Staying or Leaving: Learning From Driver Feedback

Ideally, trucking companies would retain most of their drivers, and not have to worry about things like a strong exit interview process. While some attrition is to be expected, one way to minimize unwanted driver turnover is by gaining insight into what drivers are thinking and feeling before they make the decision to leave.

The key to improving retention is to understand your workforce. The best way to do that is by maintaining regular communication with your drivers. Some organizations implement processes to help them stay in contact with their drivers regularly, even if it’s only to check in on them to thank them for doing a good job, and ask if they have any questions or concerns.

Improve Employee Retention, Increase Engagement

A great way to keep up regular communication with drivers is by conducting stay interviews. A stay interview includes targeted, qualitative questions that use probing in order to get to the root of the reasons drivers leave and surface retention issues before a driver has made the decision to look elsewhere. Companies who consistently conduct stay interviews are better able to assess what issues and challenges drivers are facing, such as issues with company inefficiencies, understanding the paycheck process, adjusting to life on the road, or manager communication.

One best practice is to implement a process where managers are touching base at regularly scheduled intervals, especially during a driver’s first year. Checking in at three, six and 12 months after their start date forces those meetings to happen, and more importantly, captures drivers at critical points when they may still be deciding whether or not they want to stay with the company long-term. Gathering feedback early allows managers the opportunity to take corrective action on any issues.

The organizations with the best retention are often those who make it a priority to regularly check in with drivers. Helping drivers understand that they are valued increases engagement. Before top-performing drivers ever consider leaving, it’s helpful to capture their insight on what it will take to prevent them from leaving the company.

In order to get the most out of stay interviews, many rely upon an outside third party to conduct them. By doing so, they remain objective and drivers are comfortable sharing concerns or issues they are having with the organization, or with specific leaders, without feeling like it may reflect on them negatively.

Data gathered from stay interviews should be used by organizations to not only make necessary and lasting changes to improve driver satisfaction and engagement, but to also understand where to more clearly set expectations with drivers about specific issues where they may not have been previously well defined. Companies find that common issues such as time at home, driver pay, and the driver manager communication processes, may not require major changes, but a better understanding by the drivers of what they can expect. If both employer and driver are able to remain candid during these regularly scheduled interviews, both parties are able to maintain a clear understanding of what is expected from each other.

Exit Surveys, Understanding the Data

Unfortunately, we do lose drivers, and when this happens, it’s important to understand their real reasons for leaving. When drivers leave, it is costly to the organization. This is why exit surveys are imperative. During an exit interview, companies are gathering data that indicate exactly what issues and concerns the driver had that pushed them to the point of leaving.

An important issue to understand during exit surveys is not so much why the driver is leaving but what lead them to start looking elsewhere. This helps us understand the critical point at which something wasn’t going well. Was there a lack of something; communication, professional development, time off? Or was something going on that shouldn’t have been; inappropriate treatment by management or a shipper, poor working conditions, ineffective equipment? Rarely is it one issue, or one final event or occurrence, that prompts the decision to quit.

When organizations try to gather this information by conducting their own exit surveys, drivers may be tough to reach and reluctant to share the entire truth behind their dissatisfaction. This reluctance is often based upon a fear of burning bridges and how this might affect future referrals and any opportunities of being hired back down the road. Sharing their thoughts, opinions, and feelings with an unbiased third-party can make a driver feel more comfortable to freely share anything that could be perceived as negative. Additionally, an exit survey shows drivers that their opinion does matter and that they are cared about and valued. They are likely to remember how they were treated upon leaving should they consider returning to the organization one day.

After exit survey data has been gathered, it can be helpful to benchmark this information against company and industry norms in order to identify what practices are meeting your organization’s goals and values, and where there are areas for improvement.

Best Practices, Lasting Change

Exit surveys provide organizations a different perspective than a stay interview. Rather than learning of current driver issues, frustrations and concerns on where corrective action can be taken, an exit survey is offering a rear view of what could have been done in the past, and most importantly how to prevent other drivers from leaving for the same reasons. Another best practice is to compare the exit survey data to stay interview data in order to determine how driver satisfaction may or may not be impacting turnover. Further, it’s important to track trends being identified in exit surveys as you measure any improvements or positive changes being made.

While driver capacity is predicted to remain tight, there are constructive, proactive measures we can take to capture those common issues and concerns drivers have before they make the decision to start looking for new opportunities. Regularly scheduled stay interviews allow drivers to confidentially share what they may not feel comfortable sharing directly with their manager, or other leaders. When a driver has already made the decision to leave, a third-party exit survey provides them the opportunity to comfortably share their true reasons for doing so, without fear of negative consequences.

Data gathered from both stay interviews and exit surveys provide companies with the necessary information they need in order to make any necessary changes. The key to lasting change in driver satisfaction and retention is consistent communication and the clear, mutually beneficial, exchange of expectations.

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