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Why signing bonuses won’t save transportation’s talent shortage

July 17, 2019
4 minute read

Headlines across major media outlets highlight the ongoing truck driver shortage. And the issue continues to get press, as demand for freight increases while the industry faces a labor shortage. 

What are transportation and logistics companies to do?

The current school of thought is to offer signing bonuses. With several of the biggest names in the game offering sign-on bonuses—and money being a strong motivator to start driving—this seems like a good solution.

But is it sustainable?

moving truck

Signing bonuses aren’t a sustainable solution to the transportation talent shortage.

Recent articles suggest that while money can be an incentive for some workers, the number of hoops a driver has to jump through to earn these bonuses is demotivating. 

In addition, transportation customers are cost-conscious, making it necessary for companies to compete on price. Increasing bonuses for drivers will eventually cause freight prices to rise, which will cost these businesses their customers.

Talent optimization offers transportation a more sustainable solution.

Talent optimization helps businesses align people strategy with business strategy for optimal results. It can also help solve the transportation industry’s top talent problems: low engagement and high turnover.

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Talent optimization improves hiring.

Poor job fit is one of the four key factors that disrupt employee engagement and productivity—and this is especially true in the transportation industry.

Our 2019 Annual Employee Engagement Report found that one-third of turnover intent from transportation employees is related to the job itself. While trucking is undoubtedly a difficult occupation—the average workweek is 70 hours long for most truckers—there are people who are wired to excel in this work environment.

Over time, 2,200 people have set a Job Target for drivers in our software. When we look at the types of people they’re looking for, we find three Reference Profiles that stand out above the rest.

All three of the top Reference Profiles for this position—Craftsmen, Specialists, and Guardians—are collaborative, deliberate, meticulous, and enjoy routine work.

When transportation industry HR departments and hiring managers take a talent optimization approach to hiring—by defining and communicating job requirements, equipping leaders to land top talent, predicting new team dynamics, and determining candidate cultural fit—they’re able to source and recruit these top-performing candidates.

Talent optimization increases employee engagement.

The aforementioned employee engagement report also discovered that 7% of drivers are actively disengaged at work.

How can fleet owners increase driver engagement? 

The key is understanding what employees want and need. Craftsmen, Specialists, and Guardians thrive on details and accuracy, so clear and frequent communication is important. This includes not only direction, but also hearing out drivers’ feedback and suggestions. As “boots on the ground,” so to speak, they have a lot of insight on how to improve engagement and increase efficiencies on the road. One trucking company also found that facetime can be beneficial in helping employees feel heard and appreciated.

Employees may also benefit from ongoing education and training, focusing heavily on safety and new technology. Driving is a dangerous occupation, and with the increased use of technology, keeping up with the rate of change can be difficult without dedicated time for learning and development.

Talent optimization decreases turnover.

Turnover in the transportation industry is high, averaging around 77%. 

In addition to poor job fit, the 2019 employee engagement report found that another third of the top turnover drives relates to the people truck drivers work with. While people problems may seem unavoidable at work, an understanding of each individual’s behavioral drives and how they impact team dynamics can help alleviate many of these interpersonal issues.

It’s all solvable.

While the challenges facing the transportation industry may seem daunting, with the right approach, they’re all solvable. Transportation industry leaders can reduce turnover by leveraging talent optimization to make better hires, improve employee engagement, and provide employees with the tools and training they need to understand each other better.

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