People stay in situations in which they feel comfortable, and they leave the ones they are not comfortable in. When it comes to employment, is it that easy to break it all down? Under normal situations, I would say no. In other sectors, the availability to leave one employer and go across the street and be reemployed in short order is usually not in the cards. That is unless you’re satisfied with minimum wage and menial labor, or you are itching to ask “do you want fries with that” 100 times a day.
The reality in trucking is that a decent driver with a good record could have multiple job offers within hours of contacting any number of carriers. I observe that this reality is one that many truckload companies have not come to terms with and are at a total loss about how to deal with their turnover in any kind of effective fashion. So, if you were a driver looking for a job, why would I choose your company?
Take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions to begin with. Where is my company in the marketplace regarding driver wages? Where are we in the lanes we service, and, in your sector, be it flatbed, tanker, refrigerated, van, etc.? If you don’t know, find out and reevaluate your status a minimum of every quarter. Not knowing might be the number one reason your turnover is so high.
Next question, where do you prioritize safety in the day-to-day operation of the business? Is it engrained in the culture or is safety an afterthought? Where are your CSA scores at? Newsflash, professional drivers quite enjoy being around other professional drivers. If you’re letting drivers get away with unprofessional behaviors, your good ones will leave. Do you have (and enforce!) a solid discipline policy? Does safety have the knowledge and credentials to execute a sound safety strategy that is supported by the entire company? If not, you better get on it because you will run out of drivers shortly or the insurance companies will price you out of the marketplace!
Next question, where do your drivers get their information on the company they work for or the industry they work in? If you do not have a formal strategy for communication, then you must be happy for them to be informed via the drivers’ room at your terminal and, of course, the CB radio. Now think about this for a moment, humans are social beings, and they long for interaction. For you non-believers, go ahead and pick up any book on human behavior to validate this statement. I don’t care if you drive a truck or are the Maytag repair guy; people need to communicate.
For those of you who are still with me, and by that, I mean the more enlightened of you, of course. Stop thinking of yourself as singular communicators; what I am talking about is how the company communicates to the universe? You may be aware that your company is communicating to lots of stakeholders: its current drivers, its inside workers, the customers it services, the suppliers it uses, FMCSA as well as law enforcement, any charities you support, and the communities your service. Lastly and possibly most importantly, you communicate with the prospective workforce you’re trying to attract to your company. I am not talking about just what your recruiting department is doing when I tell you this either.
What is the message you send to these groups? Is the message one you control, or is it one that you react to? Listen up, controlling and directing the narrative of your company’s communication to all these groups is one of the most important roles of the leader of any company.
Let’s play a game of rate our company. On a scale of 1 -10, where would you be when it comes to your companies pay package compared to your competition? Now, let’s do the same thing for safety, be honest here, and I say err on the side of caution. Finally, how effectively is your company communicating to all the different communities it is exposed to, 1 -10? Think about each one of them before you put a number on it.
Outstanding, now you have a score, how’d you do? If you sucked, believe it or not, that is good news because now you know where to improve your performance. What does that accomplish? Well, it will go a long way to improving your company culture, and that is what it is all about folks. Do you score the company high in all categories and still have recruitment and retention problems? Please go back and do it again, you missed something? Does anyone doubt that perception is reality? How is the company perceived? Does it reflect reality, or are you just not controlling the narrative properly? Again, you should know where to start to get control.
Every company I deal with hires way more drivers than they need. A positive sense of community where they are respected, and know people have their back. That is what gets the job done, that’s a place where a driver will want to work and stay at. If you want to discuss any of this further, please feel free to reach out to me and we can discuss strategy and retention.
Ray Haight is the TCA Profitability Program (TPP) Retention Coach