The economy is booming but transportation and logistics companies face unique challenges. A lingering shortage of drivers means missed profits. That’s an especially big problem in an industry already facing high turnover. This article will examine strategies companies can use to address this problem head on and boost employee engagement.
Attracting New Talent
The transportation and logistics industry faces two serious headwinds. First, the industry suffers from consistently high turnover-in some cases close to 100% annualized. Second, the industry is failing to attract new drivers. This is especially true among millennials, who do not understand the benefits of a career in transportation. Companies need creative solutions to find the next generation of drivers:
· Referrals: One of the best ways to find great drivers is to ask the great drivers on your payroll. Referral programs are an opportunity to recognize the hard-won networks and expertise of your current drivers. Recognition programs may include referral bonuses or non-monetary compensation such as priority for in-demand routes.
· Outreach: Despite your best efforts there may not be enough drivers to go around. Referrals may fill some open headcount but not enough to replace retiring drivers. In that case, try partnering with local high schools or technical programs. Career fairs are a great way to meet candidates and introduce them to a career path they hadn’t considered. You can also recognize top employees and give them the chance to be the face of those recruitment efforts.
· Mentorship Programs: Once you’ve attracted new talent, you’ll need to bring those new hires up to speed. Pairing new hires with experienced mentors helps them more easily learn the skills necessary to be successful. Mentorship programs and an effective onboarding process give top drivers the chance to teach the newest members of the team.
Attracting a new generation of drivers will require creativity and determination. Your current drivers are your best resource to solve this problem. Involving them in the process shows how much you value their service and ability to evaluate talent. In the coming years, drivers and their networks will likely play an important role in recruitment efforts.
Encouraging Training & Continued Education
Your drivers want to grow their careers and there are a myriad of ways you can support them. Providing continuing education courses or a stipend helps demonstrate your commitment to your drivers’ career growth. Some classes may be directly related to driving, while others may help drivers develop new areas of expertise. Investing in career development is especially important in this tight job market and can help make you an employer of choice.
The most common types of training are Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) programs. While every professional driver must have a CDL, advanced CDL’s allow drivers to transport more specialized (and better paying) loads. Drivers also value foreign language programs. Cross-border trucking routes may require working with businesses or government agencies where English is not widely spoken. Fluency or familiarity with a second language makes those jobs more accessible. Otherwise, drivers may enjoy learning for the sake of learning. Your commitment to their education makes that possible.
Rewarding Healthy Choices
Every company has a vested interest in the health of its employees. This is especially true for transportation and logistics companies. Healthy drivers are good drivers and investing to make sure your drivers operate at peak performance makes sense. Showing your workforce that you value their health and well being also sends a powerful message. Here are some specific health and wellness strategies you can roll out in 2020:
· Preventative Screenings: Drivers spend a large portion of their time on the road. That’s to be expected, but it means fewer opportunities to schedule check ups. Preventative screenings for conditions such as hypertension or high cholesterol can identify issues long before they manifest. Offering easy access to such screenings goes a long way for drivers that may not have the time to find a good doctor.
· Smoking Cessation: Employers are increasingly seeing the value of a tobacco-free workforce. Transportation and logistics firms should be no different. Rewarding employees for being and staying tobacco-free is an important component of any wellness program
· Find A “Wingman”: Driving can be a largely solitary profession and drivers may not always have the support they need to stay healthy. This is an opportunity for employers to give their drivers a little extra help. Pairing drivers with a buddy or wingman can give them the encouragement they need to meet their health goals.
HR experts and experienced leaders recommend rewarding top talent. But who qualifies as top talent? The most objective way to answer that question is a consistent set of metrics. Evaluating every driver or employee with the same framework makes it easier to answer that question. The transportation and logistics industry prizes metrics that probably differ from most other industries. Here are some key metrics that can help you identify your top performers:
· Percentage of on-time deliveries: This metric evaluates how frequently a driver delivers goods on time. Barring weather or unforeseen circumstances, this metric is a good indicator of a drivers’ overall ability. A high percentage of on-time deliveries mean that a driver can navigate traffic, plan ahead, and keep customers happy.
· Roadside inspection defects: Local law enforcement agencies periodically inspect trucks for “defects”, such as poor maintenance or improper paperwork. Defects can lead to fines and delay deliveries. Drivers with a low number of defects during their career have proven they are reliable and committed to maintaining a safe rig. A thoughtful Safety Incentives program can help reinforce those behaviors.
· Department of Transportation preventable accident or traffic violations: In the event of an accident, the DOT investigates to determine whether the accident was preventable. Even the best drivers may struggle during poor weather or other conditions beyond their control. A low rate of preventable accidents again speaks to the reliability and professionalism of drivers.
This list of metrics is by no means exhaustive but allows you to objectively evaluate drivers across the company. It is likely that your company already collects this data, though it may be stored with different HR or compliance teams. You can then rank your drivers by any of these metrics. Depending on your business, you may assign different weights to each metric. Drivers that consistently rank well across these metrics are the drivers you need to work to keep.
Retaining Top Talent
Talent retention is a perennial issue for trucking companies but it’s become more acute in recent years. Drivers are retiring or taking advantage of the strong economy and switching jobs. As we’ve already discussed, replacing those drivers can prove difficult. Recognizing employee service is one part of the solution for reducing turnover. Possible retention strategies include:
· Reviewing compensation: If you are not paying drivers market rates, you are hobbling your ability to compete. In this job market, your best drivers can easily find a competitor who will pay them what they’re worth. A top priority should be to review market trends in your city or region and ensure you are paying appropriately.
· Expanding benefits: This also applies to benefits. Drivers can be either full-time employees or contractors. The latter often don’t have the same benefits, if they receive any benefits at all. Offering market (or better) benefits can be another way to retain talent. Healthcare plans, retirement accounts, and other benefits are a powerful indicator of how much you value your workforce.
· Supporting career growth: Another opportunity to retain drivers is demonstrating that the best career opportunities lie at your company. Working with your HR leadership to chart a pathway to advancement is a great way to deliver that message. Showing drivers how to get to the next level, and what skills are needed, can convince them that they are already at the right company.
Retaining your best drivers requires a game plan. Trying to convince drivers to stay once they already have another offer is far too late. You need to prevent that conversation from happening in the first place. Focusing on compensation, benefits, and career growth can address shortcoming that drive employees to seek new opportunities.
Employee engagement is important for any company. It’s critical for transportation and logistics companies if they want to compete. Effective employee recognition is key to any successful engagement program. Recognizing employees for top performance, healthy habits, and a commitment to training can boost engagement as well as retention. That may make the difference between your trucks sitting idle or hauling the next load.