When we talk about the driver shortage, we tend to do so as if it’s a problem for each and every fleet. And while overall the trucking industry needs more drivers — lots more drivers — there are fleets out there with driver turnover rates way under 20%. Sure, many of them are private fleets but there are other fleets that are managing to not only hang on to the drivers they have, but continue to attract new ones.
So why is it that some fleets see 20% driver turnover and others 120%? What’s making the difference is the kind of relationship the driver has with his or her direct supervisor. A recent Gallup poll found that the #1 factor in employee engagement is an employee’s relationship with his or her direct supervisor. A bad relationship with a supervisor can cause a driver to bolt for the door, and another fleet.
So how do you foster good relationships between drivers and their direct supervisors? It starts by making sure both the driver and the supervisor understand exactly what is expected of the driver. Clarity about job responsibilities eliminates a lot of conflict.
It’s also critical to keep the lines of communication open. Drivers need to feel like they can bring their concerns to their supervisor, and more importantly, that those concerns will be taken seriously and responded to. When a supervisor not only listens to, but also acts on a driver’s concern, that driver feels more connected to the organization and that’s what makes him or her want to stay right where they are.
It is interesting to note that this need for “connectedness” is especially true for younger drivers who indicate in survey after survey that the ability to make an impact on a business is one of the things that matters most to them.
That’s not to dismiss the importance of other workplace issues like driver compensation, benefits and working conditions. Combined, these have a huge impact on overall driver satisfaction.
But the relationship piece can often be what makes the difference when it comes to retaining drivers and reducing serial turnover. Investing in a culture that values mutual respect between bosses and their drivers is money and time well spent. Just ask any company with a consistent 80% driver retention rate.