Getting newly-hired truck drivers engaged in "positive feedback" loops early on in their tenure with motor carriers is critical to preventing what's being dubbed "hire and retire syndrome" or "early turnover" within 90 days, research firm Stay Metrics suggests.
Based on its analysis of 24,000 drivers employed at 80 carriers using its loyalty and engagement programs, Stay Metrics found that out of 100 drivers, 33 will leave 90 days after being hired, with 22 leaving by the 180-day mark.
To prevent such early turnover, Tim Hindes, CEO of Stay Metrics, explained in a conference call with reporters that trucking company "messaging" needs to be aligned between the recruiting and orientation stages of driver hiring, as well is into the "operation" phase, as a bad first impression is hard to overcome.
"Driver recruits come with a set of pre-arrival expectations, competencies, and experiences that will be shaped by what company says the job will be like," added Timothy Judge, the firm’s director of research, during the conference call, which was hosted by Stifel Financial.
"Then they look at the interaction of what they thought the job would be like, what they were prepared to deal with, and then what it really is like; that is the 'encounter' phase," he explained.
"Then go through this metamorphosis from their pre-arrival mentality to reality. It happens very early and [that] influences their productivity, commitment and turnover rates down the line," Judge stressed. "First impressions really matter. A lot of people have a really harsh reality shock: job thought getting into not what presented with, sometimes due to their own false impressions. When that happens there is a big reality shock and expectations gap."
During this "shock and surprise" period, many new drivers think a lot about whether stay or not. "If they quit, they will quit fairly early," he said. "That is why turnover so high in the early stage of employment."
Based on Stay Metrics' research, a few key factors stand out in determining whether a new driver will stay or quit, Judge noted:
- Home time is strong predictor of turnover especially early turnover. "This points to the importance of orientation process," he said. "The lifestyle is a hard one trucking is a unique industry in that way. The lifestyle affects family life, affecting both 'early' and 'late' drive turnover rates."
- Pay is important but easy to overstate. Stay Metrics survey results indicates pay is not key to early turnover rates but more so for later turnover, yet still not as strong as other factors such as home time. "Pay is important but it rarely shows up as the most important factor," Judge noted.
- The relationship between driver and dispatcher is especially important as relates to early driver turnover rates. "The relationships early on in trucking are much more fragile — and those early relationships with dispatchers are the key," Judge said. "Dispatchers matter."
- Stay Metrics analyzed 45,000 Qualcomm messages between drivers and dispatchers for just one carrier; messages between dispatchers and drivers and found when dispatchers swear or are rude with drivers, it distracts them and affects them. "Attitudes and emotions shape behavior in organizations," Hindes noted.
- Yet as a driver becomes more experienced, the dispatcher matters less in terms of retention.
- That is because supervisors and co-workers start to exert more influence on newcomers, added John Kammeyer-Mueller, a professor with the University of Minnesota who specializes in employee on-boarding an turnover issues across different industries. "If they are fully vested, they will take steps to support your new hire, and if they feel support, [drivers] will work harder for them," he said. "That creates a virtuous circle – everyone building commitment, retention, and engagement together."
- If drivers can be kept with the company for a year, turnover rates fall dramatically, Stay Metrics found.
To achieve lower driver turnover, though, will require "cultural change" of sorts, added Hindes.
"That's because at orientation many companies step back and don't build engagement," he said. "When we see a lack of management engagement, we encourage [them] to make a cultural shift — to encourage more care and consideration for drivers. This is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs you can sign up for. When we see carriers that have high degree of respect and empathy for drivers, they become the best to drive for."