What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Its a priceless mantra that we’ve all used many times. However, knowing what you are going measure (and why), how are you going to measure it and how are you going to turn your new knowledge into an actionable and worthwhile result is the real challenge.

What I’m talking about is reducing driver turnover and using the real data that is right at your fingertips, if you chose to mine it and use it for better turnover results. When I ask most companies about their turnover rate, rarely do I get a response that is more than a guess. I find that surprising, to say the least. In today’s trucking environment it is all about the driver, hiring them and keeping them. Here is what I measured, how I measured it and how I used the results when I ran my company.

What

  • We had 6 dispatch boards with approximately 300 trucks. We measured short-term turnover, meaning those who had been with us for under 1 year. We grouped this by drivers, O/O’s and overall. We tracked companywide turnover, meaning the board fleet as a group, again segregating company drivers and O/O’s. We also measured turnover coming out of our training trucks on entry-level drivers. Total reports were 4-5 per board, depending on whether they had ELD or not, and overall total reports were 27 – 33.

How 

  • We used an old JJ Keller formula that I still use, it really doesn’t matter what you use if it is consistent, and it is a rolling 365 day a year tool. We used the following:
  • Short-Term Driver turnover ratio 12 Month = Drivers no longer with the company that were hired in the last 12 months divided by the number of drivers employed in the previous 12 months.
  • Long-Term Annual Turnover Formula    = Drivers no longer with the company (YTD) divided by elapsed days X 365 divided by total # of Drivers. By the way, an employed driver is one that has turned at least one mile of work in which revenue was generated. The fact that you have any no shows at orientation is an entirely different issue.

Action

  • We’re looking for variations in the numbers. Why are some boards results better than others? We’re not looking for bad guys here. The exercise will reveal two things are at play here that can help our results:
    • First, you will likely see where you are getting some stellar results – an individual or two that have turnover rates that are well below the rest of the gang. The obvious question is how are they getting these results? Are there things that they do that can be shared with the rest of the dispatchers? Do these individuals have behavioral traits that we can identify and possibly hire to those traits in the future? Can this person or persons mentor other dispatchers?
    • Secondly, are there things we’re doing or not doing that are creating poorer turnover results on those boards that have the higher turnover numbers? Take a second level deep dive into common root causes on these boards and let’s see what’s really going on.

Once the measurements process is set up and functioning, it is quite easy to generate these reports on a monthly basis. Give it a try and see what opportunities you might uncover. Measure and manage – here we come.

Safe Trucking,

RJH

Driver Retention =Discipline

The core of the TCA TPP’s newly released driver retention project plan is a focus on managerial discipline. It lays out a step-by-step process that is designed to layer a gradual focus on creating a driver-centric culture at any given trucking company starting with the commitment by the senior management team to the successful execution of the program.
Through the process of rolling out the DR Project Plan to a new company, we encourage an on-site visit and workshop that I facilitate. Having done these on numerous occasions, I can usually expect that one of the common concerns that are revealed is that consistency is crucial to the successful execution of the DR Project Plan itself.
The manifestation of this concern among senior managers is in and of itself very telling of the culture of the business and it is a likely sign of a company (although it may be successful) is likely not performing to their maximum potential. What do I mean by this?  This is likely a business that operates in silos and not as a high performing, focused unit. Each department is trying to keep up to the pressures of the day, living in the whirlwind. They are not genuinely supporting each other and suffering when it comes to focusing on either a common purpose or accomplishing a WIG (wildly important goal).
One of the benefits of the DR Project Plan is that at its core it strives to hold people accountable for staying to the project plan. If an individual is not onside, they will be called out on their lack of focus by other members of the team. Hopefully this is done in a supportive way (as is encouraged). This support is a core commitment that each senior manager makes to the others as part of the program, and it is critical to its success. The program also addresses the blame game, finger pointing, and dodging accountability, which of course is nothing but a child’s play and a waste of spirit. The turnover in this industry and at each company I work with is a result of the company’s entire personnel’s efforts to get where it is – period.
Taking full accountability and ownership of the situation each company is in is the starting point for the program. There is no future in finding bad guys or playing the blame game, none. Everyone at the company and everyone reading this article for that matter has done everything perfectly correct and in perfect order to be where you are today. In your careers in your relationships in your communities, you have to own that paradigm, not to say that challenges and in some case significant problems didn’t present themselves to you, but you decided how to react to those issues. No one else but you, so own your successes own your failures, own your past and own your future.
Without this core understanding as a starting point, the DR Project Plan (and any other WIG for that matter) has a very narrow chance of ever resulting in the success that it was designed to achieve. It has been my experience that most new revelations, including the new DR Project Plan, are nothing more than common sense revealed. Hope you agree. You can find out more about the new TCA TPP DR Project plan at: https://www.truckload.org/tpp-retention-project/ or at https://tcaingauge.com/the-retention-action-plan/
Safe Trucking
RJH

