‘It ain’t nuclear surgery’

How many times have you been stuck trying to make a specific task or project perfect and got completely frustrated to the point of quitting, when in fact you had probably nailed good some time ago. My partner Jimmy Papineau and I have been working for just under a year now on a retention project for the Vertical Alliance Group. The project consist of the development of a year long instruction series on how to bring a carrier, who might have very poor retention numbers, say 50% or higher retention down to an acceptable level, of 20%.

We occasionally fall into what we call a rabbit hole where we’re so determined in our effort to get it right we dwell on perfection when good would work quite well and we move on. During those times of stall, we have to remind ourselves to not let perfection become the enemy of good! We’re almost finished and should be to market soon with a product we call “Driver Retention Masterclass”.

The project is a retrospective look at the carrier I was president of, as the senior management team and myself had finally had enough of the treadmill of high turnover and drew a line in the sand and said enough is enough. We get in depth and detailed as we dive deeply into each and every aspect of the effort; it was a fun project and brought back a lot of great memories.

Here is a quick glimpse at it: You start, like all great challenges, with a good hard look in the mirror. How did we get here, how did this happen and how do we get started? The answer to the first question is one of the hardest to grasp and is fundamental to the success of the project. Goes like this: in order to make sustainable long-term change, you must own the circumstances that put you where you are today. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about your personal relationships, your career, or your business, you did everything in perfect sequence to get you where you are right now. Playing the blame game does no good, adds no value to correcting whatever the issues are, and regret for the past is a waste of spirit and a huge waste of time.

Drilling down to the root cause of turnover is rarely done, nor is responsibility taken by those who should accept it. Companies buy the latest toys and services that suggest driver loyalty can somehow be bought; it’s never successful and any gains realized don’t last. Why? Because the root problem is still there; all that has been done is the company has layered a Band-Aid over it and expected it to be fixed. All this does is make the turnover slow down for a short while and then the new Band-Aid becomes expected or the company down the road does the same thing and now it isn’t special anymore and the slight improvement that was gained is lost.

So, how do you get to the root cause of turnover at your company? In all truth you likely wont, but you can get to work on building a new culture at your company. What I mean here is stripping the whole thing down and building it back up again, building a sense of community that folks will want to work at, one that they’ll be drawn to.

Two questions for you. First, what is the one thing that 99.9% of all human beings share with each other? It’s the one common thread that holds modern society together. The answer is core values. We all share commonality in the basis of our core values – doesn’t matter man, woman, race or religion. Now we’re stripping it down to the metal, so the next question is for your drivers. Owner-operators and all the folks inside and outside the walls. Here it is: “What core values would a company have that you would want to work at?”

Simple question, yes, but the responses to this simple question are the building blocks for a sustainable driver retention effort. If there is a company out there that has high turnover and they don’t start with this simple formula, then you will never get your numbers under control. The beauty of the exercise is that over 80% of what you will get in return will be the same; they will be words like honesty, integrity, loyalty, respectful, consistency, and on and on.

So if you accept that the vast majority of your people have these items as part of their core value system, what does the company you work for do to foster or support these values? What happens when these core values are broken? Is there a reaction?

Wikipedia says a culture is a social system that shares a set of common values, in which such values permit social expectations and collective understandings of the good, beautiful and constructive. Without normative personal values, there would be no cultural reference against which to measure the virtue of individual values and so cultural identity would disintegrate.

What I read here is that without a stated set of common core values that are used to guide the company and its people in the right direction the cultural identity would evaporate. A driver or any person for that matter that works for this type of company has very little reason to stay when something more appealing come along.

The kicker for me is the driver who is looking for a job. If I were this guy I would be looking for a company that not only displays their value statement on their sleeves, walls, trucks, everywhere, but also has the reputation of backing it up with swift action.

So could it be as simple as building a sense of community based on common values within your company, surprise it is that simple, simple to say that is. Of course a hundred moving parts go into doing it right. But at the end of the day this is it, as our good friend Don Cherry would say “It Aint Nuclear Surgery”

Safe Trucking!

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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • Hi Ray
    It says you were a company driver and o/o with over
    a million miles.
    If I could wave a wand and make you 20 years old
    in 2017 would you do it again with todays rates?
    Also lack of freedom on the road.
    (Carriers thus have shifted the burden of un-
    foreseeable delays onto the truckers, who may then earn less per
    hour on the road. Moreover, real employee compensation per
    mile fell by an average of 44 percent between 1977 and 1987.

    This demonstrates that drivers are bearing more of the cost of
    delays, that labor is being outsourced,

    that labor efficiency is increasing, or a combination
    increasing, or a combination thereof.}

    Look at the graph on page 8 it stops at 1996 I wonder where that top line is now.