Whether it’s over-the-road heavy haul or light-duty local driving, how can fleet operators boost morale and keep their drivers happy? Mark Murrell, co-founder of CarriersEdge, a provider of on line driver training, advises fleet managers to include drivers in company discussions, as they want to feel valuable to the business.
“Companies that involve their drivers in discussions have better satisfaction rates and less turnover rates,” says Murrell, who talks to fleets on this subject for the Truckload Carriers Association’s “Best Fleets to Drive For” program.
In addition to offering more opportunities for communication and participation, some fleets create incentives or rewards programs to increase driver morale, as low employee morale can end up hurting the bottom line.
“Happy and engaged employees are more productive, accurate in their job functions, stay in their jobs longer, and treat customers in more positive ways — all which can save a company money,” says Jeff Thomas, regional vice president of Mer chants Fleet, a fleet management company.
We talked to fleets and other experts about different methods to help boost driver satisfaction and in turn increase company productivity.
Get Drivers Involved
To gain driver buy in and participation, Murrell recommends asking drivers for their opinions. Ask them about different workplace conditions and what they see happening on the road.
“It’s surprising how often people think of the drivers as a separate entity of the business and don’t include drivers in business operations,” says Murrell, who adds that fleet managers may figure that they already know their drivers’ opinions since they see them every day, but the interactions are too brief. “Often there is a lot of information that managers don’t know or their drivers don’t bring up.”
Fleets can set up online surveys through websites like SurveyMonkey. A survey doesn’t have to be long; it can be as short as two questions. Once the company collects the data, managers need to act on the results, according to Murrell.
“An idea is to do the survey in advance of a group meeting,” he says. “Then the meeting would discuss the top results of the survey and how to best tackle the issues together.”
Companies should consider involving drivers in the vehicle selection process, particularly when spec’ing the interior. Consider what features will make drivers more efficient in their daily workload while improving their user experience, such as extra storage, satellite radio, or Bluetooth.
Technology and connectivity features are even more important if the driver uses his or her vehicle as a mobile office. Employee morale might also be affected by a vehicle’s condition and its safety features.
“Drivers want to know that their employers care about their safety,” says Thomas.
Set Realistic Expectations
During the onboarding process, not having a clear idea of a company’s objectives could affect a driver’s satisfaction with the job. Murrell recommends that companies avoid sugarcoating a job position and focus on realistic expectations during training.
“As an employer, be clear about what you are looking for in a driver,” says Murrell. “Figure out what works in the business and make sure that it’s communicated from the first point of contact through the onboarding and post-onboarding process.”
Onboarding efforts at UPS include flying recruits to training locations for a weeklong education program.
“We expect our drivers to be service oriented, but if they don’t have an understanding of the job itself, they could fail and be dissatisfied in the job,” says Dan McMackin, public relations manager for UPS.
Helping a driver become a full member of the team starts during the training process. Companies want to get the drivers trained and on the road as quickly as possible, but investing in resources to help new drivers before they start is important, according to Mary Malone, vice president of business development at Stay Metrics, a provider of driver feedback, training, and retention solutions. Malone stresses the importance of communication early on.
“It’s harder to socialize them when they are on the road and not in an office,” she says. Malone asks fleet operators to consider the best way to check in on drivers and provide an easy avenue for them to ask questions and voice their opinions.
Stay Metrics surveys drivers seven days after orientation and 45 days later. As drivers are starting to learn more about the company and their job position, Malone recommends that managers schedule time to meet with new employees. After a few weeks, a manager can find out if the job is meeting a driver’s expectations.
Murrell also recommends regular check-in meetings with new drivers. In addition to consistent meetings, some fleets offer a multi-faceted mentoring program for new hires, which can include a ride-along or job shadowing.
“Touching base regularly can help the new hire ramp up quicker and get used to the workflow and company process,” says Murrell. “A mentor can help answer any questions for new drivers. Guiding a new hire can better his or her chances of success.”