The Top 5 Leadership Absolute “Don’t Do’s” When You’re Focusing on Reducing Driver Turnover!

  1. Here is a harsh reality: you simply stating that the company is going to take on and beat driver turnover will at best be received with reluctant hesitation and/or apathy. This should not come as a shock but if you are approaching 100% turnover (or higher), it is not likely that your people believe too much of what your management team is saying. So why not look for (or create) a bell weather moment? Winston Churchill was credited with saying “never waste a good crisis”. You should pick when to reveal your company’s new driver retention initiative wisely. If you can tie it to a critical event, good or bad, then you need to determine out how to do that. In my past we decided to train all the “inside the walls” employees on customer service. When people start to realize how their actions affect those around them they start to quickly get the picture. When we finished the training, driver retention was a natural extension and the transition was easy.

 

  1. Do not take the issue of your company’s high turnover on as a challenge until you can wrap your head around the fact that you did everything necessary to cause the turnover you have now. The point here is that if you don’t take ownership of the issues neither will your people. Excuses for turnover are far too common and easy to come by in trucking. We have all heard them repeatedly over the years. Remember that the blame game does not solve anything. The only way to get off to a good start is to state that you’re determined to turn the corner on your company’s turnover and that from now on the responsibility for every driver that leaves or is fired from your company is on you and your people. There is an opportunity learn from every single failure. Take that failure personally. No one goes to work in the morning with the intention of failing. These are people’s families that we are messing with.

 

  1. Don’t keep your people in the dark about what you’re doing. Use every channel possible to let them know what is going on in your business. For your company to turn the corner on driver turnover you will need the assistance of everyone in the business. What is discussed must be the priority. Think about this: I give you information because I trust you, I value your input and I need your help. I don’t share information because I don’t particularly care about your opinion and I don’t think your input will bring value to this initiative. Want your people to be more engaged when they come to work? Let them become part of the solution, share as much information with them as possible and then ask them for their help.

 

  1. Do not try and impose your own personal values on people. If you or your senior managers developed a value statement and then took it to your people and expected them to respond positively to that statement, then you are in trouble – it just won’t work. A strong values statement can be the cornerstone of your retention objectives but only if it reflects your collective values and that you plan on following through with it. Here is the question to pose to your people – what would your perfect company look like? One paragraph from each person is all that is needed. Do it as a team that is working towards a common purpose.

 

  1. Do not get impatient. This is change and change will scare people. However, being patient does not mean turning a blind eye to behaviour that is counter to the company’s goals. Being patient means coaching and talking the talk. If that individual who refuses to change crosses the line again and again you will have to take the steps necessary to get the right people in those roles. These are tough decisions, but they are entirely necessary for you to succeed. Stay determined!

 

Safe Trucking.

RJH

TCA Retention Coach

Turbocharge Your Recruiting Efforts

Having reviewed the recruiting practices of hundreds of carriers, the majority leave me completely underwhelmed. Almost everywhere I go, the model is essentially the same – cast a wide net, and hope you catch a couple. No successful entrepreneur would ever recommend a business strategy were you simply copy the same model, strategy and tactics of almost ALL of your competitors. Although most of the fine people I get to work with have good and honorable intentions, many fall far short of being as effective as they could (and should be). Within the carrier I ran, 50% of all our new hires were sourced through on-road recruiters – your fine and hard-working drivers. This is likely similar to the results from the carriers reading this post, however more and more are coming via social media channels and initiatives (which is an extremely big part of your recruiting and communications strategy – something we will talk about in depth in future posts).

