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A new driver hire’s view of the recruiter sticks around well past day one: study

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A recruiter in the trucking industry is tasked with bringing in new talent. It’s a role that matters more than ever in the current driver squeeze.

But if you’re running a trucking company and you think the role of the recruiter in a new hire’s retention ends the day the driver starts working, think again.

That’s one of the more notable findings by Stay Metrics, a company that specializes in driver retention. It consults on driver retention issues, and what it has found it compiled in a recently-released white paper.

“It’s very apparent that driver satisfaction with a recruiter impacts retention,” Tim Hindes, CEO of Stay Metrics, told FreightWaves in reviewing the white paper.

Hindes said it is clear from the interviews that Stay Metrics conducts with drivers that if the new hire encounters working conditions that are different than what the recruiter discussed during the hiring process, that is sure to create dissatisfaction. “If they’re happy with the recruiter, it’s because the story the recruiter told them is lining up,” Hindes said. “The trust would still be there and the recruiter would be holding the company’s trust.”

Dissatisfaction that develops because of a disconnect between recruiter isn’t just a short-term phenomenon. Hindes said if the driver sticks around for a year, it’s still present. “They remember what they were told when they signed up,” he said. “So it’s really a question of whether the expectations were aligned right, and did that recruiter oversell it.”

One area of friction: signing bonuses. A promised $10,000 bonus that gets paid out in $1,000 monthly increments but only if certain goals are reached “it not really a sign-on bonus,” Hindes said. That doesn’t mean that such a setup is necessarily dishonest, Hindes said. But it’s important that the recruiter be “forthright, and then if the company can execute, that absolutely works.” It’s when they don’t understand the structure of the bonus that trouble is created.

Hindes said Stay Metrics surveys drivers for its clients at regular intervals. The white paper said the survey that gets done on day 45 is particularly notable. “Drivers who were dissatisfied with their recruiters on day 45 of employment were more likely to quit within the first 90 days of employment,” the paper said.

Once a driver is hired, the next most important relationship in determining retention is with the dispatcher. Hindes cited research going back many years that said if an employee had a “best friend” at their job–any job, not just trucking–they were more likely to be a happy employee. In trucking, Hindes said, “who is that one person going to be? The dispatcher.”

But the problem is that with technology developments, one dispatcher will be talking to far more truckers than they would have in the past. “So there is a disconnect there, and I believe the answer to that is in a driver mentor program,” Hindes said. That driver mentor can be that sort of new “best friend” as well as providing the knowledge that comes from mentoring programs.

“The course of action is to actually sit down and talk to the dispatchers and say, your relationships matter,” Hindes said about how companies should react to these findings. “Your job is not just to act transactionally. You’re the company, you’re the face of the company.” The ability to build a relationship under those conditions is key to driver retention, Hindes added.

Another finding: the age of “leavers,” those who have a “higher propensity to leave,” does not skew young or old. “Age or generation does not affect turnover behavior as heavily as popularly believed,” according to the white paper. According to the research, 7% of the number of leavers in the Stay Metrics data base are between 21-25, and another 9.8% are age 26-30. But 11.6% are between 46 and 50, and 10.1% are between 51-55. It’s a remarkably equal distribution.

There are other findings that are puzzling. For example, it might be assumed that a quick leaver would not recommend the company to any potential hires. “However, for leavers who left within the first three months of employment, half of them would still recommend the carrier to other drivers after turnover,” the white paper said. But that diminishes with age, with younger leavers recommending the company more frequently than older ones.

Part of this is what Stay Metrics called a “honeymoon effect,” citing other work done in the field of employee retention. “New hires hold positive impressions and have positive attitudes toward their new job” is how the paper describes that effect. It doesn’t necessarily go away just because a new hire departs an employer.

Another myth the white paper rejects: inexperience leads to early quitting. But the research shows that experienced drivers, which they define as having been a driver for more than one year, were “slightly more likely to quit early in their employment than inexperienced drivers.” But if an experienced driver gets to a year in a job, they are more likely to stick around, the white paper said.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.