It’s that time of year again to celebrate the people who keep the supply chain moving and the economy rolling: Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 12-18)!
One question to consider is, how best to show appreciation? More pay, special rewards and bonuses all come to mind. But the best methods might involve intangibles. Make sure drivers fit in and feel comfortable, valued and respected at your organization.
For trucking fleets, why not use this official observance to take stock of your practices regarding drivers. It could be a great motivator to evaluate what you need to do to improve driver relations and better recruit and retain them.
An article from earlier this month in Commercial Carrier Journal suggested the top three healthiest indicators, and qualities to abide by, for good driver relationships are: communication, honesty and transparency. That’s a great place to start.
After all, everyone appreciates being dealt with fairly and squarely. Truckers, given their long hours in isolation and away from standard contact points with their employers, seem to put even more stock in this than most.
To elaborate on the communications aspect, a recent survey determined the most critical aspect of the job for drivers most at risk of leaving their current employer is communication concerns. Bad communication experiences tend to linger and infect relationships. They are a major factor in making drivers feel underappreciated and unvalued.
Here are 7 ways to upgrade driver interactions and get better communication going:
- Address drivers like the persons they are. Call them by name, not truck number. It is much more humane and respectful. Likewise, learn about them and their families and ask after them.
- Don’t just get in touch for behavior corrections or scoldings. Develop a regular cadence of ‘just checking in’ messaging. Also remember to deliver positivity when possible. Say happy birthday, have a good day off, nice job driving all those miles last week, etc.
- Answer all queries to ensure everybody feels heard. Have to deliver not so good news? Get in front of it and close the loop even if it seems like it is not the desired outcome for the recipient.
- Make it a habit to listen to your people. Ask what you are doing well and what could be better. Once you ask, be sure to listen and respond in a meaningful way.
- Analyze any and all feedback – from prompted replies to unsolicited comments to water cooler anecdotes – to identify commonly cited issues. These are most likely key causes of discontent, dissatisfaction and team members leaving. Such problem areas should be considered critical and addressed immediately.
- If anything, err on the side of overcommunicating.
- Increasing and improving communication doesn’t have to be difficult. You can put systems in place to automate much of the effort.
CCJ’s innovator of the year, USA Truck, scored major points with drivers by empowering them to select their own loads. Can you do something in a similar spirit, even if it is seemingly small in scope?
Such efforts are well regarded, cumulative and provide momentum for other changes going forward. Anything that promotes the feelings of “I have a voice” – “I have a say in what I do” – “I matter here” – will lead to greater job satisfaction for your drivers and less motivation to look for a different employer.
But you don’t really need to innovate to treat people well. It really just comes down to the golden rule. Be honest, communicate openly and treat your drivers well. Let them know you care and that they matter, this week and every week!