Today, let’s focus on arming your on-road recruiting warriors with the tools they need to succeed. First you need to figure out a proper training program for the interested participants. That training will likely include elements such as a conversational sales course. You don’t need to develop that training program in-house, in fact it would be fool-hardy to do so. We are big fans of online training. For sales training, there are hundreds of courses available on Udemy for peanuts. Find your favorite, make it the standard. Combine this external training with a tip sheet which will include all the items you would want a prospective driver to be aware of, which could potentially work at your business. These items could include the lanes you work, company’s values statement, its social support, its pay structure, equipment (type, average age, replacement schedule etc), history, and most importantly a personalized un-scripted message about why your on-road warriors continue to work for your company despite thousands of competing offers.

In our business, we also had decals made for the side of their trucks calling attention to the fact that the driver of the vehicle was an on-road recruiter for us. We had business cards stating the same, and they had our value statement printed on the back. They had the recruiters name on them and a direct line to our recruiting department.

Further, there were two other key elements to the program, first our philosophy was that when an on-road recruiter brought a prospective new driver to our company we would go through the same criteria for pre-employment, as we would any other driver coming to our business – no exceptions. If we decided that the driver was a good fit for us we paid the recruiting fee to the on road recruiter immediately, mile one. If that new hire quit or was fired shortly after – that was on us, not the on-road recruiter!

The second element was recognition, when an on-road recruiter brought a new hire in the doors, we celebrated in our newsletter on social media, and at company events. Everyone likes a pat on the back when they succeed, and we did it loudly We had special plaques made for the best recruiters, we had one gal who was an O/O at our company, bring in six new drivers one year. They made an additional twelve thousand dollars through this program. I know some TPP members who have drivers making $30,000 to $50,000 per year in referral fees alone – wow!

Need some help turbocharging your retention efforts, take this free survey today – www.tcaingauge.com/retentionscore.

Why They Are Leaving You (or Soon Will)

Trucking executives have been contemplating this statement since the first wheels turned in this industry. In the days of regulation, the opportunity cost of any empty seat could be calculated with certainty (it hurt, but you could at least make fairly realistic budgets and purchasing decisions). These days, that same empty seat could result in lost profits double or triple what they were last year at the same time. The anxiety of what’s being left on the table is palpable when I speak to trucking entrepreneurs and executives. During previous ‘hot markets’, I was one of these executives, and it wasn’t until we decided as owners that we were going to meet the challenge of high driver turnover ‘head on’ that we began to get a handle on it and eventually drive our triple digit turnover down to below 20%.

So why do they leave? It’s a complex question, but from a 50,000-foot view, it is really as simple as stating that people stay in situations they like, and they leave the ones they don’t. By parallel we all do it, we live where we live because it is a comfortable neighborhood, we are in the relationships were in because we see eye to eye with that person, they’ve got our back and we have theirs. We work at our jobs because they challenge us, we’re appreciated, and we enjoy the challenges and opportunities the workplace offers. People stay because they have purpose and are part of a team (a tribe if you will) that has the exact same purpose.

To put it all in context, your drivers leave (or will leave) because they have no attachment to your company. You have not created the compelling reason for them to stay. It’s hard these days for a driver not to feel like a small part of a bigger transaction, with an ever-decreasing connection to their tribe (in work and life). These forces make it easy for them to decide when another job, or bag of money gets their attention. You treat them like a transaction – don’t be surprised if they turn the tables.

The good news is that change is possible. Have been there, have done that. It’s tough. You may need to invest time and money. You may need to terminate people. You will be uncomfortable. It may get messy. TCA has created the framework to guide carrier members to low turnover numbers, it’s called the Retention Action Plan. This plan is the center piece of my role as the newly-minted Retention Coach, a service offering from the TCA Profitability Program. We believe that excessively high turnover is an unnecessary evil in our industry, and that with the right effort, and the right plan it can be reversed. If you’re interested in starting this journey, click here for a gut check.

Are You Looking for a Professional Driver?

