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That happiness thing again

Aug. 12, 2015
I’ve discussed the age-old tension between pay and job satisfaction in trucking this space several times (go here, here and here for some examples) and am doing so again because the need to recruit and retain truck drivers is only going to grow more dire in the days ahead.

Here are some numbers from the American Trucking Associations to ponder. First, out of the total U.S. labor pool, approximately 7 million persons hold trucking-related jobs with 3.2 million employed directly as truck drivers.

Yet ATA’s data indicates that trucking is suffering a shortage of between 30,000 and 35,000 drivers right now, which could grow to 240,000 by 2022 when placed against an expected 29% growth in freight volume over the next decade or so.

“The driver recruiting and retention issue remains the number one challenge facing the industry today,” stressed John Larkin, managing director & head of transportation capital markets research for Wall Street investment firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co., in recent commentary.

He’s added on more than one occasion that a very broad array of retention efforts is being aimed at drivers today, including:

  • Increased pay, which by some estimates has gone up 14% overall;
  • Getting drivers home more frequently and more regularly;
  • Buying trucks outfitted with the latest driver friendly amenities;
  • Reducing the driver to fleet manager ratio in order to increase driver/fleet manager communication;
  • Building driver-friendly lounges, cafeterias, exercise rooms, and bunk houses at or near terminals;
  • Proving health improvement programs;
  • Building or developing more driver training schools.

Yet as I’ve noted in this space before, the “next generation” of driver recruits – specifically Millennials – may require more focus on job satisfaction and work/life balance issues.

[There’s an additional challenge as well as this generation may not be very interested in driving any vehicles at all.]

A recent survey by employment firm Randstad US highlighted this “happiness at work” issue in more detail, specifically focusing on four key trends.

Trend #1: A lack of career path, not salary, is the number one reason employees leave their jobs.

Randstad’s survey indicates employees who have left their jobs in the past 12 months cite lack of career growth opportunities (26%) as the primary reason for leaving a company, followed by low compensation (23%) and poor leadership (19%).

This finding underscores why companies must enhance retention strategies with more customized career paths designed to empower employees to capture coveted roles, noted Jim Link, chief HR officer for Randstad North America.

“These types of personalized plans create more engaged employees who feel as though their organization is committed to their success,” he explained.

Trend #2: Facebook, not LinkedIn, is the number one social media tool used for job searches.

Why does this matter? Because you must find job candidates first before attempting to woo them – and 42% of those polled by Randstad use social networking sites to search for jobs. Contrary to popular belief, Facebook, not LinkedIn, is the most widely used social media tool for searching for a new job (70% vs. 49%, respectively, Randstad found).

Therefore, employers who maximize the benefits of Facebook as a talent acquisition platform can potentially strengthen their online recruitment strategies.

Trend #3: A strong work/life balance is the leading factor for employee retention.

When asked what factor would encourage them to stay at their current companies, 48% of those polled by Randstad selected work/life balance as the primary motivator, followed by competitive salary (34%). This data shows nearly half of employees place high value on having time and relationships outside of the office. Consequently, if that balance does not exist, employees may be more likely to pursue other employment elsewhere.

Trend #4: More than any other generation, Millennials are likely to look for a new opportunity if they do not feel engaged in their current positions.

Millennials scored 10 percentage points higher (34%) than the average (24%) when asked if lack of interest in their current jobs was a factor when considering changing jobs, stressed Randstad’s Link.

But that also means employers currently have a huge opportunity to strengthen their retention strategies by implementing more structured, personalized career paths for employees and especially for millennials, he emphasized.

“Transparent communication about how employees’ contributions impact their career opportunities is especially important to millennials, because these individuals clearly want to know they are contributing to the company’s bottom line and core business goals,” Link said.

“A little attention spent on defining career growth can go a long way for employers who want to keep their best talent on board for the longer term,” he pointed out.

And that attention may really be needed, because Randstad’s surveys also winkled out some other troubling data points:

  • Nearly half of employees (41%) believing work-life balance is impossible to achieve;
  • More than one-third of U.S. employees (39%) don't believe their bosses encourage them to take allotted vacation days;
  • Almost half (45%) of workers say their bosses don't help them disconnect from work while on vacation.
  • More than 1 in 3 employees (36%) have had to cancel vacation plans due to work.

Yet there’s opportunity as well if companies can make the right connections:

  • More than 1 in 4 employees (28%) would rather have a better boss than a $5,000 raise.
  • Happiness is so important that more than 1 in 3 employees (36%) would give up $5,000 a year in salary to be happier at work.

Of course, the demands of trucking don’t nearly align with the more orderly white collar or even factory floor environment. Still, if these results are any guide, there are opportunities for motor carriers to recruit the drivers they need without breaking the bank.

We’ll see how that holds up in the real world.

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