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DSC Takeaway: Driver Engagement Key to Increasing “Right Retention”

by Caroline Perkins, 12/16/2016

Attendees rated the workshop “highly relevant” and 96 percent of respondents said the session will help them make more informed decisions about an immediate issue. (Source: Show App Survey)

According to Stay Metrics, the two biggest factors leading to driver turnover are lack of driver engagement and lack of driver recognition. ATA research shows that out of 100 for-hire drivers starting at a company, 33 will leave within 90 days and another 22 within 180 days. Add to that an insufficient pipeline of distribution drivers, and it is clear that retention should be top of mind for distributors when they hire a new driver.

During a workshop at the recent IFDA Distribution Solutions Conference, Mary Malone, director of engagement at Stay Metrics, provided insights on how to identify and correct causes of driver turnover. Her company teamed up with researchers in behavioral psychology, management, and organizational culture to create a rewards and recognition platform. The program uses research and driver interviews to get at the causes of turnover, how it can be managed successfully, and promotes a culture where drivers feel valued.

Malone noted that companies should first be focused on “right retention” rather than just retention. She polled the audience for what right retention might consist of. Responses included:

• Cultural fit, same core values
• Accurate, on time
• Safe, engaged
• Add value to business

Once these characteristics are identified, Malone said it is important to have a strategy to increase right retention. They include managing expectations, and developing and rewarding engagement. That, said Malone, can be done through research, measurement, and predictive modeling.

Managing Expectations
Driver expectations of the job should be managed during the recruiting and the onboarding process. Research shows why drivers leave early. Some 40 percent of fleet managers say it is due to mismatched expectations, while 27 percent say it is a result of new drivers not fitting into the culture.

During recruiting, it’s important to (1) align messages to reality and (2) not overpromise compensation. Malone noted that if a driver overestimates the amount of money he or she will make by 20 percent, he is more likely to leave. During onboarding, it is advisable to check in on driver satisfaction early and on a regular basis, and to monitor the relationships between dispatchers and drivers to be sure they are productive.

Develop and Reward Engagement
Getting driver feedback through surveys is the foundation for getting them engaged. The way to keep them engaged is to recognize and reward good performance. Malone said topics for feedback include:

• Pay and benefits (fair pay, healthcare, retirement)
• Relationship with supervisor / dispatcher (happiness with dispatcher, dispatcher competence, dispatcher responsiveness)
• Safety and conditions (job is safe, cleanliness of vehicle, quality of equipment, safety training/measures, right tools and equipment to succeed)
• Fellow drivers (support from fellow drivers, respect of fellow drivers, relationships with fellow drivers)
• Work itself (respect in community, feeling of accomplishment, learn from the job, workload, independence)
• Career (what they were promised, steadiness of work, career success)

Rewards should be performance based, said Malone. “People who feel recognized and appreciated are far more likely to give extra effort.” She also said rewards don’t have to be money and suggested that merchandise rewards can be more successful.

Research, Measurement and Predictive Modeling
Surveying can occur in a number of ways. They can be conducted online, by telephone, or on paper during a meeting. Quarterly reviews, focus groups, or ride-alongs provide person-to-person opportunities. If a driver does leave, an exit interview can provide valuable feedback.

Measurement is key to analysis of issues. Surveys should be formatted as a scale, such as a 1 to 5 scale indicating agreement or satisfaction, so that comparisons over time can be readily made. Surveying should be continuous, at reasonable interludes, not a one-time thing. This way, results can be compared over time. Results can also be compared to Stay Metric’s driver community data.

Stay Metrics has developed models that can predict the likelihood of a driver leaving. The models can serve as early indicators of problems that may arise. Malone said that, over time, a distributor can develop its own predictive model through its survey process.

Malone emphasized that one of the most important aspects of retention management is responding to issues that arise from a driver’s survey responses. Since engagement is the goal, one of the worst things a manager can do is to ignore an issue that is important to an individual driver. Malone recommends engaging them in the process of problem resolution.

“Engage them in fixing it,” she said. “Go back to them and talk about how they, as drivers, helped fix it. Then you are in a cycle for engagement. They see you’ve listened; you’ve taken feedback; you’ve engaged them in the process of improving it. And you’ve shared back with them how important they were to your problem solving.”

What Attendees said in the Show App Survey
• Mary did an excellent job connecting the message of how to better driver retention.  My “Aha” moment — “right retention.”
• Interesting how the recruiter can impact driver retention by sharing accurate information.
• Excellent advice on driver surveys
• Huge amount of knowledge
• Really informative and eye opening
• Good session. Some in the room were union operations and others were not. Some problems faced with drivers could vary based on types of operations. It would have been beneficial to be seated with like operations. Allowing more constructive table discussion.
• Good session .... would have liked more examples of successful strategic implementations.