I have been speaking and consulting about retention, almost exclusively, over the past number of years. What I have found, and it is my experience, that high turnover in any trucking company can be brought under control.  That’s a fact, been there – done that, bought the tee shirt. Any half insightful management team that can muster a measured amount of committed effort, can show impressive decline in lost drivers in a matter of three to twelve months. With ongoing programs, it can be maintained indefinitely.

Recently I have been asking my trucking executive audiences how many of them would prefer to hire professional drivers.  To put this in context I classify drivers in three categories.  First, the lost and forlorn, they’re just driving until they find their real calling (and BTW, they rarely do). Second, there is the truck stop cowboy, these folks are in love with the image of being a truck driver more than being proficient at what they’re doing. The 3rd is a professional, always looking clean and sharp, concerned with doing things properly and being accountable and responsible for all their actions. After I ask what type of Driver and Owner Operator they would like to hire, what I see is a room full of hands that have shot in to the air for, of course, the professional.

So, here’s the nest question to the group, so you all want professionals in your company, okay that makes sense, so what do you do to foster that desire, this is when I get the glazed over look. Most companies currently have professionals in their infrastructure that they support. You may have a CPA that you assist in making sure is current with all accounting rules and probably pay for their annual CPA dues. You may have a head of HR that you support who needs to be kept abreast of all the new labor rules. How about your Safety Manager? The company likely sends this individual to regular safety council meetings and has paid for them to get their CDS designation. This is to name just a few positions.

So, you want professional drivers and Owner Operators at your company, what do you do within your fleet to support this claim? How do you make information available so that your people have a source of knowledge that will allow them to excel at their trade, such as: how to be a successful Owner Operator; new proposed rule-makings; advanced defensive driving; new equipment innovation; and conversational sales, to name a few examples? If your answer is nothing, then you should stop claiming to want professionals at your company because you do not have an infrastructure that supports that claim. If you want professionals, treat them like professionals.  As Don Cherry would say “It’s not nuclear surgery”.

And it is so easy. There are so many great resources for educating oneself these days on how to be successful. This is not to say that there wasn’t some good information back when I drove but back then it was in book form and after I put in my long days’ work it was time to hit the sack. Reading a couple chapters and absorbing anything of value from a general business self-help book was not in the cards. And when I got home it was down time – get recharged and then head back out.

Today there is a great wealth of information specifically on being successful as a driver or Owner Operator and it is available in the most convenient forms – whether streamed from internet, YouTube, listening to satellite radio and online courses. Much of it can be listened to while the driver watches the miles go by.

For those drivers out there thinking of purchasing a truck and possibly becoming an owner operator or even starting a small trucking company, here are some of the materials that I would suggest that you get a hold of and listen to as a way of formulating a plan to move forward.

I would listen to Trucking Business and Beyond by Kevin Rutherford on Sirius XM Radio’s channel The Road Dog. I would also check out the training he offers here .  Kevin is an old friend of mine, and has a sea of knowledge on how to become a master Owner Operator. I took Kevin’s Certified Master Contractor course some years ago and it was excellent – well worth the money. I would check out ATBS’s Knowledge Hub program as it is an excellent resource of valuable information, a great website ..  In addition, there are many good industry publications whose editorial has valuable information that is there for the reading. On any variety of business topics and life in general I happen to love Udemy . The volume of quality educational content is staggering and very economical. If there isn’t something there that peaks your interest, maybe it’s time you consider retirement.

The list of good information that is there for the listening can go on and on. Much of it is free and the rest is very economical. I remember being at a seminar where the speaker was then Miami Dolphin coach Jimmy Johnson. During the Q&A period he was asked this question. Coach Johnson, how do you mold the crop of young boys you get each year into men who are professional football players? The coach’s short answer was “talk to people that look up to you the way you want them to behave and they will become that. Talk to them the way they are, and they will stay that way.” You want professionals? It’s simple, treat them that way.

Take Good care and Safe Trucking,

RJH

Where Do Leaders Go For Advice?

Effective leadership in business, politics, a family, or in any situation or organization is a critical success factor. I have seen, and been involved in many situations at many trucking companies, non-profit organizations, and community efforts that would not be suffering but for one missing element, effective leadership. Someone with dedication, vision, and a strong moral compass who walks the walk can fix almost any issue in any circumstance; I know this to be true!
 
