Commitment and Communication

I have enjoyed my tenure as Truckload Carriers’ Retention Coach for many reasons and it has also allowed me to visit several trucking companies on both sides of the border. I genuinely love taking a brief look “under the hood” of companies. I also relish the opportunity to help reduce the driver turnover numbers in those companies. Helping to make a company successful gives me a great deal of pride knowing that drivers don’t have to go home and tell their families they no longer have a job. They don’t have to tell them they failed OR the company failed them. It is a genuine human tragedy if we leave a legacy of high turnover, especially when it does not have to exist in our industry. Simply, if we enact our best retention practices, high turnover can, and will, be reduced.

During the past 18 months, I have visited many trucking companies and I thought it might be enlightening to share the commonalities I see during my workshops. Before I start a workshop, I try to do as much reconnaissance as possible through the company’s website. The company’s website is its social media footprint and it should be saying numerous, positive things such as: the company’s history, introducing company leaders and their lineage, showcasing celebrated employees, outlining company values and finally, what associations the company is a member of and how those associations play into the success of the company.

Next, I ask for a copy of the company’s organizational chart which always proves revealing. If I see a chart that has numerous people reporting to the owner, or owners, it tells me I am probably looking at an autocratic type of leadership. This type of leadership demands that the ultimate power must approve decisions of even lesser importance. Seeing this structure also tells me that I must start a little higher up the ladder in hopes that I can change the mindset. If I see what I call the typical, more efficient structure for a trucking company, then I can go straight to the processes of the business and roll out the retention project plan. The most efficient organizational chart shows each company department, which reports to the owner. The heads of these “departments” might be the President, General Manager, Chief Operating Officer, as well as other senior positions. Reporting to them are the managers of Sales, Operations, Administration, Safety and Maintenance. These department managers are empowered to make decisions on their own and usually up to a pre-determined dollar amount. They have the autonomy to manage their responsibilities, to a pre-determined goal, without discussing every move they make with their superior.

It is quite an eye-opener to see the commonality, which is revealed during an onsite workshop. The workshops are made up of the company’s senior managers as well as mid-management people. Most of these people find a common thread woven into the fabric of the company when we reveal their weaknesses. And, you may be surprised to know the number one weakness uncovered is commitment – or lack of commitment. Our exercise reveals that many people do not trust other people in the company to stay the course and, in order to be successful, do their share of the “heavy lifting”. There are usually several symptoms that result in the mistrust of fellow employees.

Some companies have tried various approaches to reduce turnover in the past. However, these approaches didn’t have the desired impact on the company’s turnover numbers. These approaches are what I call “plug and plays”. They are merely quick fixes that don’t take a holistic approach to turnover. Companies with a high turnover have traditionally been in that state for years. They seem to think they can buy a magic cure off the shelf which will result in an overnight success. It doesn’t work that way! You didn’t screw it up overnight and you won’t fix it overnight.

Another symptom of the mistrust comes from the top down. When managers are not held to a pre-determined goal, and senior management lets deadlines slide and allows poor performance, the people reporting to those managers will do the same thing.

The attendees at my workshops identify bad communication as the second-highest rated weakness. It seems this subject has been around forever, and I have written many articles on the subject. In my opinion, this is one of the more straightforward problems that can be fixed. Here is the theory – If someone says they trust you but only gives you selective information, do they really trust you? Without effective and complete communication, there is no foundation to build trust. Without trust, you will never execute an effective strategy designed to reduce turnover.

On a final note, congratulations to the TCA for their excellent award program: the prestigious, Safest Fleets in North America Awards. The TCA divides the awards into 6 categories with 18 fleets being recognized and five of the winners were Canadian fleets. Transpro Freight Systems Ltd. was a 2nd place winner in Division 2 (5 – 15 million miles), Trans West Logistics Inc. was first place in Division 4 (25 – 50 million miles) and Groupe Robert Inc. was first place winner in Division 5 (50 – 100 million miles).

Erb Transport was overall, grand prize winner of the small fleet category and Bison Transport was overall grand prize winner for the large carrier category.  This recognition is well earned and not easily won! It takes teamwork and perseverance. Any companies who are looking for a model of success would be well advised to follow in the footsteps of Erb and Bison.

Finally, my good friend Kevin Burch won the prestigious TCA past chairman’s award for service to the industry, which was well deserved. Equally well deserved is KRTS’s founder Kim Richardson as a supplier who demonstrated outstanding support to the truckload industry and TCA.

Take good care and safe trucking.

Ray J. Haight

About Ray J. Haight

Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.