Everyone knows the key to a healthy relationship is good communication, but not all leaders apply this in business settings. A 2019 Gallup State of the American Workplace report revealed only 13% of U.S. workers strongly agree their organization's leadership communicates effectively. If you want to be heard amidst the many voices making promises and pleas to truck drivers today, start with improved communication that is transparent, respectful, consistent, and inclusive. This will lead to a healthier work environment that will naturally connect you with more qualified drivers who will stick around for the long-haul.
“People leave people—not companies,” notes The Job Network. The ability to sustain relationships is a big factor in retention, and for truck drivers this usually involves connecting with supervisors. Since recruiters are a driver’s first contact with your company, they play a vital role in the communication process. The same goes for dispatchers, who often have the most frequent interaction with drivers once they are hired. Drivers have reported one of the top reasons they become dissatisfied with their job and start looking for employment elsewhere is because of friction with a recruiter or dispatcher. But a breakdown in communication with anyone in the company can lead to turnover, so involve your entire workforce in creating a driver-centric culture.
Drivers are seeking honesty and respect from the people they interface with at work, so it’s vital that every professional is trained to be open and consistent. “Transparency is your friend,” says Tim Hindes, Co-Founder and CEO of StayMetrics. “The more you share in advance, the better.” Make sure whatever is communicated in advance is re-affirmed as drivers move through the recruitment and hiring process. If you haven’t already, establish a clear vision and core values for your business, then weave those consistently into the company narrative when recruiting drivers. Center communication around what you can do for drivers, rather than what you want them to do for you. When it comes to retention, open engagement management is vital; this means including all members of your workforce in conversations about changes, goals, and decisions that could impact them.
Obviously, you need to communicate with drivers often and well during the recruitment and hiring process—but engagement shouldn’t end there. If you want to avoid becoming another statistic contributing to the industry’s high turnover rates, invest in maintaining a strong connection with your drivers. One of the hardest parts of life as a long-haul trucker is being alone on the road for long periods of time. You can improve working conditions by making it possible for drivers to interact with each other and with other members of the workforce while they’re traveling.
Another critical time to be available to drivers is when they are experiencing personal or professional triumphs and challenges; stay in tune with their performance so you can be alerted to indicators that they’re dissatisfied or need correction, encouragement, or coaching. Perhaps the most important time to put a focus on communication is when company changes and decisions are being made. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), “Employees today want to take part in creating solutions—and they have good ideas.” Don’t overlook the value of soliciting communication from drivers who leave so you can learn from them; many carriers are taking transformative action based on exit interviews.
For modern workers, and particularly OTR drivers, communication is rarely going to happen around a conference room table. We live in a digital age where data is exchanged rapidly and in vast quantity via computers and smart phones. It is critical to embrace tech solutions in order to engage effectively with drivers today. GPS tracking solutions enable you to place a virtual manager in the cab with your workers, identifying where they could benefit from training or acknowledgement of progress and achievements. Automated scheduling and dispatch features can lessen friction that might occur between drivers and dispatchers. E-newsletters, texts, and video conferencing can keep drivers connected while on the road. Chat apps allow drivers to participate in companywide conversations, relaying what they like or don’t like about the business while sharing ideas for improvement. “Employees will use such vehicles even more in the future,” predicts BCG, “and leaders must decide whether to tap into these conversations to gain insights.”
A critical component of workplace communication is listening. Drivers want to be heard; when they are, it can pay off not only in reduced turnover but also in the form of ideas that keep your business competitive during the driver shortage. “At a time when change is constant, organizations can’t afford an engagement model that leaves employees on the sidelines,” warns BCG.
Gallup underscores the value of taking action based on employee feedback: “If you want people to feel like their opinions matter, you must always acknowledge and, whenever possible, show you have taken action based on their input.” Give drivers the respect they deserve, involve them in solutions, and keep them connected through improved communication—and you will experience the reward of their commitment to your company.
Read the next article in our Driver Recruitment and Retention series - R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Valued Drivers Are Loyal Drivers
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