FleetSpeak

Hiring and Keeping the Best Administrative Staff

March 2, 2015

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

When I first started learning about fleet a few years ago, I remember being overwhelmed by the acronyms, the new vehicles and fuel types, and the different laws in different states. I often think this is how administrative staff members must feel when they start in fleet.

It can be daunting for administrative staff with little to no automotive experience to start in this industry, with its jargon and complicated software. The learning curve can be high, it can be too technical, or they may just not like it. For fleet managers, however, replacing someone who leaves is a major time investment. With that in mind, what are the best traits to look for in a candidate that will better ensure he or she will be a long-term member of your staff?

Finding and Training the Right Candidate

When J.D. Schulte, fleet manager at the City of Moline, Ill., was interviewing for an administrative assistant, he was looking for someone who would be a good fit, both in technical expertise and personality, since this person would be working with 10 men with different personality types. He hired Sarah Mark, who had previous experience in a plumbing supply warehouse and at a tire wholesaler. Schulte thought her experience of working in a shop environment and with technicians would be beneficial.

Mark had to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) within 90 days of being hired. Studying for the test taught her some technical aspects of the job. In addition, staff would conduct truck walk-arounds, and she shadowed other employees.

Mark said her most challenging and rewarding task so far has been the installation of a new on-site fueling system that uses wireless ring technology and OBDII adaptors to extract vehicle data. She was there for every process of implementation and is the fuel island administrator.

“Being here from start to finish and completely owning the project made it easier to retain the information, and putting forth so much time and energy into the implementation made it that much more significant for me,” she said.

Fred Chun, CAFM, CPFP, fleet manager for the City of Tacoma, Wash., recruited Deanna Pollard, fleet parts and contracts manager, from another city department. Chun was looking for someone who could work independently, was motivated, and didn’t fear failure. He didn’t have time for hand-holding, and after having worked with Pollard representing her customer department, he thought she would be a good fit.

Pollard said her biggest challenge was in learning the lingo — GVWR, wheelbase length, curb weight, etc.

“The internet was full of information, so Google was my friend,” she said.

She’s also studying for NAFA’s Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) certification, which has been a challenge but is teaching her more about fleet.

More Than Just a Job

Office environment and the industry as a whole can be big incentives to stay. Good relationships and mutual respect within the department are significant contributors to the happiness of workers, but that’s not all. By sending staff to conferences and local fleet meetings, or ensuring they take classes and get certifications, you’re investing in those employees and making sure they become part of the industry. And if they become part of the industry, the job becomes more than just a job.

Schulte said he tries to find someone with a “servant heart,” who gets satisfaction from helping others.

Mark celebrated four years with Moline in February. Mark and Schulte play practical jokes on each other on their birthdays, keeping the office environment fun. She attends industry conferences to represent the fleet.

Pollard has worked at the Tacoma fleet now for two and a half years and serves as acting fleet manager when Chun is away. She attends fleet conferences to expand her knowledge and meet vendors and other fleet professionals who she can reach out to later on.

“I find it fascinating,” Pollard said. “It’s fun to buy cars and be involved in parts.”

What do you think is the best way to hire and keep administrative staff? 

Comments

  1. 1. Allen Mitchell [ March 04, 2015 @ 03:07PM ]

    On hiring and keeping administrative fleet staff, I believe having a primary philosophy of excellent customer service, outstanding oral and written communication, basic math skills, Microsoft Office suite knowledge, having nimble flexibility with a basic industry term knowledge and being a quick learner are the basic criteria for hiring successful administrative staffing. To retain them, giving them a measure of independence as warranted by giving them credit when deserved and taking criticism for them when results are not as positive, making certain the career rewards outweigh the negative aspects. Career growth is also needed for retention - in fact having a decent succession plan with promotion milestones to attain provide the guidelines for staff to attain the skills needed for promotion. One last thing - be accessible as a leader and pay attention to creative ideas to provide satisfaction.

  2. 2. Frederick Chun [ April 29, 2015 @ 02:44PM ]

    Finding effective administrative staff is very different from selecting a technician. Our fleet administrative staff is the traffic controller who ensures all things are flowing efficiently to and from various internal and external stakeholders. Our administrative staff also provides the checks and balances according to the City policies and procedures. Deanna Pollard as the Fleet Contracts and Parts Manager ensures the optimum parts inventory levels while all fleet contracts are developed, implemented and monitored to ensure good performance. Along the way, she has to network with the City’s purchasing staff, contract attorney, risk manager, vendors and most importantly, with the customers. It takes high energy, drive and tenacity to balance and deliver her work. As the fleet manager, I will continue to embrace constructive, independent and can-do work environment.

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Thi Dao

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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