Thinking Outside the Cab

By Randy Grider
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What’s the key ingredient to happiness when it comes to your job?

Money and benefits? If you answered yes, then you’re probably in the majority. We all want more of both for quality of life and security. A lack of an adequate income (an amount that covers basic living expenses and some personal luxuries) can cause stress that can strain relationships both professionally and personally. But it seems many studies have shown no strong evidence that money alone equals true contentment.

Challenges? If your job doesn’t challenge you every day, it’s easy to become restless and bored. Too many challenges can become overwhelming. Striking a balance between what is obtainable and work overload is a challenge in itself.

Love for the work? If you don’t love the profession you’re in, the job quickly becomes a dread. Since you spend as much time working as you do any single other thing in your life, with the possible exception of sleeping, it’s very important not to spend the majority of your time loathing it.

Rewards and recognition? If your job has neither, you’re on a road to job dissatisfaction. We all want to feel that what we do matters. Sometimes a simple “thank you” can make all the difference in how we feel about our jobs.

We’ve probably all left a job for a lack of one or more the above ingredients.

The simple truth is we all need a mix of them to help us achieve happiness with our jobs. We’ve all wrestled with whether to stay at a job or look for greener pastures.

Good employers also struggle with how to keep their employees happy. Some achieve a good mix, while others fail miserably.

Recently at the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas, I attended a seminar on company driver retention. Many of the topics discussed paralleled what our Truckers News readership surveys have revealed – drivers come and go for many reasons.

From a business standpoint, driver retention is a big part of the continued success of a trucking company. Turnover is costly – estimates of the cost of recruiting a driver range from $3,000 to $5,000. And many fleet owners are coming to terms with the fact that merely increasing wages by a few cents per mile isn’t the answer.

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A happy employee is one who, in addition to being financially rewarded, feels like he or she has a vested interested in the company. A job well done contributes to the long-term success of the company, and for that dedicated devotion, personal appreciation must be shown by upper and middle management.

Employees who are regularly recognized for their accomplishments and dedication are often not only more productive, but also willing to stick out the hard times. Some fleets take recognition to a more personal level and make it standard practice to remember important events like birthdays and wedding anniversaries of their employees.

And truly innovative fleet owners are learning to think even further outside the box. John Christner, CEO and president of John Christner Trucking, recently pitted himself against his drivers in a contest. Christner, who started driving a truck 45 years ago, understands the profession from both sides of the desk. His tractor-trailer backing challenge not only drew a great deal of interest from competitive drivers, but also showed how simple things can make a difference in morale. He reported some of his drivers were hanging around the office two days early in anticipation of the event. Everyone who participated received a T-shirt that boasted, “JCT backs up its drivers.”

“You have to make retention enjoyable and interesting for your drivers,” Christner says.

It’s good to see that many fleets are putting their drivers’ careers and quality of life in the forefront. With more and more drivers needed in the trucking industry, it’s also good to see that many companies are listening and taking steps toward making trucking more than a job. It should be treated as a career by employer and employee alike. Anything else and the industry will continue to struggle with high turnover and driver dissatisfaction.