The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to take a more focused look at who we consider to be essential workers.
A term historically reserved for medical, fire and safety acquired new meaning over the past two years. As the world shut down and people began working from home, essential workers were granted an exception to keep performing their jobs. Among them were truck drivers — those who deliver goods and packages to stores, hospitals and consumers.
The designation came during one busiest periods of consumer demand in recent history. With the majority of the population house-bound, people began turning to e-commerce for virtually everything. Supply chain issues and product shortages put added stress on drivers to deliver on time, every time, regardless of external factors. At the same time, restaurants and stores closed their doors, limiting bathroom and food options for the men and women on the road.
High unemployment numbers and difficulty in hiring are two unfortunate side effects of the pandemic that are likely to continue. With resilient consumer demand and a rapid rise of e-commerce, the need for drivers has increased greatly. At the same time, workers have been leaving their jobs in droves, citing exhaustion, safety concerns and more. With these factors in mind, it’s essential to understand what’s important to drivers today, and how carriers can maintain positive, long-term relationship with them.
The drivers we’ve spoken to genuinely enjoy their career. “I get paid to tour the city,” said Marcus B., who has been driving for seven years. “I love driving. It is my passion,” said David R., a driver for four years. And Chris E., who has been driving for two years, said he enjoys the freedom that the job provides. There was a strong appreciation for life on the open road, and a sense of thriving outside a traditional office setting.
With these perspectives in mind, here are some insights into acquiring and retaining good help in challenging times.
Offer more than a paycheck. With competition at an all-time high, employees have the upper hand, and they will shop around. This is often the case even when employment is less competitive. People want the complete package, not just a paycheck. Offering a standard benefit package is crucial, and taking it a step further by offering soft benefits will set you apart from other employers. This is especially important for people who work outside of an office setting and don’t get to partake in free coffee, company lunches, office supplies and other similar fringe benefits. Offering drivers food vouchers, discounted video streaming services, permission to bring their dog on the road, and other outside-of-the-box benefits will give you an advantage when hiring.
Foster communication. One of the most important ways to foster good culture is through communication. Offering your drivers the opportunity to attend regularly scheduled informal update meetings allows them to feel like part of the team. Truck drivers spend the majority of their time alone, and while many like this aspect of their job, having a regular check-in can help them still feel connected. Another inexpensive way to encourage communication is by using mobile applications, where employees can text among themselves and even with management (not while driving of course). And finally, encourage feedback from the people in the field. Often they may feel the most removed of anyone in the company, but they’re tasked with a crucial step in the supply chain process, the final delivery. Find out from your staff on the road what’s working and what isn’t.
Encourage growth. One of the top reasons people leave a job is lack of growth. Why stay in a position when you can make more, learn more and advance more somewhere else? If you want to keep your help, you need to offer them opportunities to grow through promotions, educational certifications and more. Have conversations with your drivers and find out what their goals are. Work together to set key performance indicators, ensuring that they have something to work toward. Reward your staff for meeting their goals and encourage them to always be thinking of how they can improve their job and the company as a whole. Often the best suggestions come from unlikely sources.
Incorporate balance. Driving can be a draining job, involving long stretches of time on the road. People are highly individual and have different thresholds for the number of consecutive hours they can handle driving. One commonality is that everyone needs a break to rest and reset. Make sure that you offer time away from work for people to be with their families, engage in hobbies and recharge their batteries. Providing earned paid time off is a great way to incorporate balance, yet is often not the norm for drivers. Paid holidays and set weekly or monthly days off are also excellent opportunities to give people something they can look forward to.
Show appreciation. Turnover is costly and detrimental to overall morale. When people leave a company for whatever reason, conversations among remaining workers are often that of concern. In a competitive job market like we’re currently experiencing, retention is of the utmost importance. The best way to keep employees is to appreciate them. This may seem like such a simple concept, but so many leaders fail to show appreciation to their staff. Tell your employees what they do that impresses you, thank them for doing a good job, shout them out when they go above and beyond. Simple gestures can have significant impacts.
The world has changed at a rapid pace over the past two years, and the supply chain has experienced one of the most difficult seasons in recent history. Now is the time to prepare for the challenges to come. If you begin to implement these suggestions now, and grow a strong team, you’ll have a great foundation for future success. Remember, it is a privilege that your drivers chose you — driving jobs are in high demand right now, and employees have the power of choice more than ever before. Appreciate what you have, and present the incredible benefits of your company when looking to acquire new help.
Mike Glodziak is chief executive officer of Legacy Supply Chain.
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