How to Eat an Elephant – Changing Your Company Culture in 2018

Over the years, I have had countless discussions and meetings with a variety of carriers wrapped around the topic of Driver Retention. I must say that for the most part I have thoroughly enjoyed the work I have done in this field. My most recent effort took place at a carrier I was invited to present to. The profile of the company was 350 trucks, half owner operator and half company owned. This company’s turnover is north of 110%. They need help, but the refreshing part is that they know it, and everything is on the table, nothing is untouchable. What I mean by this is that they know they need, and are welcoming a cultural change. They realize that what they have been doing with respect to their drivers and O/O’s is not working.  They are looking for change, and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the multitude of issues that come with high turnover.

The president later told me that one of the key things that helped with his decision to approach me was a reference that I had made at a seminar I facilitated about cultural change, which was, if your company has high turnover I will guarantee the culture is sour. If it is not, then you have somehow managed to separate the ‘inside the walls’ workers from the driver population, no easy feat, and a poor way to deal with the issue. Leadership, and the people who work for you, cannot lose high volumes of drivers and feel good about the company, think of the human tragedy, on a regular basis. In this case, multiple times a week, drivers are heading home to their families to tell them they need to find a new employer – cause this place is the ‘wrong fit’, it’s bad  – it’s not necessary – its demoralizing.

Somehow in trucking we have conned ourselves in to becoming immune to it, it needs to get back to taking these failures personal, from the top to the bottom it’s a failure, recognize it, own it, dissect it and fix it. Beyond the human tragedy high turnover has many other nasty side effects, it deteriorates CSA numbers, it elevates insurance costs, it deteriorates reputations in every part of the business, with shippers, suppliers’, the communities it operates in, prospective employees inside and outside the walls, with DOT and FMCSA, etc. If that’s not enough, it will devastate a company’s profitability, and soon enough you won’t have to worry about turnover or culture – your out of business.

If a company with high turnover is looking to develop a sustainable profitable growth strategy for the future and has high turnover, tackling this problem will offer that future. Like many things it tends to wrap itself up in hard work. The good news is that it’s doable, there are many companies that have done it, there is a formula and it is tried and true, if you have the discipline require to make it happen.

I asked the President if he might be interested taking a day for an impromptu strategy session.

Looks like this, with the senior management team, we briefly updated the group on the Theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and building a base to execute a solid plan of execution. We conducted a SWOT test, highlighted priorities by their ROI factor, and then we discussed how they should proceed with the program.

I think the future looks bright for these folks, they made a brave decision, if there is anything I know as fact, it’s that change scares most folks, and if leadership adverse to change or doesn’t fully support it then nothing will happen. I will report back on the progress of this effort in future articles, I’m set up to talk to them once a month, might sound a little dry to some, not to me, I have challenged these folks to reducing their turnover by 50% from 110% to 55% in the next 12 months. With a 340-truck fleet that means 170 fewer drivers and O/O’s that will leave this company in the next twelve months. If that’s not worth the effort I don’t know what is.

Here is a belated Christmas gift for the fleets reading this that have high turnover, convene a senior management meeting around this subject and let all department managers express their opinion on what the issues are they feel contribute to the driver turnover at your company. Document all this information. Next, I want you to task each of them to return to their respective departments and convene another meeting with all of the employees that work in their department. It’s got to be all of them, and here’s the question that they should pose to them. “What in your opinion are the top three things that we do in this department that rub drivers the wrong way and contribute to the turnover that exists in this company”. From there, they simply list them in no particular order and then each person, regardless of position, within the department gets three votes to cast for those items they feel contribute the most to driver turnover. From here each manager will take this information back to the next senior management meeting and present the departments finding to the rest of the team, BTW it is imperative that the information be presented in an unvarnished fashion, no manipulation by the manager.

So is this a fix for the turnover in your company, likely no but it might start the conversation as to what next steps are. What will likely be revealed are somethings that can be fixed quite easily, some might take more effort and maybe some are just intrinsic to the business and can’t be fixed. Turnover in most companies didn’t happen overnight and can’t be fixed overnight either, but can it be brought back to a manageable level, absolutely!

Ask any little kid “How Do You Eat an Elephant” and they will tell you, “One Bite at A Time”