Needs and Wants

I heard a phrase the other day, and it set my mind to digging deeper into the thought. The individual I was with was talking about his wife’s shopping addiction. He said that she was a ‘want person’ and not a ‘need person’. Sometime back I actually did some research on the internet on this subject of compulsive shoppers and found that there is actually evidence that suggests that a small amount of endorphins and dopamine is released into the brain when something is obtained or purchased; a feeling of accomplishment that is felt by most of us. Unfortunately, some of us enjoy the feeling so much and it is so short lived that they get hooked on it and become compelled to have the feeling over and over again. It can be very destructive.

Hearing that phrase immediately sent me to a flash back situation. I was at a truck dealership some time ago and while there, I began talking to a driver who was out shopping for a truck. This fellow, just new to the industry as a licensed AZ driver, was determined to become an Owner Operator ASAP. As we chatted, I noticed he was eye balling a year old conventional that was tricked out the wazoo. Beside the beautiful beast was a more conservative aerodynamic truck that was obviously going to be a far cheaper  to operate and had much less ‘bling’.

Having been through the ‘bling’ time of my life when it comes to large cars, I felt compelled to impart my years of wisdom and inform the newbie in no uncertain terms what the best decision would be for him at this point in his career. I went so far as to suggest that the net profit of the more aerodynamic vehicle, with less chrome, would pocket the same net dollars in four years that it would take him to earn in five years in the bling mobile, if he was lucky.

As I have said in the past, I am no sales person. I do not have that skill and I admire those that do. I mention it because this person endured all of the things I could throw at him that were designed to shed light on this decision. I went at him with things like 20% better MPG, ease of maintenance with less bling and less unnecessary repairable gadgets, less capital expenditure, better cash flow and a lighter vehicle that will allow more payload. He looked at me and said: ‘Ya but I have a young son and I’d like to enter into some of the show and shine events with him this summer’. What could I say? I wished him well, that I hoped he would have great success as an Owner Operator and I went on my way. This person knew what they wanted; the fact that it was way more than they needed meant nothing to them.

So what type of person are you: a need or a want person? Let’s look at the famed Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; he designed a five tiered pyramid. You start with food and shelter, then move up to things related to safety and security and then onto belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization.

It is an interesting flow of thoughts here as I overlay this line of thinking onto the current situation of driver turnover. It seems to me that many companies with high turnover struggle to simply supply what a driver of today needs in tier one.

Let’s break it down a little. According to Maslow, the base of his hierarchy pyramid is the need for food and shelter. To me, that means a steady income. With that steady income a driver buys food and shelter for his family. It’s not too complicated, if you don’t give me work or miles, I don’t stay here because you can’t satisfy my basic needs. The next level is safety. Can you provide a safe vehicle for me to drive and a safe work environment for me to work in with lanes, customers, fuel spots terminal etc.? If I don’t feel safe and secure, I’m out of here! Why stay? I have options that won’t put me in harms way, that pays the same as this or better.

If your company does not have the first two driver needs nailed down and nailed down hard, then you are likely a company that has very high turnover. I would guess that it is likely over two hundred percent! You over promise and under deliver, you don’t pay at minimum market rate and your safety record is in question. Also, your trucks are likely being pulled over regularly by DOT because of it.

It is the next few steps that I believe eludes the majority of trucking companies. The next step is Social Needs or Belonging. Does your company make folks feel like they belong to a community? How do you create that sense of community? Do you communicate through newsletters, social media etc. and what do you communicate? Do you try and involve the driver’s family? Do you have functions and opportunities for them to participate in? If you do, I’m going to guess that you feel your turnover is manageable. You feel like this because your turnover rate is at or around the published industry average.

If you’re a company that has mastered the first three steps and are also valuing your people and recognizing them on a regular basis, I’m betting that you’re on the low side of the turnover equation. If you’re past this point and actually assisting your folks to be everything they can be in their careers, lives and relationships, then you’re likely best in class. Your employees and your entire management team have built a company whose strategic advantage in the marketplace is it’s people. Congratulations to you and I’m sure that your dealing with best in class numbers; about 20% and lower would be my guess.

The basic need in driver retention is income and safety; these are the hard things. Transitioning from here to fulfilling the totality of needs, belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization is where the game is won by best in class companies.