Of “valuation” and retention

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"The business world is in the midst of a sea change. Successful organizations have learned that high performance and sustainable results require attention to the relationships among employee, organization, customer and community.” –David Ballard, head of American Psychological Association’s psychologically healthy workplace program.

It shouldn’t surprise any fleet out there that today’s employee – particularly when it comes to truck drivers – wants something more than just a steady paycheck; they want to feel valued for what they do, day in and day out.

Indeed, respect has been a cornerstone for the truck driver culture from time out of mind, but now some data is being added to back up how the need for respect – what’s termed “valuation” by the high falutin’ social scientists out there – translates into employee loyalty and well being.

[Here’s a brief promo video that discusses how employee “valuation” can translate into revenue and profits at the end of the day.]

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association (APA) online among 1,714 adults between January 12 and 19 this year, found that employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers.

Here’s the kicker though: half of all employees who say that they do not feel valued at work say they intend to look for a new job in the next year – and that’s contributing to the national average turnover rate of 36% estimated by the U.S. Department of Labor, even though unemployment is still holding steady at 8.3%.

Trucking knows it costs a bundle to recruit a driver in this industry – anywhere between $3,500 and $8,000 a head – but more significant is the loss of expertise, institutional knowledge, and other such attributes critical to helping a fleet stand out from the rest.

According to the APA’s survey, almost all employees (93%) who reported feeling valued said that they are motivated to do their best at work and 88% reported feeling engaged. This compares to just 33% and 38%, respectively, of those who said they do not feel valued, the group noted.

Among employees who feel valued, just one in five (21%) said they intend to look for a new job in the next year vs. 50% of those who said that they do not feel valued. Overall, more than one in five (21%) working Americans said they do not feel valued by their employers.

A variety of factors were linked to feeling undervalued at work, APA noted, including having fewer opportunities for involvement in decision making (24% vs. 84%), being less satisfied with the potential for growth and advancement (9% vs. 70%), having fewer opportunities to use flexible work arrangements (20% vs. 59%) and being less likely to say they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (18% vs. 69%) and non-monetary rewards (16% vs. 65%).

On top of all of that, some two out of five (41%) employees report feeling “stressed out” at work these days and cite the following as “major causes” of said stress:  low salaries (46%), lack of opportunities for growth or advancement (41%), too heavy a workload (41%), long hours (37%) and unclear job expectations (35%).

Yet in trucking’s case, it doesn’t always require a huge boost in pay to keep drivers from jumping ship (though adequate pay in the for-hire sector remains a major issue) for another fleet.

Con-way Truckload’s Herbert Schmidt probably summed it up best in an interview with my esteemed colleague Wendy Leavitt a few years back; not using his fleet’s own retention efforts as an example of success, but rather that of one of its contractors.

“We had a 65-truck leased fleet working for us. His drivers did the same job as our drivers, they hauled the same freight, ran the same routes and used the same dispatch system, but their turnover rate was about half what ours was,” Schmidt said. “What did [that contractor] do differently? He took care of his drivers like family, that's what.”

It just goes to show that, often times, the answer to a big problem is a lot simpler than we think. 

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