UPT: Finding and Fixing Problem Spots With Honest Feedback

United Petroleum Transports (UPT) had retention problems at five of its customer service centers.

UPT manages a complex distribution network for fuel, oil, and chemicals with 16 facilities stationed throughout the South and Southwest. More than 500 trucks deliver product throughout the region, and it employs 800 people, 630 of whom are drivers.

The Oklahoma-based company operates under stricter regulations than other transportation companies due to the volatile nature of its cargos. Drivers at UPT must hold specialized certifications to haul these materials. Because of this, retention of its drivers, along with recruitment, are an ongoing concern.

Management recently went on a tour of its customer service centers to assess issues identified by driver feedback using WorkHound, an anonymous mobile platform that helps companies elicit honest feedback from employees. UPT started using the app several years ago to learn from drivers across the fleet.

“One of the biggest challenges is communication. If not communicated correctly, the implementation of most plans can be misinterpreted and sometimes have the opposite effect of what you are trying to accomplish,” said Holly Forsyth, Manager of Training and Recruiting.

She and other managers review feedback from WorkHound each week and formulate plans of action. Some issues might deal with small communications about benefits, while others may involve pay increases for certain areas, she said.

The retention tour of customer service centers allowed her team to better understand the issues affecting each facility. This strategy allowed them to proactively address problems that affect retention or could affect it in the future.

“The tour has led to many changes throughout the company as a whole,” said Forsyth.

WorkHound isn’t the only employee feedback tool UPT uses, but it may generate the most honest responses. The company uses in-house surveys and recruiter phone calls to drivers, and leadership has noticed that responses from those methods tend to deliver “more positive” responses from employees and don’t always reflect what management suspects might be occurring at different locations.

Honest feedback has important ramifications for policy decisions that have to work at each level of the organization, especially for drivers who are at the heart of the business.

“Without the feedback from the people who are impacted daily by the decisions made by leadership, we will never know how truly effective the changes have been,” Forsyth said.

She said driver retention and recruitment is a “messy catch-22,” but efforts to improve the former have made the latter easier and more sustainable. Insights from WorkHound have helped UPT identify problems much faster, and drivers like to know their voices are being heard, whether it relates to positive feedback from a pay increase or concerns about a policy change.

While negative feedback is crucial to identifying problems, positive anonymous responses also help reinforce management decisions when they’re the right ones.“Leadership is able to use this feedback to truly understand the needs, concerns, and, what we sometimes forget — the things we are actually doing right,” she said.

Currently, WorkHound is only used by drivers at UPT, but the tour reinforced the value of giving all employees a real-time voice in decision-making, and continues to help management get a better understanding of their organization from the bottom up.