Match New Driver Expectations & Experiences for Success

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Setting up expectations for success

You’ve got a 30-second window to make a recruiting pitch to a driver on the phone. What do you promise for pay, equipment, home time and other benefits?

What pulls drivers in like a magnet may also have a polarizing effect later on. Indeed, ongoing research by Stay Metrics from our large and diverse base of motor carrier clients shows that unmet expectations are a primary cause of early driver turnover. (We consider early driver turnover as drivers who leave a carrier less than six months after beginning employment.)

Imagine the angst a driver feels when told during orientation that his or her earnings will be about $800 per week, when only a few days earlier a recruiter said $1,000. The same is true for other expectations, such as those for home time and other benefits. When expectations and experiences are misaligned, drivers are more at risk to leave a carrier.

It is important to note that broken recruiting promises are not always to blame. All drivers bring their own expectations when starting a new job. For example, a driver may go to work for a flatbed carrier expecting higher pay, but not truly understand the extra effort it takes to strap and tarp loads, despite the training and instruction they receive during orientation meetings. Some new drivers may expect to enjoy life on the road and find the opposite is true.

To successfully manage expectations requires having a standard, consistent message that is delivered to drivers through all stages of the recruiting, orientation and onboarding process. And, the message must match the drivers’ later experiences. “Switch and bait” serves no one well.

One of our clients, Star Fleet Trucking, is doing an exceptional job of aligning driver communications. The Middlebury, Ind.-based company specializes in transporting manufactured housing, RVs, boats and cargo trailers. The results of its communication efforts are clearly shown by its low driver turnover rate, especially among new drivers.

Telling the same story and linking to actual experience

The communications strategy of Star Fleet Trucking can be applied by any motor carrier to create total alignment. Any motor carrier can, for example, tell have its recruiters share that the average weekly earnings for current drivers are $812 dollars a month. The recruiters can also add it takes new drivers three months to reach this level while they learn a new system and, that for the first couple weeks to expect paychecks of $608. Drivers have the information they need to adjust their expectations.

This and other important information can (and should) be repeated to drivers in exactly the same way during orientation training and by fleet managers before drivers are dispatched on the first load. The same process can be used to inform the recruited drivers they will be away from home an average of nine days at a time, and that earnings may dip between December and January due to seasonality. The carrier sets the drivers’ expectations to match what they will actually experience. This builds trust between the carrier and the driver; setting the stage for improved retention.

Survey analytics

Carriers do not have to wait weeks or months to analyze the impact of their efforts. The impact can be measured, and the process refined, by getting direct feedback from Stay Metrics’ driver surveys and exit interviews.

During the 7-Day Orientation survey drivers get a chance to express what their expectations are for working with the carrier. The carrier receives immediate feedback about whether the driver’s expectations are set realistically. One important aspect of the survey process is that carriers have a choice to set a specific earnings range and receive a “trigger email” for any driver who’s earnings expectation is higher than the range. This gives the carrier an immediate opportunity to talk with the driver before the gap between the driver’s expectations and experience potentially leads to an early turnover.

The 45-Day Onboarding survey shows if driver expectations for man are being met during the critical first few weeks on the job. Carriers have opportunities to improve  (And, of course, the Exit interviews give an additional opportunity to gather information from drivers about differences between their expectations and their experiences.)

Motor carrier clients use results from all three surveys to identify areas where improvement is needed and refine their messaging to be clearer and more realistic. The surveys also identify individual situations where drivers have mismatched expectations.

The surveys fulfill an important role in managing expectations by providing a continuous feedback loop and by giving immediate alerts when drivers have questions and concerns. Reaching out early to address concerns will set a new kind of expectation that drivers may not have otherwise considered: “I’ve picked a carrier which really cares about me.”

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