Trucks at Work

That workplace feeling …

So I spent some time at Flying J’s Frystown location out along I-78 in eastern Pennsylvania not long ago (you can read more about that visit by clicking here) with much of my visit focused on how the “personal touch” is coming back into vogue as a customer retention tool.

Sure, you may say, that kind of stuff is “old as the Sibylline books” to use an ancient phrase.

But out on the pavement, where the drivers a plugging away for hundreds of miles per day and thousands of miles per week, that “personal touch” may be far more welcome than many realize.

Indeed, according to one survey at least, the day-to-day view of the workplace can differ markedly among frontline workers compared to their senior managers – and in this case, we’re talking about frontline employees riding a desk all day long, not piloting 80,000 tons at 65 mph through unpredictable traffic.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) in its 2015 Work and Well-Being Survey conducted online by Harris Poll among more than 1,500 U.S. adults in January and February, front-line employees – those who are directly involved with the production of products or provision of services – don’t view their workplace environment nor their workplace “culture” nearly as positively as do their senior leaders.

For example, senior leaders in this poll were more likely than front-line workers to say their organization values employee involvement (71% vs. 51%), work-life balance (68% vs. 55%) and recognition (63% vs. 52%).

Compared to front-line employees, more senior leaders also reported having sufficient opportunities for involvement in decision making (78% vs. 48%) and internal advancement (55% vs. 41%).

Similarly, about 7 in 10 senior leaders said they regularly participate in training activities (68%), take part in activities designed to involve employees (71%) and use flexible work practices (69%), compared to half or less of front-line workers (49%, 38% and 39%, respectively).

Interestingly, approximately half of the senior-level folks in this survey (49%) also said they regularly participate in their employer's health and wellness programs, compared to less than a third (32%) of those with front-line jobs.

With senior leaders benefiting disproportionately from available workplace programs and policies, it is no surprise that 70% of them believe they feel valued by their employer, compared to just over half of front-line workers (51%).

"Business leaders need to consider that their perceptions of the organization and experiences at work may be very different from those of their employees," noted David Ballard, head of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence. "This highlights the critical importance of effective communication and involving employees in decision making."

It also shows that the “personal touch” out there in our day-to-day business interactions might be more welcome by frontline personnel than many think – especially drivers who spent long hours alone in the cab only to be delayed at docks and delivery spots by (let’s say this nicely) often condescending and uncaring personnel.

In terms of worker health, though, APA’s survey also highlighted a few worrisome trends as well:

  • Results suggest that 4% of working Americans were experiencing severe elevations in symptoms related to these common mental health disorders, with another 7% reporting moderate elevations and 17% describing mild elevations.
  • Yet scores on a six-item resilience scale and an eight-item measure of psychological well-being suggest that the ability for American workers to recover from stress is strong, with just under half (4%) are flourishing, defined as self-perceived success in important areas, such as positive relationships, feelings of competence and having a meaningful life.
  • Again, though, that dichotomy between leaders and frontline staff rears its ugly head. Senior leaders were significantly more likely to report higher levels of both psychological well-being and resilience compared to front-line workers, APA found.

Although survey results suggest a generally positive trend when it comes to employee sentiment – with job satisfaction, motivation, turnover intent and the percentage of employees reporting chronic job stress all improving from previous years – striking differences emerge when psychological factors are considered, APA emphasized:

  • For example, 94% of employees who feel valued by their employer say they are motivated to do their very best, compared to just 37% of those who do not feel valued.
  • Similarly, 9 out of 10 working Americans who trust their employer and feel they are treated fairly say they are motivated to do their best work, compared to less than half (48%) of those who do not trust their employer and less than a third (31%) of employees who feel treated unfairly.

Something to keep in mind, not only as the industry continues to try and make the truck driving career a more amenable one but as it tries to find more folks willing to get behind the wheel in the first place.

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