Leadership used to be tied to that person being a role model but that idea is suffering badly in the public eye. I have been fortunate in my lifetime, along with many of you I’m sure, to be exposed either through teachings or first hand witness to many great leaders that were in the public purview. Folks like Tommy Douglas, father of the Canadian Health Care System, Winston Churchill and his heroic stand during World War 2, JFK and the unfolding of the civil rights movement, Terry Fox, Mike Hanson and the list goes on and on! These were and are great role models, and these were folks that knew the price of leadership whether they sought it out on purpose or it came to them as a result of a heroic effort, they rose to the occasion for all to see and stood proud.
 
Of course today’s scrutiny is much more of a micro lens than the macro lens of just a few decades ago, but even so when these folks were elevated to their pedestals by “we the public” it seemed that all we did was shine a light on what was already there. Their style and class was not contrived or manufactured, what we saw was nothing more that what already existed and it was class and it gave us all something to aspire to. The world seemed a better place because of the folks that were our role models of the day.
 
I’m confident that these same types of role models exist today and these same types of folks are walking in our midst as I write this piece. That Micro examination of today’s media though shows every freckle, wart, and hiccup that ever existed in ones past, and regardless of ones character you will be vetted in the public eye to that situation or circumstance. Let’s face it, who needs that type of scrutiny. Even if you were prepared to endure the focus on yourself, all of those around you will suffer the same level of scrutiny and should they have a skeleton in their closet, condemnation by association will be swift.
 
Where big business and the mainstream media direct their spotlight and whom they place on a pedestal these days is of course the youth of North America, the trendsetters, and the consumers. Look at what’s happened in just the past 3-5 decades, during that period our elders who were once upon a time invaluable advisors to our youth, have been transformed from role models, knowledge givers and resources of a life of experience they were willing to share, into a burden on society. The very infrastructure that they built for us to live in now is turning on them and blames them for the high cost of supporting them in their advanced years and the cost associated with health care and other social infrastructure. 
 
I am no conspiracy theorist but I believe what’s happened is that the mainstream media’s focus has lead us down a path that is directly pointed at the youthful consumer, and the advertising dollars that come with selling products and services,. In doing so, they have discounted our elders in today’s society. The focus today is on youth and future possibilities not accomplishments of the past and calling on that wisdom to offer opinion on today’s reality. 
 
Direction is given and taken from advertisers trying to solicit young consumers by portraying them as the chosen generation, the folks who will evermore carve our trek into the future, new is better, old is bad. It was just a few short decades ago that seeking advice from one’s elders was common practice, and always looked upon as a prudent thing to do. How often do you hear of that today, typically the elders among us are uninitiated in the world of technology, and are made to feel left out of the loop and disconnected from the rest of the world, discounted in their value as people! I think young leaders in our industry would be wise to consult and listen to the successful people before them who made our industry so successful.
 
Nothing takes the place of experience and common sense; it was explained to me this way by an acquaintance that has a PhD in education, he says that young people have what is referred to as liquid knowledge. Which is the knowledge that comes from studying a particular subject or learning as they move through a situation? Mature people have liquid knowledge and have crystal knowledge, which is the additional knowledge that comes from having worked through a particular subject or situation once or many times. It is additional knowledge that comes from experience, trial and error, getting better and better at something, minimizing the scares, bin there done that, know the drill!
 
So whom do you call on when you need advice whether you’re a Driver, Owner Operator, company Owner or a Department Manager ? We all from time to time should have an experienced confidant to bounce things off of and to act as a sounding board. Those industry topics that keep bubbling to the top, despite some slight changes in appearance, are the same ones that those elders encountered 3-4 decades ago. According to the TCA, they are, HOS and the shortage of qualified drivers, fuel issues; congestion; government regulations; tolls and highway funding; tort reform and legal issues; truck driver training; environmental issues; and on-board truck technology. See anything new? I don’t, and remember “A wise man learns from the mistakes of others while fools learn from their own mistakes.
 

