To the outside world, every truck driving job may appear to be the same, with nothing particularly unique about them. It is a profession that can be learned by most anyone with few barriers to entry. With today’s market, job seekers have a vast array of options in front of them. With training, certifications, and a little experience (or maybe not these days) there are many opportunities to create a career path as a driver with a great income. But, it’s more than just the notion of drive and deliver, on time, every time; today employees are seeking the complete package including the company, benefits, and culture. Benefits can include a range of options such as retirement plans, health and dental plans, vacation and sick time, paid holidays, and culture. Culture refers to the intangible assets like employee morale, and the working atmosphere that drives overall attitude. Culture is a strong buzzword in the supply chain and logistics industry lately, especially with the high level of burnout, extreme working hours, and unrealistic shipping expectations. The extreme pressure of the delivery industry has galvanized public opinions this year, pushing workplace culture and safety to the forefront of conversations.
Retaining good drivers in this highly competitive market can be challenging, but creating a desirable work environment will help. Having a healthy and positive work culture is imperative, especially during challenging times. Trusting your team and being able to lean on others will create a safe and successful environment. Strong teams in supportive companies can withstand the evolving pressures of the supply chain. Additionally, fostering a sense of good culture creates long-term relationships with employees and reduces turnover and cost.
The term culture often conjures up images of an office setting and a close-knit community of workers. In the context of truck drivers, who primarily work outside of an office, culture must be approached differently. A level of strategy and creativity will ensure external workers feel included. There is a balancing act between allowing drivers the freedom that they desire, ensuring that all job requirements are met, while still keeping them engaged and motivated. This is not an easy feat, especially with minimal facetime. While creating culture outside of the office is challenging, it is certainly not impossible.
We have compiled 5 critical tips to retain employees and maintain a safe, successful, and enjoyable work culture for drivers.
1. The soft benefits carry a lot of weight. Companies put a great deal of thought into benefit packages for drivers, but the current economy forces us to think outside of the box. While traditional benefits still stand the test of time, the extra, or soft, benefits convey the additional value that companies place on their team. Employees who work outside of the office miss perks like free coffee and company lunches, in addition to organic relationships that develop within the working community. Without offering special incentives, employees outside of the office may feel disconnected from the team and devalued. Over time, this disconnect can make it much easier for an employee to seek alternative employment. Examples of soft benefits include free streaming services, coffee vouchers, discount programs for different goods and services, and more. A flexible pay schedule is a great perk which is simple to implement and can set you apart from the competition. Allowing drivers to take their dogs with them on the road is also a fun and stress-reducing benefit. Who doesn’t want a four-legged furry copilot that can’t talk back? When you have staff that works independently and outside of the office, going the extra mile to foster relationships and keep morale high is crucial to retention. If there is one thing more important than hiring good help in this current economy, it is retaining them!
2. Communication is key in any position. Regardless of title or rank, lack of communication or bad communication can devastate a company. This poses a challenge for truck drivers who are not working in a team setting, or under direct supervision, most of the time. Communication needs to be approached differently for external employees. Consider implementing regular, quick standup meetings and include casual conversation during this time. Another great option is using third party communication applications which allow groups of people to engage in ongoing conversations through text (although not while on the road of course). Having a place, or a set time, to chat with fellow employees and management nurtures relationships and builds both trust and loyalty. Communication is an ongoing exercise beginning on day one – be clear about your expectations, the assigned driving routes, and make sure to continually ask about any concerns. Also, make sure you keep a pulse on your driver groups and learn what they are saying and understand any potential concerns so that you can mitigate them early. While management may be physically distanced, creating open lines of communication and listening intently to your external teams will foster respect and value which often equate to appreciation and retention.
3. Create opportunities for advancement. The first step of filling any position is hiring the right candidate. Unfortunately, many companies consider that the end of the road – and for successful growth, it isn’t! Jobs can become stagnant over time if advancement is not available. Employees naturally gravitate towards growth opportunities and if none are available where they are, you risk losing them to a competitor. Offering skill development, continued education, advanced training & licensing, and more to your drivers will empower them to grow within your company. Driver ride-along training programs are a great way for candidates to learn and gain experience on the job. Referencing communication from the prior tip, talk to your drivers – ask them what they like and dislike about their job. Have conversations about short and long-term goals and plans, and offer them the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions. You might be surprised how much you can learn from the employees who are in the field. Something as simple as offering incentives or rewards for accomplishments is a fantastic way to show appreciation to your team. Create milestones to strive towards when there is potential for growth, both personal and professional, retention follows.
4. Work-life balance is crucial to any job. With burnout being such a popular topic this year, it is important to address this problem before it begins. Many people think of driving as a job that takes them away from home for long stretches of time. Some people are excited about the prospect of the open road with no return, but others are looking for a more structured schedule with dedicated driving time and dedicated time off the clock. It is important to become part of your drivers' schedules, not the other way around. Consider offering flexible schedules and routes that fit different lifestyles and give drivers the opportunity to return home at night if they want. Additional considerations for maintaining a work-life balance can include weekends (or set days) off, accrual of paid time off, and tracking of overtime hours to ensure fairness. Frustrated employees bring down morale, threaten your culture, and often don’t stay in their job. As mentioned, hiring the right candidate is only half of the battle, keeping your team happy and engaged is equally as important.
5. Value every single employee. Each person in your company, regardless of rank or title, imparts value and keeps the supply chain running smoothly. It is vital to show appreciation to every employee for their individual contribution to the overall process. Without drivers, your products don’t move, and the supply chain fails. Showing value reminds your team that they are all important and their job matters. As previously stated, a paycheck can be earned anywhere and when an employee doesn’t believe that their job matters, they may seek alternative employment. Loyalty is a two-way street and it must be earned. To further encourage this point, consider the fact that turnover is expensive! Training is an investment in both time and money and a new employee means resetting the loyalty bar at zero. It is much more strategic and cost-effective to invest in your staff rather than experience the negative effects of churn. Additionally, clients often appreciate a company with longevity in their staff, it speaks volumes about their brand. Show appreciation through raffles, companywide awards, employee shoutouts, and employee of the month programs. If you are happy with an employee, make sure to tell them and their team, this will create excitement and others will strive to achieve the same status and recognition.
Hiring drivers in the current competitive market is tough. Remember these 5 tips and implement them where you can within your organization for added success in the recruitment process. Create a plan now to strengthen your benefits and continue to build it as your team expands. This is an organic process that should grow with you!