The Future of Retention Is Referrals

Image of driver standing in front of truck

The workforce fluctuations related to the COVID-19 pandemic and The Great Resignation have shined a new light on hiring and retention. Most industries are now facing some turbulence in both hiring qualified workers and in retaining their existing ones.

But for the trucking industry, those challenges are nothing new. Trucking has long faced a persistent turnover problem, causing companies to seek new and innovative ways to retain drivers and to bring in new ones.

What if we told you there’s a way to work smarter, not harder, when it comes to hiring and retention? 

There is! A thoughtful company strategy designed to promote driver satisfaction, build trust, and drive referrals can be your key to success.

How the Face of Hiring Is Changing

In the past, when trucking companies were looking to hire new drivers, they commonly turned to advertising platforms, including print media in previous decades and digital media more recently. While that’s still true to some extent today, carriers are increasingly finding that referrals are often much more lucrative.

“A large part of my job is evaluating advertising sources to see which are most efficient,” says Kennedy Ruley, Digital Marketing Manager for Melton Truck Lines, who partnered with us for our recent webinar on this topic. “Referrals count as sources. And when you’re looking at the quality of leads or app-to-hire ratio, we consistently see our referral program far exceeding our goals on those metrics. Whenever we’re looking at conversion rates or the likelihood of drivers being qualified, it’s far higher than other sources that we use. That’s where we really leverage our referral programs.”

It makes sense. Positive reviews make 94% of people more likely to use or join a business, according to a BrightLocal Survey. Referrals are a reflection of a positive company culture, and they provide companies with first-hand perspective about potential new hires.

“When we have an opportunity to push more qualified leads into the system, we’re definitely going to try and capitalize,” Ruley adds.

Building a Culture That Makes Referrals Possible

Of course, gaining those driver referrals requires a commitment on the part of the company. Drivers aren’t going to bring their peers into the mix if they aren’t comfortable with the work they’re doing and satisfied with their employer.

To cultivate driver referrals, trucking carriers need to establish a strong company culture overall. This includes several key parts:

  • A working feedback mechanism. Providing drivers with a meaningful way to offer insights about what’s working and what’s not is important for any company. You’ll gain perspective from those immersed in the work, allowing you to base decisions on realities, not assumptions. But there’s an added benefit, too. Offering a feedback channel and then taking action based on feedback gives drivers some skin in the game. Because they’re invested in the company at that point, they want to see it do well.
  • Clear and consistent training. Many of the problems drivers encounter, particularly when they first begin working with a new carrier, relate to misunderstandings or a lack of clarity. A strong onboarding program that sets clear expectations for both drivers and the company is essential. The onboarding program should be supplemented by ongoing training and the ability to quickly gather answers if questions or concerns arise.
  • A referral program. If driver A has a friend or acquaintance who would make a great driver for your company, but he or she doesn’t know where or how to share that information, that could be a missed referral. As referrals become more and more important for hiring, companies need a clear channel for drivers to provide them. Just as you educate your drivers on other aspects of everyday work, you’ll need to teach them how to share referrals, as well as why they’re so helpful.

While these three components stand out, a strong company culture overall can help you make strides with referrals. Building that culture starts with putting drivers first, and repeated actions become your culture.

“Putting yourself in the driver’s shoes helps a lot,” Ruley says. “You have to check yourself sometimes and ponder whether you’re building a culture where people want to refer our company to others. If they’re not enjoying the work they do, they aren’t going to make a referral.”

Why It Matters

We’ve talked a lot about how referrals help with hiring, but what’s the connection to retention? It’s pretty simple, actually.

Word of mouth is a tremendous tool for boosting your company image. Referrals are a modern-day source of word of mouth. 

When a driver feels positively enough about your company to make a referral, it’s more likely than not that the driver being referred is a quality lead. Referred drivers are more likely to be retained and to stick around, which lowers turnover and boosts retention.

The bottom line? Times are changing, and so are the methods for effectively reaching potential new hires. 

“You’re no longer seeing the traditional conversations at truck stops,” Ruley says. “As a carrier, we’re seeing a lot more media being developed, videos and such online, that drivers can then share online to promote the company to other drivers. Having that structure and that influence online has become so important. I really encourage companies who have drivers who are active on social media to connect with them and promote their presence online, because I think that’s the future of hiring and retention moving forward.”

An employee feedback program is one key component of a strong company culture. Ready to get started? Sign up for a free demo to learn how WorkHound can help.

driver referrals, driver retention, driver satisfaction

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