Flexible recruiting and retention strategies are giving CRST International an advantage as the employment landscape continues to fluctuate, Jenny Abernathy, vice president of enterprise capacity development and driver recruiting at CRST International, told DriverReach founder and CEO Jeremy Reymer on this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road.

Recruiting begins with building a team of talented recruiters. Although the pandemic has pushed workforces to their limits, Abernathy credited CRST for its willingness to adapt through times of hardship, explaining how the Iowa-based freight company has put a greater emphasis on remote recruiting and has invested in the tools needed to support its remote staff.

“Location shouldn’t be the deciding factor; rather, talent and skill set should be,” Abernathy said. “CRST certainly has a core skill set of driver training. 2020 certainly shook the CDL training a bit at its core, but as COVID hit, we really stayed committed to providing a great onboarding experience and training for those looking to join the industry.”

Abernathy said that her team’s goal has been to meet students where they are, ultimately providing students with success and giving CRST a pipeline of talented drivers. This involved fine-tuning recruiting skill sets and making each applicant’s experience exceptional.

But recruiting is just the beginning; keeping drivers is the real challenge. COVID-19 brought driver needs to the top of every fleet’s list of priorities. As connectedness became even more difficult for long-haul drivers, Abernathy’s team gained insights from industry leaders on how to better build driver communities and provide support structures for all of CRST’s drivers.

Driver needs also manifested in changes to scheduling and length of haul, as many drivers opted to be closer to loved ones over the course of the pandemic. Abernathy said that a large percentage of CRST’s over-the-road drivers, many of whom typically spent around three to four weeks on the road, have now opted for weekly stints to be closer to home. In addition to reengineering its freight networks, Abernathy noted CRST’s new team of career advisers as well as its ‘significant’ increase in overall driver pay, stating that paying its hard-working drivers what they deserve is especially important to the motor carrier.

“To become an employer of choice, you have to evolve; you’ve got to stay in front of where your drivers want you to be and make sure you meet them there, which is clearly critical,” Abernathy said. “Men and women on the front line certainly deserve that.”

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