Retention – Building a Base

I recently had the great opportunity to speak at the KSM (Katz Sapper & Miller) Trucking Business Owner’s Roundtable. This is a first-class accounting/consulting firm that continually impresses me with their integrity, innovation and dedication to the industry. Every six months or so they assemble many their trucking clients, primarily made up of senior leadership, along with several leaders from non-clients to a half day education session. I was asked if I would be interested in speaking to the group on my take on the current state of driver retention. Also on the bill was my partner Chris Henry from TPP (Truckload Carriers Profitability Program) to speak on benchmarking, industry trends and the nine traits of high-performing trucking companies.

When I was asked, I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I admit I was more than just a little eager because, as I explained to the crowd, usually when I speak to the topic of retention the crowd is made up of recruiters and safety personnel. Don’t get me wrong. I have great admiration for the job these folks do, especially considering what they must deal with if they are in a high turnover environment. So, I warmed myself up to the crowd by suggesting to them that at every retention session held, at any event, that THEY should be the ones in the room along with their other senior managers. When ATRI (American Truck Research Institute) surveys the industry, as they do once a year, and the results have the driver shortage at #1 issue to the industry and driver retention down at #5, what I see is a complete disconnect and it starts with them – the leadership teams.

Does it ring as true to you as it does to me that suggesting that the primary issue in the trucking industry is a shortage of drivers when that same industry historically bleeds turnover at close to 100% – is it not nuts? Talk about the emperor’s new clothes.  This makes no sense!  There is a large volume of carriers who have their heads in the sand on this thing – they don’t get it and it saddens me. There are many trucking pioneers that dedicated themselves to building this great industry’s legacy. They did it by starting associations, fighting ridiculous legislation brought forward by uninformed politicians, organizing and leading. We do them no honor when we allow an environment of distrust permeate the industry between management and it’s driving force that we have named churn. This has gone on for far too long.

The other thing that riles me to the bone is that the situation is entirely fixable – been there, done that, bought the tee shirt.  You can beat it!  Where a lot of it fails is that leadership needs to look itself in the mirror and recognize that it starts with them. They need to step up and tackle the issue and make the decision to take on the challenge and beat it. I’m a huge association fan as any of you who have been reading my articles for a while know. Having said that I am also aware that associations can be a harbinger for a common lack of performance. Reports from an association come out suggesting that the latest numbers say the industry is at 100% turnover and members with their peers at industry events will suggest that their doing pretty good at 80%.  I have seen this many times. Talk about hysteria, news flash buddy – at 80% you suck, period.

The nice thing for me at this stage of my life is that I don’t need to hold back. My future does not depend on anyone’s opinion of me but my own. Telling a room full of senior executives that they need to get their heads out of the sand on this thing is kind of fun, I have to say. I don’t do it in a rude way but in a direct way, as is my nature. Did they listen, or did they tune me out?  That’s the real test and I have to say, as usual, some did, and some didn’t.  I got several business cards shoved in my hands. I talked to a smaller carrier whose turnover was at 30% and they thought it was way too high – outstanding. Then I was asked by a large truck fleet that I know has triple digit turnover if I would share a copy of my presentation with them, which I did. Then in their email to me they thanked me for sharing the content and said they would forward it on their recruiting department. Man, are you kidding? Didn’t you hear a thing I said?

At any rate, I’ll carry on. I have a couple items that I sell related to turnover that I believe have value, but I’m really neither here nor there if folks buy them. My real interest and passion is trying to get the message that high turnover is not necessary –  it can be beat; your safety record will improve dramatically, your insurance cost will go down along with your recruiting cost and guess what, your bottom line will soar. It makes me wonder what business some carriers think they’re in.

I also gave them this to think about – if you have high turnover your people do not believe what you say – they distrust you. I think this is a hard message for many of the ego’s in the room to handle but it’s true. If you are going to take this issue on it starts by self-reflection and looking in the mirror. Somehow, someway the culture in your business has turned sour, and that’s on you. If you can’t get by that then you’re in for a hard row to hoe in the years to come. Turnover will not be able to be compensated for by just hiring more volume. The tide is turning on that strategy in my humble opinion.

