In the face of driver shortages and high turnover, many in the trucking industry are exploring new ways of doing things. Pay and signing bonuses will always be key incentives, but fleets increasingly are looking for ways to improve the total work experience, reexamining such factors as the fit between driver and job, managerial style, work-related stress, dispatcher effectiveness, and opportunities for professional development. The current environment makes it essential to increase driver engagement. Here are five approaches that fleets are adopting with considerable success.
Start with a warm welcome. Most turnover occurs within the first 60 to 90 days, so pay close attention to the way your orient and onboard new drivers. Offer a professional orientation that not only covers policies and regulations but also spotlights your firm’s key values, history and folklore. Use your employee handbook to drive home these same key messages. Introduce your drivers to personnel in other departments so that they feel they’re truly part of the team. Include top management in the orientation process.
Assign mentors. To assist in onboarding new drivers, fleets increasingly are pairing them with experienced mentors who can explain the lay of the land within the firm and provide assistance as needed. Interactions with the boss can be intimidating for new drivers, so the mentor serves as a more accessible intermediary. For experienced drivers who serve in this role, the assignment often provides an added sense of purpose and satisfaction.
Communicate. As challenging as it may be to give drivers on the road a sense of connection with the home office, it’s worth the effort. Drivers want to know the direction the company is going and to keep abreast on developments at headquarters. Many firms use social media and conduct surveys to support two-way communication, and use the data to make improvements just as they do with metrics on safety and performance. Asking drivers for feedback on processes and procedures increases their sense of empowerment and fosters a more entrepreneurial spirit.
Focus on driver health. There are a many reasons to help drivers become healthier; increased engagement and retention is one of them. While small truckers won’t be able to offer full gyms as some larger fleets do, they probably can put a ping pong table in the driver lounge or a walking trail around the terminal. Also within the means of most fleets are weight-loss programs, health screenings, and health and fitness trainers who work with drivers on diet and exercise.
Focus on home. All drivers value time with their families, so any effort you make to give drivers more flexible schedules and a reasonable lifestyle is likely to pay off in higher retention. To achieve this, some firms have moved to more regional operations, dedicated runs, and relay operations. Dispatchers are using more sophisticated routing and planning systems and working more closely with shippers to fine-tune delivery and wait times.
For more on driver engagement and other transportation best practices, contact us.