Taking it From the Top: Shifting Towards a Low-Turnover Culture with Ray Haight

Ray Haight knows the trucking industry. The son of a driver, he spent the first 10 years of his working life as a driver himself, then gradually built a fleet of over 275 trucks from the original three left to him by his father. As Chief Operating Officer of a large carrier, he was struck by the high percentage of turnover his organization was experiencing—a whopping 120%. Now as the co-founder of inGauge, the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) online performance-based benchmarking platform and as a TPP retention coach, Haight has a unique perspective that reflects his experience in the trucking industry at all levels. On a recent episode of Recruit & Retain Podcast, Haight shared with host Chad Hendricks how he and his team were able to bring that high turnover rate down to 20%.

Begin at the Top–

According to Haight, the first step to reducing turnover is building a company culture that shows a strong commitment to employee retention. “People within a company are going to emulate the actions of the people they work for. If you are in a leadership role, and you’re all about retention, and look at every driver that leaves your company as a failure, you can build a program around that.” The commitment to reduce turnover has to come from the top, with company leadership demonstrating the company values visually and vocally. It is only when company leadership is demonstrably “all in” on retention that meaningful or sustainable improvements can take place.

Set Expectations on the Front End…

When hiring a new driver, it is essential to have a two-way discussion about expectations. Too often an employer specifies the expectations of the organization for the employee without spending any time on the expectations of the employee for the organization. Part of retention is making sure you’ve hired the right candidate in the first place. If that “perfect” candidate walks into a position that cannot meet his/her expectations, that employee is not likely to stay with the organization long. As Haight puts it, “If you have a driver who says, ‘I want to make $100 K, and I want to be home every night,’ why would you hire that driver if you can’t deliver those things?”  Haight advises that carriers ask candidates to lay everything out, including expected number of miles, days off, special needs, etc. at the very beginning, and the carrier to do likewise with their expectations. This information is then documented, so if the relationship does not go as planned, it can be pulled out to determine what went wrong. Simply put, carriers and driver candidates with a set of matching expectations are going to have a more successful working relationship.

…To Perform an Audit on the Back End.

As Haight says (paraphrasing a famous quote from Winston Churchill), “Never waste a good crisis.” That is, forward-thinking people should view a crisis as an opportunity for growth. If the leadership in your organization has set up a culture that values retention, and expectations are set both ways going into a new position, if the employee does end up leaving, that’s the time to really examine what went wrong. Haight terms this “a forensic audit.” For example, was there a disconnect in the screening or hiring process, or an issue that needs addressing in operations? Do a post-mortem on that failed relationship and dissect it until the cause of the employee loss is found, then determine if the issue is systemic—that is, how many times has this same scenario played out? Conduct exit interviews a few weeks after the employee has left, when he or she has had time to reflect and more importantly has a new job and will not be hampered in their responses by the need for a reference. Who knows, you might just be able to get the employee to come back. Don’t just wait until after the employee has gone– seek frequent feedback from employees to possibly fix problems before they prompt an exit.

Retention is Everyone’s Job

Haight recommends assembling a retention team made up of volunteers representing every department. At Haight’s organization, the retention team meets once a week to discuss that week’s happenings and examine any problems relating to turnover. The individual team members act as a conduit to and from their respective departments so that insight and feedback are going both ways. Creating a dedicated retention team will support all of the previous retention efforts and take them to the next level. Haight recommends that carriers use the TCA inGauge Online Benchmarking tool to measure performance on over 250 data points, and then share this information with employees to create action items for improvement.

The fact is, high turnover rates cause higher operating costs and accident rates, raises insurance and operating costs, and it even causes worse wear and tear on equipment.  Creating a workplace culture that values retention and communicates that value through words, actions, and attitudes is not only good for employers and employees at all levels, it also makes more money.  As Haight says, “It’s a no-brainer.”

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