The value equation

May 10, 2012

It shouldn’t surprise any carrier out there that today’s trucking employee wants something more from a job than just a steady paycheck; they want to feel valued for what they do, day in and day out. While respect has anecdotally been linked to employee happiness, new data is now proving just how important it really is to employee loyalty and well-being.

According to an online survey of 1,714 adults taken between Jan. 12 and 19 of this year, employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation. Conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Assn. (APA), the poll found that among employees who feel valued, just 21% said they intend to look for a new job in the next year vs. 50% of those who said they do not feel valued. Overall, 21% said they do not feel valued by their employer, and that’s contributing to the national average turnover rate of 36% as estimated by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

A variety of factors were linked to feeling undervalued at work, APA noted, including having fewer opportunities for involvement in decision making (24% vs. 84%), being less satisfied with the potential for growth and advancement (9% vs. 70%), having fewer opportunities to use flexible work arrangements (20% vs. 59%), and being less likely to say they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (18% vs. 69%) and non-monetary rewards (16% vs. 65%).

On top of that, 41% of employees report feeling “stressed out” at work, citing the following as “major causes”: low salaries (46%), lack of opportunities for growth or advancement (41%), too heavy a workload (41%), long hours (37%), and unclear job expectations (35%).

But there’s a flip side, too. The APA survey also determined that almost all employees (93%) who reported feeling valued said they are motivated to do their best at work. This compares to just 33% of those who said they do not feel valued.

Trucking should know this simply because it costs a bundle to recruit a driver in this industry, running anywhere from $3,500 to $8,000 per driver. Yet even more critical than the dollars is the loss of expertise, institutional knowledge, and other such attributes veteran drivers take with them when they leave—the things that help a fleet stand out from the competition.

Yet in trucking’s case, it doesn’t always require a huge boost in pay to keep drivers from jumping ship. Con-way Truckload’s Herbert Schmidt probably summed it up best in an interview with my colleague Wendy Leavitt a few years back, noting the success of one of the company’s contractors in retaining drivers. “We had a 65-truck leased fleet working for us. His drivers did the same job as our drivers, they hauled the same freight, ran the same routes, and used the same dispatch system, but their turnover rate was about half what ours was,” Schmidt said. “What did [that contractor] do differently? He took care of his drivers like family, that’s what.”

It just goes to show that, oftentimes, the answer to a big problem can be a lot simpler than we think.

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