By Ray Haight, TPP Retention Coach
I have enjoyed my tenure as TCA Profitability Program (TPP) Retention Coach for many reasons but mostly as it has given me the opportunity to visit several trucking companies on both sides of the border. I genuinely love taking a brief look “under the hood” of these great companies and relish the opportunities in helping to reduce the driver turnover numbers. Helping to make a company successful gives me great deal of pride when drivers don’t have to go home and tell their families they no longer have a job. They don’t have to tell them they failed nor that the company failed them. It will be a genuine tragedy if we leave a legacy of high turnover, especially when it does not have to exist, in our industry. Simply, if we enact our best retention practices, high turnover can, and will, be reduced.
During the past 18 months, I have visited many trucking companies and I thought it might be enlightening to share the commonalities I see during my workshops. Before I start a workshop, I try to do as much reconnaissance as possible through the company’s website. Both the website, as well as its social media footprint, should be saying numerous, positive things such as the company’s history; introducing company leaders and their lineage; showcasing celebrated employees; outlining company values and finally, what associations the said companies are members of and how those associations play into the success of the company.
Next, I ask for a copy of the company’s organizational chart which always proves revealing. If I see a chart that has numerous people reporting to the owner, or owners, it tells me I am probably looking at an autocratic type of leadership. One which demands that the ultimate power must approve decisions of even lessor importance. Seeing this structure also tells me that I must start a little higher up the ladder in hopes I can change the mindset. If I see what I call the typical – more efficient structure for a trucking company – then I can go straight to the processes of the business and roll out the TPP Retention Project plan. The most efficient organizational chart shows each company department, which reports to the owner. The heads of these “departments” might be the President, General Manager, Chief Operating Officer, as well as other senior positions. Reporting to them are the managers of Sales, Operations, Administration, Safety and Maintenance. These department managers are empowered to make decisions on their own and usually up to a pre-determined dollar amount. They have the autonomy to manage their responsibilities, to a pre-determined goal, without discussing every move they make with their superior.
It is quite an eye-opener to see the commonality, which is revealed during an onsite workshop. The workshops are made up of the company’s senior managers as well as mid-management people. The majority of these people find a common thread woven into the fabric of the company when we reveal their weaknesses. And, you may be surprised to know the number one weakness uncovered is commitment – or lack of commitment. Our exercise reveals that many people do not trust other people in the company to stay the course and, in order to be successful, do their share of the “heavy lifting”. There are usually several symptoms that result in the mistrust of fellow employees.
Some companies have tried various approaches to reduce turnover in the past. However, these approaches didn’t have the desired impact on the companies’ turnover numbers. These approaches are what I call “plug and plays” as they are merely quick fixes that don’t take a holistic approach to turnover. Companies with a high turnover have traditionally been in that state for years. They seem to think they can buy a magic cure off the shelve which will result in an overnight success. It doesn’t work that way! It wasn’t jumbled up overnight, so it won’t be fixed overnight either.
Another symptom of the mistrust comes from the top down. When managers are not held to a pre-determined goal, and senior management lets deadlines slide, this allows poor performance. Furthermore, the people reporting to those managers will do the same thing.
The attendees at my workshops identify bad communication as the second-highest rated weakness. It seems this subject has been around forever and I have written many articles on the subject. In my opinion, this is one of the more straightforward problems that can be fixed. Here is a theory – If someone says they trust you but only gives you selective information, do they really trust you? Without effective and complete communication, there is no foundation to build trust. Without trust, you will never execute an effective strategy designed to reduce turnover.
On a final note, congratulations to both Erb Transport in the small fleet category and Bison Transport in the large carrier category for taking home the prestigious Truckload Carriers Association’s annual grand prize for being names the safest fleets in North America. This recognition is well earned and not easily won! It takes teamwork and perseverance. Any companies who are looking for a model of success would be well advised to follow in the footsteps of Erb and Bison.
Finally, my good friend Kevin Burch won the prestigious TCA Past Chairmen’s Award for service to the industry, which was well deserved. Equally well deserved is KRTS’s Founder Kim Richardson, as he was bestowed TCA’s Chairman’s Choice award. He’s a supplier who demonstrates outstanding support to the truckload industry and TCA.