An old saying goes, “Sometimes silence speaks louder than words” if your company doesn’t have an effective, robust communication strategy then I would guess that your retention numbers are suffering much by the neglect. Humans are by nature social animals, that need to interact transcends beyond family and friends. Beyond their private lives for a driver, it exists when they are on the road with fellow drivers and of course with the company that they work for maintenance safety, admin, sales and of course operations all play a role.
I have said for years that if you have two people in an office, you have a rumor mill, which is okay if you acknowledge it and fill it full of all the good things that happen in your company regularly. Rumor mills have a negative connotation because they are usually the starting point for gossip and unsubstantiated claims. So how do you stop this, well it’s easy what you do is formalize a communication strategy and then like any other strategy you work the plan by filling the information channels with all the good stuff, and if you look theirs plenty of it to be had.
A couple of principles come it to play for me on this subject, first being that when I share information with you, it’s because I trust you and I want your input. A company that does not communicate effectively is telling their people that they were hired to do a job, follow the role description and nothing more, and you will fit in nicely here. The latter scenario is a problem if you are taking on your companies retention issues, you are going to need is all hands on deck, you will need volunteers for specific action teams you will require everyone to understand their role in driver retention, and that transits their normal position. We need all our folks inside the walls to bring their ideas and input; we are no longer checking our brains at the door.
The second principle being that your silence speaks louder than words, but who is our audience, a good retention strategy early on has to identify whom they are communicating to. The obvious group is your drivers and, and after all, we are talking about driver retention. Here is the caveat if you remember back in the first article we talked values and how we were going to interact with all of our relationships. When we talk communications, it’s the same thing. I have had folks at some companies get stuck here; this is not an effort to retain drivers at all cost or to kowtow to them. You are in an exercise in becoming a value-driven company whose culture has a cornerstone that is driver-centric that’s a much different scenario.
When I was in my position as president of a mid-size carrier our audience was as follows: drivers’, owner-operators and their families, customers, suppliers, the local and national press, the communities we had terminals in, and governing bodies we interacted with. If you look at each of these sectors, they all influence driver turnover. Each of these sectors perceives your company in their reality what are you doing to reflect your company in the best possible way to these folks? This might look like a complete drag on resources and here’s the beautiful thing, in the long run, it isn’t, sure it will take some time to assemble a team to get going, and they will need to work together and meet weekly for an hour or so. However, a fantastic thing happens when folks start talking to each other they begin to see the big picture and how they interact with each other, how what they do affects someone else down the line. In the end, the minimal time spent in meetings over time is far outweighed by time saved in the efficiency that an effective communication strategy will bring.
We have so far set a firm foundation for the retention effort, and we know where we are in the marketplace with driver wages. We have rededicated ourselves to the safety initiative that is paramount to our future success.
Now we have begun to make ourselves sticky from a driver’s perspective, we’re not where we want to be, but we’re making progress. If you believe as I do that humans are by nature social animals, you have to think that is paradigm supported with the relationships we have our marriages our home communities our friends. We cling to these relationships and communities because they are where we are comfortable, they fit us, we have a sense of belonging, and we defend those communities with everything we have.
What you’re doing by initiating a formal communication strategy is your beginning to build that positive sense of community at your trucking company. Drivers will always be aware of what other companies are doing with wages and sign-on bonuses, and you can’t stop that. However, what you can do is begin to focus your efforts on disseminating all the positive things that your people do daily. I’m talking about employee promotions, driver and Owner-operator of the month, new grandchildren, new babies, clean inspections, highway heroics, new equipment coming into the fleet, driver profiles, and so on. There are all kinds of things happening every day at your company that you can talk about, share them all.
In talking turnover part five were going to talk about esteem needs or driver recognition. Drop me a line if any of this resonates with you and you’d like to discuss further.
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. All posts by Ray Haight