company
Shanker stressed that operators should not overlook the fact that because chauffeurs are the “face of the company,” they need to be treated with respect. “They are the ones who have to deal with the traffic, the road hazards, inclement weather and an unruly passenger, while we just sit in the office. It should be common sense to make sure you support them and keep them happy because that is the best way to retain quality chauffeurs,” he said.

Added Nyikos, “One of the hurdles our industry faces going forward is to find and train quality chauffeurs and get that message out to our corporate clients and travel managers so they know how we differ from the TNCs. Because if we don’t attract good people and train them well, keep them happy and retain them, then what sets us apart from the TNCs? If we just want to compete on price, then we are going to lose.”

Related Topics: chauffeur behavior, chauffeur training, Diane Forgy, employee recruitment, employee retention, How To, human resources, industry education, Jeff Shanker, Kyara Kahakauwila, LCT-NLA Show East, recruiting chauffeurs

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