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? 

Author

Thi Dao
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

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

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

View Bio
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