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WorkHound adds referral feature to retention app

WorkHound, a tool that allows drivers to share feedback about their company and experiences on the road, now has a referral feature to complement the retention-focused application.

Max Farrell, co-founder and CEO of the Des Moines-based startup, tells Fleet Owner the enhancement was a natural extension of the product.

In talking with companies, Farrell discovered that as many as half of new-driver hires come from in-house referrals.

So if a fleet is spending as much as $8,000 to bring new drivers in, an in-house referral can save thousands. But, typically, the process is decidedly old school: A company gives its drivers referral cards to hand out to other drivers they know or talk to over coffee at the truck stop one day.

And like any entrepreneur with a company specializing in mobile apps, Farrell was certain that technology could handle the process more effectively and more efficiently. And the WorkHound referral feature was born.

“When a driver is having a good day, that’s the best opportunity,” Farrell says. The key, he explains, is that drivers now have a lot of contact information at their fingertips—phone numbers or emails in their smart devices. Indeed, based on his ride-alongs, he knows drivers are in regular contact with each other and that the companies they work for are often the topic of conversation.

The WorkHound app is straightforward: Screens make sure the driver isn’t operating the vehicle and remind him or her that all feedback is confidential, then the app simply asks how the driver feels about work that day, on a scale of 1 to 10. Along with collecting that quantitative data point, the driver may then explain at a subsequent screen, "Why?". The object is to get the driver in and out of the app in 60 seconds.

The new feature adds a step when a driver reports a score of 9 or 10, and a screen asks if the driver would like to provide a referral.

Farrell is currently working with WorkHound’s early-adopters to fine tune the feature, and ultimately expects to offer customizable screens to include company-specific messaging as to referral incentives.

The success of the app depends on engagement, of course: If drivers don’t sign-in and report, there’s nothing to track. The key early on has been for the company to show that management is paying attention—and success breeds success. (The average size of early WorkHound users is 150 drivers. )

Max Farrell, WorkHound

“It’s the little things that turn into big issues that lead the drivers to greener pastures. One of the most harmful things a fleet can do is ask drivers for feedback and not follow-up,” says Farrell. “We work with them to create that cadence that makes sure those issues get addressed and those misunderstandings are cleared up.”

As for reporting the results, a “happiness” screen tracks driver participation and charts the fleet score over time, while a comments screen identifies keywords and color-codes whether the comments are positive, negative, or neutral. The system also will allow the company to seek permission from the driver to engage him or her directly, if there’s a specific problem that needs to be addressed.

The data gets more interesting—and more useful—when the carrier begins to put together spikes in comments (and rises or declines in the overall score) with calendar dates, Farrell explains. What happened around that time, and how did drivers feel about it?

“You get the pulse of what drivers are talking about,” he says.

Farrell cites the experience of a WorkHound fleet that increased pay and also routed its trucks off of toll roads—but its drivers, the fleet learned, didn’t feel the pay made up for the lost time and miles.

Among the start-up’s early accolades, Farrell and technical co-founder Andrew Kirpalani  won the first-ever Truck Tank, Commercial Fleet Financing’s “Shark Tank”-style investor panel and pitch contest last August. The company also has won a $25,000 award for startups from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Farrell has a background in human resources, and says such employee engagement tools have worked in other industries—he just wouldn’t have guessed a year ago that he’d be building a company to serve the needs of trucking.

“I’ve really gotten connected with the industry and some of the issues,” he says. “There are quite a few opportunities that Silicon Valley either doesn’t know about or has forgotten about. These are interesting opportunities to bring new approaches as to how business is done. This industry has to change—not that it should, but it has to. And we’re laser-focused on how we tackle driver turnover.”

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