The ongoing need for drivers in the trucking industry is a problem that has often been the centerpiece of debates, but has essentially never been solved. It also is a root cause of the consistently high turnover rates at many trucking companies. Attractive salaries and driver benefits notwithstanding, fleets are at a loss to understand where exactly is the disconnect that causes drivers to jump ship so frequently.
WorkHound, a Chattanooga-based startup, is looking to bridge the gap by actually listening to what drivers want and translating that into real-time actionable insights for fleets to help them retain their frontline workforce.
“We focus on giving drivers a voice anywhere and anytime they want to provide feedback,” said Max Farrell, CEO and co-founder at WorkHound. “This can be done anonymously without the fear of retaliation, and can then be used by companies to see the pulse of their drivers, the trends, the issues, and the miscommunications that have happened,” they explained.
Farrell spoke about the three pressing issues that the trucking industry faces today with regard to drivers – the alarming driver turnover rate that averages around 95 percent, shrinking driver numbers (a current shortage of about 50,000) and the fact that those currently driving are growing older.
“When we dug deeper, we realized there was an opportunity here. We looked around the industry to see how and where drivers could express themselves. It could be through exit interviews, but those are basically nothing but an autopsy,” explained Farrell. “And then you have annual surveys which aren't fast enough, because in the trucking industry a driver can be happy on Tuesday and quit by the end of the week. We needed a platform that could help companies be proactive instead of reactive and help them to understand and address driver issues. We built – and WorkHound offers – such a platform.”
WorkHound devised a driver retention effectiveness metric to help companies understand the extent to which such a proactive approach would help retain drivers. “There are a dozen different factors that determine whether turnover numbers go up or down,” Farrell said. “At WorkHound, we needed to show the positive correlation between the actions of companies to address their driver issues, and consequently the desire of those drivers to continue at the company.”
WorkHound describes itself as a preventive maintenance tool for trucking companies. The platform was designed to help fleets make business decisions based on data gathered from people. Farrell contends that from an operational intelligence perspective, frontline feedback was a gold mine.
The first step of the feedback process is to engage with drivers. “Once we onboard a company and we’ve educated its staff, we start to prompt the drivers via a text message that has a link inside of it. We don’t have an app and don’t make people download or log into portals,” Farrell explained. “Through the link, the driver can rate his/her experience at work on a scale of 1 to 10. We then have an open-ended question which asks drivers to list the good, the bad and the ugly. This helps to surface the real issues and to fill in management blind spots.”
An open-ended questionnaire is inherently better as it does not bring in the preconceived bias of an objective survey question, which can gloss over issues. The whole process takes less than 90 seconds to finish, and the driver can provide feedback whenever he feels like, as the link is always live.
Farrell mentioned that the average response rate to a one-time survey fell at around 10 percent, and that the majority of the drivers participated in the platform in some form or fashion within the first four to six months of working with WorkHound. “We make the feedback accessible and actionable for companies. We provide a dashboard that has metrics and feedback analysis. Our system takes every single piece of feedback and then uses keyword and sentiment analysis to determine the feedback on one of a dozen different themes,” he said.
This helps companies to grasp urgent issues and address them before a driver thinks of quitting. “Finally, apart from helping companies make better decisions, we also focus on closing the feedback loop. Every week, we craft a broadcast message that is sent out to drivers that explains that their concerns are being addressed and that their voices matter. This way, we avoid creating miscommunication between the company and the workforce, because it is always dangerous to ask for feedback and not do anything with it,” said Farrell.