So you’ve finally found the perfect driver for your company. You’ve offered a package. It’s been accepted. You may think your job is done…it’s not.
Now that you’ve found the right driver, you have to make sure you retain that driver. Companies realize that this is an ongoing and vitally important exercise. A few of our NationaLease member companies deal with this issue constantly.
According to Shenika Oliver, Recruiting Manager at Aim NationaLease, “We throw a lot of focus into retention. You spend so much in time and money to recruit a driver; you’d rather not duplicate the effort to replace that driver.” And the time and money allocated to bring a driver onboard is not the only expense. There’s training and the inevitable learning curve that result in additional cost and time. Losing a driver after you’ve gone through all of this can result in real operational disruption.
In an environment where your competitors are willing to make exceedingly attractive offers to lure your drivers away, what can you do? As Ken Mains, CFO, “Sign-on bonuses and higher wages have drivers moving from one company to another, making it difficult to retain drivers. When it comes to wages, the competitive marketplace, in many cases, prioritizes compensation at the top of the list so drivers have many opportunities to choose from.”
However, just as money isn’t the only motivator to recruit a driver; it’s also not the only motivator to retain one. There are reasons why the recruit accepted your offer. But promises made must be promises kept. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the job and package description offered at the beginning of the hiring process don’t suddenly change once the driver has joined the company.
Jim Donnelly, Owner of ASL Transportation Group, noted, “I think companies that have retention issues really create their own problems by not being honest up front. More drivers have been misled during the hiring interview than at any other point. And that comes back to haunt you once they realize what they’ve been told isn’t true. You paint a pretty picture; then reality sets in. And you’ve spent all of that time and money on training. It’s not worth it.”
It’s essential that every supervisor and manager be aware of what the driver has been told to expect as far as duties, responsibilities, and benefits. Don’t just assume that the facts are known; communicate with management to make sure everyone is on board. If there’s one thing that kept coming up in our discussions with our member companies, it’s the role that interpersonal relationships play in keeping drivers with the company. A bad relationship with a supervisor can be the deciding factor as to whether a driver stays or goes.
Oliver of Aim NationaLease stated, “It’s the relationship between the driver and their direct supervisor that really makes a difference. We really work hard to develop our front line managers and help facilitate healthy working relationships.”
ASL Transportation Group has built relationships into a company-wide mantra where everything is dedicated to creating a positive driver experience. “Our communication lines are always open,” said ASL’s Donnelly. “I personally meet every driver that’s hired by the company, and we constantly treat them as our most valued employees. Our dispatchers are friendly and helpful as is every member of the company. And we listen to our drivers’ concerns and questions. Too many people listen in order to reply; we listen in order to understand.”
Tom Lansing, VP of Safety and Driver Services of Hogan concurs, noting that, “Establishing a good rapport between drivers and management is important. Instilling the company culture throughout the organization is also key to having long-term dedicated employees. “
What this makes clear is that management needs to know not only what is expected from drivers, but what is expected from them as well. That means having all of the tools necessary to fulfill those expectations, and that may necessitate management training for supervisors and other direct reports. The company culture of responsibility, accountability, and inclusion must be understood and practiced by everyone in the company, top to bottom, in order for it to work.
Retaining employees, any employees, is often dependent on making them feel invested in the company’s success. That’s easier when those people work in an office, warehouse, or other facility on a day-to-day basis. Drivers, especially drivers for dedicated carriage companies, are likely not in the office on a regular basis. So it’s especially important to make them feel that they have a vital role to play in the company’s fortunes.
Some companies have been quite successful at this. ASL tries to incentivize drivers as much as possible because, as Donnelly says, “We want to make it clear to them that when they do better, we do better. A driver that gets better fuel efficiency and requires less maintenance gets bonuses. The same goes for drivers that maintain and grow customer satisfaction. And we make sure we let them know how important those achievements are for the company’s bottom line.”
But even if you do everything right, drivers may still leave. According to Donnelly, drivers leave for four reasons: more money; route issues (they want more local routes); relationship issues; and, the one companies are unable to combat, a desire to leave the industry completely. But when drivers do leave, companies need to conduct exit interviews to pinpoint the problem areas. And they need to add measurements and accountability to their retention efforts. Companies should ask themselves the following questions: Are your most successful recruiting resources leading to the best retention results? Is there a particular dispatcher or supervisor who has had issues with multiple drivers? Which perks seem to be the most successful at keeping drivers with the company?
Turnover is inevitable, but the amount of that turnover can be kept at an acceptable level with the right practices. Aim NationaLease has found that to be true. “We have an excellent retention specialist who communicates with each of our new hires and follows up to see if their concerns have been addressed,” notes Oliver. “That, along with reward programs and other bonuses, has led to a decrease in turnover.” ASL Transportation has found the same, according to Donnelly. “Our focus on constantly creating a positive driver experience has definitely paid off. We rarely lose a driver after one year here.”
None of us expects the driver shortage problem to get better or to resolve itself any time soon, so capturing drivers’ loyalty is more important than ever. Any fleet that thinks that hiring a driver is a “one and done” situation may be in for a rude awakening.