The Bounce-Back Driver

This article has been adapted from one that Steve Hitchcock, COO of Duncan and Son Lines, Inc wrote recently.  The original article was aimed at a trucking audience, but we feel that OMCA members face many of the same issues and concerns.  The following has been edited from the original.

 

What is a bounce-back driver?  It’s a driver who leaves us, but then later decides to come back.  Why is this phenomenon perplexing to me?  There are a few reasons.  All of them beg questions.  First, why are drivers leaving in the first place?  If they are unhappy and they leave, why do they come back?  Is there any way for us to get in front of this to keep them from leaving in the first place?  I think I’m finally starting to fill in these blanks.

Drivers (and all employees for that matter) can weigh many things when they decide on an employer.  And it’s important to note that they choose their employer every single day.  These factors (not an all-inclusive list) are what they should consider when deciding where to work: pay, commute, supervisor relationship, co-worker relationships, how rewarding the work is, advancement opportunity, work schedule/flexibility, time off, home time, benefits (med/dental/ancillary), being in-the-know, equipment, work culture, access to senior leadership, etc.  Not every employer is a good match for every driver.  Companies are seldom going to be good at everything on that list.  If a driver really values something that the employer doesn’t excel at, it’s a bad fit.  Hopefully the things we’re not good at are low on the totem pole for our drivers- otherwise, they’ll leave.  So, what’s the deal with the ones who leave, but then come back?  I think there are three main reasons for the bounce-back driver: burnout, a specific pain point, and not considering/ranking everything they value in an employer.

We have drivers leave because of general burnout.  There’s down-time.  There’s bad traffic.  The customers don’t always treat our drivers with courtesy, professionalism, respect and dignity that they deserve.  We have drivers who get burned out, quit Duncan, spend some time away and re-charge, then come back with a fresh outlook.

Sometimes drivers leave because they have a specific pain point that they are frustrated with.  It might be their dispatcher manager relationship, pay, the work schedule, or something else.  It eats at them until they find something else.  That something else is the promise of greener grass.  They make the leap and, often times, solve that problem.  Maybe our pay or route was their issue, so they move to the promise of better pay or a better route.  But then they realize that they don’t get home at the same time, or their schedule isn’t as flexible, or they don’t connect with the manager.  Many bounce-back drivers have expressed that they just traded one pain point for another- or multiple pains.

Drivers also leave because they just didn’t know what they really valued.  They didn’t consider all of factors when choosing which company to drive for.  No job is perfect.  But they needed to ask themselves if the good outweighed the bad?  Generally, these bounce-back drivers got stuck on one or two negative aspects of the job and forgot about the good parts.  We are lucky that sometimes their next employer shows them the things we do well by failing at them.  Once they start considering all the aforementioned factors- and once they start ranking them by importance- they get a clearer view of what they need to look for in an employer.  This is when we bring them back home.

As an employer who competes every day for drivers, the ball is in our court.  We need to make sure that our employees know about and consider everything, not just one or two things.  We need to celebrate, communicate, and market all the things we’re good at- both internally and externally.  We need to be honest and upfront with ourselves, our employees, and potential employees about areas we’re not as good at.  We’re not for everyone, and that’s OK.  It’s our job to make sure that every day, when our drivers decide who they are going to drive for, that they make an educated, well thought out decision.

The Top Five Leadership “Don’t Do’s” When You Are Focusing on Reducing Employee Turnover

  1. Here is a harsh reality: you simply stating that the company is going to take on and beat employee turnover will at best be received with reluctant hesitation and/or apathy. This should not come as a shock but if you are approaching 100% turnover (or higher), it is not likely that your people believe too much of what your management team is saying. So why not look for (or create) a bell weather moment? Winston Churchill was credited with saying “never waste a good crisis”. You should pick when to reveal your company’s new retention initiative wisely. If you can tie it to a critical event, good or bad, then you need to determine out how to do that. In my past we decided to train all the “inside the walls” employees on customer service. When people start to realize how their actions affect those around them they start to quickly get the picture. When we finished the training, retention was a natural extension and the transition was easy.
  2. Do not take the issue of your company’s high turnover on as a challenge until you can wrap your head around the fact that you did everything necessary to cause the turnover you have now. The point here is that if you don’t take ownership of the issues neither will your people. Excuses for turnover are far too common and easy to come by. We have all heard them repeatedly over the years. Remember that the blame game does not solve anything. The only way to get off to a good start is to state that you’re determined to turn the corner on your company’s turnover and that from now on the responsibility for every employee that leaves or is fired from your company is on you and your people. There is an opportunity learn from every single failure. Take that failure personally. No one goes to work in the morning with the intention of failing. These are people’s families that we are messing with.
  3. Don’t keep your people in the dark about what you’re doing. Use every channel possible to let them know what is going on in your business. For your company to turn the corner on driver turnover you will need the assistance of everyone in the business. What is discussed must be the priority. Think about this: I give you information because I trust you, I value your input and I need your help. I don’t share information because I don’t particularly care about your opinion and I don’t think your input will bring value to this initiative. Want your people to be more engaged when they come to work? Let them become part of the solution, share as much information with them as possible and then ask them for their help.
  4. Do not try and impose your own personal values on people. If you or your senior managers developed a value statement and then took it to your people and expected them to respond positively to that statement, then you are in trouble – it just won’t work. A strong values statement can be the cornerstone of your retention objectives but only if it reflects your collective values and that you plan on following through with it. Here is the question to pose to your people – what would your perfect company look like? One paragraph from each person is all that is needed. Do it as a team that is working towards a common purpose.
  5. Do not get impatient. This is change and change will scare people. However, being patient does not mean turning a blind eye to behaviour that is counter to the company’s goals. Being patient means coaching and walking the walk. If that individual who refuses to change crosses the line again and again you will have to take the steps necessary to get the right people in those roles. These are tough decisions, but they are entirely necessary for you to succeed. Stay determined!