Listen, Act, Respond: Three Steps to Improving Driver Retention

We’re all reading the same things: driver shortages, driver turnover, a fire-hot freight market, etc.

Now more than ever, trucking executives are wanting to take advantage of the business opportunities provided by the industry. But there’s a roadblock: it’s tough to find and keep truck drivers.

For too long trucking companies have focused strictly on recruiting. But with recruiting metrics favoring the advertiser and not the trucking company, driver retention is being revisited.

Why? Because it’s less expensive to keep your people than it is to replace them. It’s safer to coach drivers than to replace bad habits. And you can build a culture when people stick around.

Given anyone reading this also wants to improve driver retention, I have some simple advice:

Listen to your people.

Act on what they say.

And respond to show them that change is happening.

Below are a few tactics you can apply to steadily make improvements in increasing driver retention.

Listen

Listen to your drivers. Be open by asking open-ended questions instead of survey questions, which introduce bias. This allows drivers to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Here’s an example of why this is recommended: when we analyzed 8500 drivers’ feedback last year, pay was one of the top four issues (as you would expect). However, the top issue within the pay theme wasn’t about wanting more money. The top issues within pay were “I don’t understand my pay” and “my pay is incorrect.”

By asking open-ended questions we can understand the root of the issues causing drivers to seek new opportunities.

Listen to their expectations when they join your team. Expectations for a new hire are the glue that makes or breaks their trust with your company. Aligning expectations on pay, home time, equipment and communication are crucial and set your relationship up for success.

Listen to the industry. Every company embraces safety and has an open door policy. Those are table stakes. Pay attention to the pay raises and other incentives that are being shared with drivers in your market. If you are seeing these trends, better believe your driver noticed it first.

Listen to the online chatter. Drivers are sharing feedback somewhere. Forums and Facebook are becoming increasingly popular avenues to talk shop. If you don’t know what’s being said, you can’t do anything about it.

But listening is only part of the battle. When we ask for driver feedback, it’s important they see action come from it.

Act

Find small wins. For example, if a vending machine is broken in the driver lounge, get it fixed quickly. It’s a small thing, but it’s an indicator that your company is attentive to driver needs.

Act with bigger initiatives. Change is hard. But showing drivers substantial changes based on feedback can make all the difference. For example, if your drivers are noticing inefficiencies in load planning, you could put a task force together to map out improvements in the process.

When we close the feedback loop, we have to respond. The most toxic thing we can do is ask for feedback and do nothing with it, followed closely by acting and not communicating that feedback led the charge.

Here are a few ways you can close the feedback loop:

Respond

Share regular progress updates on company feedback. Highlight actions (even small wins), bigger changes and clear up miscommunications. The rumor mill runs wild if you don’t communicate directly and continuously.

Take advantage of multiple communication styles to reach drivers in the way they communicate. Connect via text, email, conference calls, town halls and even Facebook live to share updates.

Show that deliberation is happening. Sometimes drivers simply need to see that their ideas and issues are being discussed in the office and at the leadership level. Even if you can’t make a change, explaining why you can’t goes a long way.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to driver turnover. But respect is more valuable than higher pay almost any day. By committing to a continuous feedback loop with your drivers you will show that your company is listening, working to get better, and that their voice matters at your company. There’s nothing more powerful than that.

 

This blog content was originally written for the Arkansas Trucking Association’s magazine by WorkHound CEO, Max Farrell. Read the original post and more here.