With the day-to-day focus on meeting goals and the bottom line, the personal component of our jobs is often left behind. Think about the people in our lives we have relationships with; family, friends, neighbors. Where do these relationships start? It all starts with knowing enough about someone to have a conversation and build a connection. This is also true in the workplace. Workplace relationships that generate a human element, in addition to the business focus, can help foster a sense of connection and engagement among people that work together. This can be especially true in the trucking industry for driver managers and their drivers. Building a relationship with a driver out on the road isn’t as convenient as getting to know an office mate, but it can be done, and is worth the effort. Driver managers need to make a commitment to building relationships with their drivers and taking action to follow through by listening, asking questions, touching base, and being willing to compromise with drivers.
The first and most important step is commitment. A driver manager must sincerely want to do what it takes to build the best possible relationship with a driver. Once the commitment is in place, taking action will come much more naturally.
A good starting point in taking action is listening. Pay attention to everything the driver is saying. He’s telling his driver manager he wants to go home, but he’s also telling his driver manager he wants to go home for his baby’s first birthday. The driver manager has learned this driver has a child celebrating a first birthday. When interacting with a driver, it’s easy to zero in on the immediate need to ultimately get the load delivered, but it can be helpful to hear all the detail in the conversation.
Once the driver manager has learned personal details about a driver, the next step is to ask questions. Ask the driver what the name is of the child celebrating the birthday. This can also lead to additional questions and conversation about other children in the family. If the driver manager also has children, this is something they find they both have in common, outside of getting the load delivered on time. Asking questions to learn more about a driver lets the driver know their driver manager in interested to getting to know them better as a person and not just as a driver.
Once a driver has established a rapport with a driver, they can continue to build on it be setting aside time for a personal touch point with the driver. After discussing the business at hand, they can take another minute or two to check in. “How was the birthday celebration?” “How many fish did you catch on your fishing trip?” “I know your Mom has been ill, how is she doing?” Doing a personal check-in lets the driver know his manager cares, and this strengthens the relationship.
Another way to add to the relationship is for driver managers to compromise with their drivers. While they are learning more about their drivers, they can let their drivers learn a little more about them by sharing their own stories and anecdotes. They can laugh with the driver about the time their one-year-old stepped in her birthday cake, describe their favorite fishing hole, or recommend the perfect vacation spot. Finding ways to relate and bond with one another helps create connection points and strengthens rapport.
Drivers in the industry often complain they are just a number or a seat filler to the companies for which they drive. This can contribute to a lack of connection or engagement to the company and play a role in a driver’s decision to leave. One way to address this is for driver managers to commit and take steps to create a more personal relationship with their drivers. If done well, and authentically, drivers will feel more recognized as individuals and understand that their managers are people, too, helping eliminate impersonal treatment and lack of caring by the company as an exit factor.
If you’re ready to find the right solution for your driver turnover, People Element can help by touching base with exiting drivers or asking current drivers in an engagement survey. These data points can help determine how successfully driver managers are developing those personal relationships and identify areas for improvement. We can also work directly with driver managers in a focused training to help bridge any gaps that may still exist. Let’s connect.