 

 

How to Turn Around Your Driver Referral Program

Found this quote on Wikipedia last week:

“Strong culture is said to exist where staff respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values. In such environments, strong cultures help firms operate like well-oiled machines, engaging in outstanding execution with only minor adjustments to existing procedures as needed.
Conversely, there is weak culture where there is little alignment with organizational values, and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy.
Research shows that organizations that foster strong cultures have clear values that give employees a reason to embrace the culture. A “strong” culture may be especially beneficial to firms operating in the service sector.” Read more here: Organizational Culture

The key word in all of this in my mind is Values, every company has a visible set of values whether they know it or not. They may have formalized those values in a company statement or not –  they exist and they are visible in a multiple of ways (both positive and negative).

This is the essence of culture, you cannot impose values on to people, values develop over time and depend on one’s environment and life experience. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we typically align ourselves with people, friends,  spouses, and work environments that align with those values. When we don’t align ourselves in like values we struggle and typically we end up in divorce, leaving our jobs, leaving a misaligned community etc.

If you employ people or contract services, whether you realize it or not your most successful relationships likely mirror your own values. We like it when our values align it fits our comfort zone, we typically know what to expect and over time these relationship strengthen, we build a team we can depend on and get comfortable with, these relationships endure the test of time.

If your still reading this, then I haven’t bored you to the point you have turned the page then here is my point. I have tried to help many companies get their heads around why their efforts to have their current driving force assist in the recruiting of new drivers to their company, and show them why their efforts haven’t worked to the extent they expected they would like. Here is what most of them don’t realize, it is their culture that is restricting their results, among other things but primarily it comes back to culture.

If your culture is weak, I can guarantee you have poor communication channels, and likely no communications strategy within your business. A good communication strategy would encompass your drivers, contractors, employees, customers, suppliers, enforcement, and the communities you service. Sound like a monumental job, it really isn’t, it is quite easy in reality. It just takes focus and structure. If any of you has worked within a culture where communication is poor, you know that it is the worst situation you can be in, it is check your brain a the door and do no more or less than what you were hired for, it’s boring and unrewarding, it sucks.

Drivers who are asked to assist in recruiting new drivers to this type of company will resist for a number of reasons. Here are a few, first, and I think foremost they don’t have any confidence that you know how to run your business, they think you’re going to over hire and threaten their livelihood. I drove for ten years, I heard it over and over again, believe me this is true and if you have poor communication why wouldn’t they think that way? They’re in the dark about what you might need. You haven’t told them anything that is going to motivate them to help you. So why would they? Certainly not because you offered some “never-never” plan as a monetary incentive. The ones that pay a cent a mile for a year or quarterly installments designed to appear as though there is a windfall coming sometime in the future. I think some of these are designed to motivate drivers to recruit for the company, and to incentivize the driver to stay a little longer at a carrier to realize the future gain, how’s that working for you? My guess it does neither very effectively.

If your culture is strong, an effort to get driver to assist in the recruiting effort looks entirely different. First you have developed an inclusive value statement, you’ve done this by asking everyone in your business to contribute to it’s content, and you have asked them to bless the outcome, you’ve asked them. Does it cover their and your core values, can they work within the confines of it?

Secondly, your people know what is going on within the company because it has a strong communication strategy, it informs them, keeps them abreast of what it happening, it tries to involve community, customers, suppliers and (most importantly) reaches out to the individual employee’s families. You have told them, and they believe you when you say that your customers are busy and are demanding more trucks to service their needs. You need the additional drivers to keep the accounts you have, there is no threat to livelihood of the current drivers, and in fact, it is preservation of the account and their miles that you’re trying to achieve. If you have a brokerage operation, show everyone where that overflow freight is going – you have the data – give it to them. Stop playing your cards so close to your chest!

Finally, get rid of the “never-never” plan as an incentive to help your company hire new drivers; you pay cash, in full, the next pay period after the new recruit turns the first mile period. Your drivers have been schooled as to what type of individual you’re looking for, they have shown the potential candidate the value statement that the company works under. They have stressed whatever information you feel necessary that the potential new hire must understand and agree to be successful at your company. You screened them, you tested them, you accepted them, you put them in the truck, if the individual doesn’t workout how is that the driver’s problem? You owe them, pay them, you do it for your in house recruiters why not your on-road recruiters. Want to make an impact with on road recruiters; this is how to do it.

