Demographic Demands: The business case for diversity
Posted: May 24, 2016 by John G. Smith
Recruiters in Canada’s trucking industry appear to be overlooking massive labor pools, and a recent report from Trucking HR Canada is making the business case to connect with several under-represented demographic groups.
“We just want the industry to be aware of the demographics; that these are the labor pools we need to tap into,” says CEO Angela Splinter, whose trucking-focused organization promotes best practices in human resources.
Consider the gender gap that exists. Changing Workforce: The Case for Diversity in Canada’s Trucking Industry shows that women, who represent 48% of the nation’s workforce, account for just 3% of Canada’s truck drivers.
The document also observes that 2.1 million Canadians between the ages of 25 and 64 report a mental or physical disability that limits daily activities. (Less than half of them were employed in 2011, according to Statistics Canada.) But Trucking HR Canada says many of their workplace challenges can be addressed through modified hours or redesigned jobs, and at little to no upfront cost.
Workplace accommodations won’t always be a matter of choice, Splinter predicts, citing the rollout of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act as an example. “I see that coming up the federal level next.”
There are limits. Restricted vision certainly disqualifies someone from driving; tarping a load can be a physically demanding job. But fleets looking to retain experienced employees need to recognize that some disabilities come with age. More than a third (35.6%) of employees between 45 and 54 report a disability, compared to 4.4% of those 15 to 24, the report notes.
It isn’t the only way a focus on diversity can help to address the challenge of an aging workforce. Census data shows that a typical truck driver is now 7.5 years older than the average Canadian worker. Compared to workers in other industries, a larger share of drivers are approaching retirement age. In contrast, the average member of a visible minority in Canada is 33.4 years old. Close to 46% of Canada’s 1.5-million Aboriginal population is under the age of 24.
While 18% of Canada’s workforce identifies as a visible minority, National Household Survey data shows that a mere 13% of the nation’s 283,000 truck drivers identify themselves in those terms.
Hiring from traditionally underrepresented groups could help industry recruiters reach other job candidates including family members, friends and cultural communities, Changing Workforce notes, referring to one benefit of increased diversity.
The facts have not been lost on several profiled industry employers that are already introducing diversity-focused programs.
“When you keep things simple, have the basics of valuing employees, hire based on skill, and listen to your people,” says Barbara Eddy, Canada Cartage’s senior director of human resources – Eastern Canada. Employee social activities at the fleet now celebrate everything from Diwali to Christmas, and job postings are all anchored with a promise that the fleet welcomes applications from Aboriginal people, members of visible minorities, and women.
“As an employer we need people – and we need the right people, regardless of age, gender, nationality,” she says. “When there are problems, we sort through them. If someone has a disability, we will accommodate the best we can because we value people and treat them with dignity and respect.”
Manitoba-based Bison Transport has partnered with a number of groups that advertise job opportunities and pre-screen candidates. Ability Axis, Winnipeg Transition Center, immigrant-focused career fairs, international student career fairs, and the Manitoba Start and Success Skills Center are among them. The fleet has also established an Employment Equity Committee, which meets every quarter to monitor progress around diversity goals. And an e-learning module focuses on maintaining a respectful work environment, helping to retain those who are ultimately hired.
English as a Second Language courses offered to drivers who are newcomers to Canada has helped to remove many language-related barriers at Kriska Transportation. Supervisors and managers also receive training in generational and cultural diversity.
As for gender issues, Kriska’s Network of Women (KNOW) was established to encourage women to join the trucking, and hosts several events to offer employees insights into the barriers, challenges and experiences of industry peers. Company leaders have also been involved in Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive initiative, and the MicroSkills’ Women in Transportation Program that helps prepare women for work as AZ drivers.
Northern Resource Trucking
One of the highest-profile examples of fleets that focus on Aboriginal employees is Northern Resource Trucking, a Trimac Transportation operation that partners with 12 First Nations and Metis groups from Northern Saskatchewan. One in four employees at the 110-truck fleet are Aboriginal, and 10% are women.
The commitment involves more than hiring ready-made drivers. In the past six years, about 160 students have been trained at the NRT Driver Training School in La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Most of the graduates were from Aboriginal communities.
It isn’t the only way that Trimac continues to diversify. About one in five of its employees are women, 4% are Aboriginal, and 3% have identified disabilities. And there are no plans to stop. The fleet has adopted a three-year plan to increase diversity, and it continues to track progress through an Employment Equity Committee and annual survey.
Westcan Bulk Transport
Edmonton, Alberta-based Westcan Bulk Transport posts jobs through groups such as Aboriginal link, and last winter it partnered with the North Slave Metis Alliance to train new drivers. The differences have been noticed, too. Employee surveys between 2012 and 2014 generated rising scores on engagement and enablement. That record helped the fleet earn the Diversity Leadership Award of Distinction at the 2015 Alberta Business Awards Gala.
The Changing Workforce report itself is only the first step for Trucking HR Canada, which is looking to develop a series of tools such as sample policies and procedures, tip sheets and checklists, ultimately to be published as part of its Your Guide to Human Resources materials. It is also partnering with the Aboriginal Human Resource Council to develop tools that focus on Aboriginal people, while its Women with Drive initiative is developing the framework for mentorship programs that specifically focus on women.