Director of Administration
Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
Recruiting highly qualified candidates as bus operators has presented a challenge to the Nashville MTA. Through innovative practices and a commitment to continuous improvement, we have recently developed a system that has met our goal of having a safe, customer-focused and responsible contingent of operators.
This new approach started a little more than five years ago, when the management team realized it was much easier to train individuals with strong customer service skills to drive our vehicles safely, than it was to provide those with driving experience with the necessary customer service skills. As such, we modified our job advertisements and launched an operator recruitment campaign emphasizing the customer service aspects of the position rather than the driving skills. In addition, newspaper ads were placed in the customer service area of the classifieds, rather than the “drivers wanted” section.
To better position MTA for this change, a new organizational structure was created to focus recruitment and development into one area. MTA had historically assigned the job of recruiting to individual departments, with support from Human Resources (HR). This structure was altered to reverse the roles, making HR responsible for the process and other departments providing support. This change also centralized the training function with HR, effectively creating a “one-stop shop” for providing fully trained and qualified operators. Having the training department intimately involved in the recruitment process allowed for better screening that resulted in gaining excellent operators.
The outcome of our efforts was almost immediate, and we began receiving dozens of applications every week. This created a new challenge — the need to quickly conduct interviews and process the applicants before they found employment elsewhere. This issue was exacerbated due to the fact that if the candidate failed the written permit test for a CDL, they were required to wait at least a week before they could retake it in accordance with Tennessee State law.
Instead of following a traditional interview scheduling process, which can be a slow process, we started “speed interviews.” This process, similar to speed dating (although not as much fun, I’m sure) consisted of having a staff member do a quick preliminary desk review of the application to ensure that the candidate met the minimum requirements of the job. If they did, they (along with about 50 others) would be asked to come in for an interview during a three- to four-hour period. Other managers and supervisors were asked to help out for a day on the interviews to expedite the process. Structured questions for the managers to ask were prepared to ensure consistency.
When the applicants arrived for the interviews, they were met by two managers who conducted the interview. At the end of the interview, if the candidate was successful, one of the interviewers would inform the applicant that “stage one” of our pre-employment process was successfully completed.
“Stage two” involves successfully completing the subsequent steps (reference check, background check, CDL permit, drug and alcohol screen, and physical). The applicant then completes the necessary paperwork. We request each applicant to successfully complete the CDL permit exam within the following two weeks. Failure to complete, or attempt to take the CDL permit exam, would remove the applicant from the hiring process.
The results of this new system were astounding. In a one-year period, almost 100 new operators were hired. New training classes began every two weeks and Nashville MTA became fully staffed for vehicle operators for the first time in several years. The desired result of decreased overtime cost was realized and the workload of the dispatch office was reduced.