It’s a struggle to attract and hire people who will be successful as a transit operator and finding the right person is only a piece of the puzzle. Edmonton Transit System is on track with a recently revamped hiring process to get the right person in the seat and keep the operator pool at optimum capacity.
A few years ago, the economy was in a different state and ETS was constantly short of operators. This shortage developed due to a number of factors, including growth of transit services in Edmonton, the exodus of the baby boomer generation of employees, promotions from within the driving ranks and a higher-than-normal failure rate of trainees meant to replace those retiring or being promoted. This shortage meant paying excessive overtime or canceling runs. Add to all of this an extremely hot economy where people selling donuts and coffee were being paid $20 per hour and you can understand why a transit operator may not have been the choice of those job hunting.
What the process looked like four years ago
- Determine how many operators need to be hired.
- Set targets for hiring.
- Work through Human Resources on up to nine different job postings per year.
- Candidates applied online or in person at the agency.
- Candidates were screened through some basic questions.
- Remaining candidates invited to complete video testing and license verification.
- Remaining candidates invited to come in for an interview.
- Successful candidates sent for medical, functional capacity evaluation and criminal records background check.
- Successful candidates were hired and booked for training.
From start to finish the process it could have taken between 75 and 90 days to become an ETS operator.
In 2009, ETS partnered with the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) to develop an online psychometric evaluation named Strada. Operated through Assess Systems, Strada replaces video testing in ETS’s hiring process. In 2011, ETS updated its functional capacity evaluation to include more job-specific requirements. ETS also updated its manpower planning process to include a formula that consisted of manpower requirement and availability, vacation, training attrition and forecasting for other indicators and predictors based on an average of previous years. This manpower plan is updated after each training class and provides a framework to estimate the continuing manpower requirement for the current and next calendar year.
In 2012, ETS updated its Taleo software to allow better online processing and linkages with other online tools. However, the human resources partners had some difficulties of their own. They were engaged in reactive portfolio management rather than proactive. This created significant issues on this high volume posting — 2,000 applications with 150 typically hired. They were dependent upon shared resources and were absorbing budget cuts.
At that point ETS had an average 72 percent success and first-year retention rate. This would decrease to 55 percent at times. A number of underlying factors were identified, including driving skills, inability to understand oral directions, poor understanding of the position and Alberta’s hot economy. There are financial implications in training — $562,500 to $787,500 in addition to the human cost pegged at $12,500 to $17,500 per person.
As a result, HR and ETS worked collaboratively to create a streamlined recruitment lifecycle, with efficient and effective recruitment processes and procedures with the goal of increasing training school completions by 5 percent.