Courage and Commitment to Change

Commitment throughout the organization is important to the success of improving driver retention. Commitment is paramount among the ownership and management team, as they are setting the example for all others in the company. To consider and then decide to embark on a project to improve driver retention means that ownership and the senior management have looked at the problems of excessive costs associated with poor retention, recognized that significant planning and effort affecting the entire company must be undertaken, and that this effort is warranted by the significant savings and service benefits that will be the result – the long-term gain. Put this way, it is very obvious that the cultural change you are about to undertake is strategic in nature. It is Strategic because we will be investing time, confidence and responsibility in company employees well beyond your driving force. In the process, you will be transforming the company from one that is a victim of all that is harmful about high driver turnover, into one that is a positive, supportive and a service-oriented place to work. A company where people, drivers and owner-operators included, want to work. A transition like this is obviously strategic in nature.

Commitment is one of the most critical ingredients to the success of any effort intended to bring long term improvements to the way business is done. To begin, this commitment must come from the directors of the company and it must be very visible – and active. It must be genuine, and it must be unwavering. After all, people throughout the company will have important roles to play and their commitment must be inspired and supported by the commitment they see in their leaders. In short, company leaders must be seen to walk the walk, and make the same commitment that is being asked of the rest of the company and each department. This is why it’s called leadership folks.

In addition to fostering commitment among the staff, the senior-level commitment must be lasting, since this is a lengthy project that will eventually become the new culture of the business, it must be unanimous among the leaders. This last aspect is sometimes difficult to ensure, but it is important that the leadership team speak and act in unison on the need for the company to make the significant changes necessary to reduce driver turnover. At the senior management level, this means that a personal commitment must be mandatory and delivered by each member of the management team. Like a lot of strategic planning initiatives, it would be a good idea to make positive and supportive engagement a part of the personal performance criteria for managers during this project.

Let’s acknowledge that achieving and maintaining commitment among the leadership team is not something that can be accomplished just by asking for it. There are very natural and predictable obstacles along the way and perhaps the most common is the difficulty we all have with adapting to change. This is natural – we all strive for stability and then along comes a new idea or a new process or a new direction and we naturally question and resist the change. But the management team has targeted real benefits for the company and its employees. We have agreed to undertake reasonable steps to achieve great results, we have agreed to change.

Turn that agreement to change into a commitment to change. We have a commitment to reduce Driver Turnover. We are committed to making our entire workforce a Strategic Advantage for our company. Achieving and maintaining commitment will require you to regularly re-visit our plan and objectives to remind everyone that the change we are undertaking is worth it. We do this to reinforce the commitment among the team. Do this so you do not fall back into old habits. In fact, be on the look-out for any wavering of commitment and the creeping in of those old habits.

So, what other benefits can we expect by recognizing the importance of commitment and then taking specific actions to achieve it? We will create a culture throughout the organization that sees and comes to expect a management team that means and does what it says. Secondly, it will deliver proof to the management team that they can achieve significant results by working supportive fashion –  together.

We are getting ready to draw a line in the sand. You can make it a bell weather moment, the one that drove home the need for us to do something serious to improve Driver Retention? The team must be in unison on this for it to have sustainable impact, so make it a practice to occasionally remind ourselves of what motivated us in the beginning. Use the bell weather moment, the frequent reminders about all the benefits that are ahead – and even reminders to the leadership team about how important their commitment and solidarity is to the rest of the company.

We make this commitment to a new strategy because we know that companies with less turnover are safer companies. We know they pay less in insurance premiums, they have lower CSA scores, these two items alone lead to a more profitable company. We know this to be true and after all isn’t this what we’re here for, profit is not a bad word, but profit while those around you also thrive and flourish is the best situation one could envision, and the neat thing is that this vision is entirely within each and every company’s grasp. All leadership needs to do is muster the courage and commitment to design an effective strategy to achieve the goal and get at it.

So, what is holding you back on this? There is no time like the present. We’re too busy. We’re installing a new software program. We’re looking at an acquisition. We have a vacancy on the senior management team. Have you ever thought that maybe you’re the problem, maybe the individual resistance to change is the face in the mirror? I’ve heard it all, believe me, when it comes to the excuses, the “hey we’ll do it later, after this that or the other thing is out of the way”. Well folks the time to act is now, it is never too late to reinvent your corporate culture and do the right thing. Your entirely too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.