On a 1-10 scale, how grateful should a driver be to have a job? It depends

It’s always been one of the quickest and easiest ways to rate things: on a scale of 1 to 10.

At a session at the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual meeting near Orlando on March 1, Tim Hindes, the CEO of recruiting and retention-focused StayMetrics, laid out that scale in response to how different generations and worker classifications might respond to the question: How grateful should you be to have your job as a truck driver?

“Should drivers be grateful to have a job?” Hindes asked the audience. He then proceeded to give what he envisioned would be the answers supplied by various groups.

If it were asked of truckers, Hindes said he would expect the rating to be 1 or 2, with 10 being those most grateful to have a job. What Hindes called “traditionalists,” like his grandparents, would probably give an answer of 10.

A member of the baby boomer generation would be at a 7 or 8. And then he asked the room –  “How would a millennial answer that question?” And the answer he got back was the audience laughing.

Hindes asked another question. Which generation is managing companies these days? Given that the answer is boomers, “you see the disconnect,” Hindes said. 

Hindes talked about a recent discussion with a client who spoke about his company’s experience with millennials. According to Hindes, the client said that millenials “repulse” him. “I didn’t say it, but you’re done,” Hindes said. “These drivers repulse you? So it is a big generational disconnect.’

Hindes addressed another divide – the racial, ethnic and gender differences between who is in the cabs of the truck and who is running the companies that are employing them. 

He noted that in the room where he was giving his presentation, there were no people of color and only a smattering of females. Meanwhile, African-American and Hispanic men make up a lot of the work force behind the wheel. 

Hindes bent down as if he was peering into the window window between the driver on one side and the dispatcher on the other. He envisioned the reaction of the driver – “there is nobody in there who looks like me.” And Hindes envisioned that driver thinking that they would like a career path, but they wouldn’t be getting it at that company.

“There are 300,000 Punjabi drivers in the U.S.,” Hindes said (though that estimate is one of many). Regardless of the number, as Hindes noted, “they aren’t here [at TCA]. And they aren’t at ATA either.” Somebody ultimately will build a multi-cultural network including these different categories of drivers, according to Hindes.

Hindes asked the audience to discuss various things they have done to retain drivers. “You need to have these drivers go into the truck stop with the mindset that working for you they’ve won the lottery,” he said.

Among the other steps that audience members said they have undertaken: paying by the hour rather than by the mile, a radical step that along with the idea of paying a salary has been widely discussed and mostly rejected by companies; a fixed salary outright which the representative of one company had said resulted in losing just two drivers in more than a year and a half; a hybrid model for class 5 and 6 vehicles where there is a base salary plus a formula that is variable; and a system described as allowing drivers who are on staff to take “whatever work they want to,” a step that the company representative said allowed them to grow “in several markets that we were never able to before.”

Hindes told his own story about a driver for Walmart who had been on the road for a lengthy stretch and whose hygiene was, to put it politely, a bit of a problem. He was at a Walmart facility where a staff member spoke to him about the issue. But instead of just reprimanding him, he was taken into the Walmart and provided with some new clothes off the rack, all costs borne by the chain. 

The story of that, Hindes said, rapidly made its way to other drivers, creating residual value for loyalty to the employer.

Those are concrete steps that involve compensation. But Hindes also said that psychology is going to need to become part of the landscape of retaining drivers. He spoke of “IO psychology,” IO standing for industrial organization. He touted a staff of more than 30 IOs working with Walmart as an example of a company that understands the value of IO.

“Twenty years from now, this is where it’s going,” Hindes said, describing the trend as “so cool. “It’s going to be building teams that are the mentally healthiest.”