Practical Strategies to Build Driver Retention into Your Culture

At Stay Metrics, we know that addressing driver retention is not an easy, one-time fix. Addressing the issues that create turnover requires seeing retention as a core component of your company’s culture. As our CEO Tim Hindes recently wrote: “Carriers that will succeed are going to be the ones drivers want to be a part of …”

Thankfully, we are not the only voice out there with this message. Recently I had the honor to introduce the moderator and speakers for the TCA Live Learning Webinar “How to Build Driver Retention into Your Culture.” This practical webinar included insights from transportation leaders Geoff Topping (Challenger Motor Freight) and Mike Bash (Britton Transport), who have transformed their cultures for retention. As an added benefit, the webinar also included commentary from moderator Ray Haight, an experienced transportation leader, retention coach with TCA, and co-founder of TCA’s inGauge platform.

Being a part of this webinar gave me a chance to see what the carrier side of retention strategy is like. Stay Metrics surveys drivers, runs the data through our models, and presents these findings to our motor carrier clients. What happens next, though, is up to the client. The key to seeing positive change is to develop a strategy to put the data to work.

This webinar broke down the process of creating this kind of strategy into three major steps: the big picture, the sales pitch, and the platform.

The Big Picture

Assessing the big picture is all about finding out what is happening in the industry that might be affecting a carrier’s driver retention rate. This can be as abstract as social factors affecting the driver population or as concrete as ELDs becoming mandatory or spot rates changing. Understanding these factors helps a carrier determine if problems that are identified in the next step are unique to them or challenges faced by the industry as a whole.

The Sales Pitch: Full Discovery

Conversations and feedback across the company are essential to build driver retention into a carrier’s culture.

The sales pitch is the stage where information is gathered about what your drivers and non-driving employees are thinking. This feedback can be gathered through surveys or focus groups representing the entire company.

Both Geoff and Mike divided the results from these feedback mechanisms into distinct groups: short-term fixes, changes that would take some time, and fundamental shifts that required long-term commitments. They took these results back to their teams and asked, “Did we hear you right?”

Everyone on the call agreed that this open communication gave them credibility. The worst thing you can do is ask someone for their opinion, and then not use what they said. Rephrasing the feedback proves that you understood what was being said and makes the team feel heard.

The Platform: Mission, Vision, Values

It is so easy to get feedback, change something quickly, and then forget about it. Not long afterward, the problems can sneak back in. To prevent this from happening, both speakers recommended examining a carrier’s core statements about itself—mission, vision, and values. More precise versions of these statements create a platform for improvement.

What does that mean? It means making these statements correlate to real-life behavior. It means making them real to your team.

If you are following the process, then you are already a step ahead. Because the new mission, vision, and values draws on feedback from the team, these statements are really theirs. They were not something imposed from above.

This ownership creates initial buy-in, but how do you keep the team accountable to these values? Geoff shared how Challenger created the Extra Mile Program. Anyone in the company can nominate a driver for this award. Each nomination requires stating what core value the driver embodied to deserve it. A similar program called the I Made It Happen award is available to non-driving staff.

Similarly, Mike described how he asks each person at leadership meetings to name someone in the company who deserves recognition. He thinks that this simple exercise causes his management team to look for and notice behaviors consistent with the company’s values far more frequently.

Conclusion

These strategies reinforce the values built on team feedback and, simultaneously, recognize drivers for their great work, something moderator Ray Haight felt was essential: “Even the biggest, toughest truck driver who doesn’t say two words if you push him–everybody wants a pat on the back, and everybody wants to know they are recognized for the effort they are putting out there.”

We very much agree with this assessment.

This process described by Geoff, Mike, and Ray can help any carrier transform its culture to support retention.

Stay Metrics was proud to sponsor this webinar. If you would like to review the webinar in its entirety, it was recorded and is available to TCA members free of charge at the TCA Live Learning Webinars site.

Best of all, future webinars like this one will be FREE for anyone, even if they aren’t TCA members! We would like to especially draw your attention to the April 11th webinar on retention. I will be participating again in this one, and you won’t want to miss our great speaker. Keep an eye on https://www.truckload.org/upcoming-events/ so you can register as soon as it is available.

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