Whether you’re recruiting new drivers to your carrier or interacting with those who have been with you for years, communication is important. Successful communication with employees is crucial for any company’s success but comes with unique challenges for trucking carriers.
The nature of the job is that drivers will be on the road most of the time and communication rarely takes place in-person. To complicate matters, there is often a difference in culture between managers and drivers. That’s not to say that good communication is impossible for carriers, just that it takes a little more work than it would for your average company. Keep these 4 tips in mind if you want your carrier to have strong communication with drivers.
1. Be Curious and Understanding
The most important part of strong communication with drivers is good listening. This means you actually take time and effort to hear drivers’ concerns and then address them. Good listening isn’t just reactive. Don’t just wait for drivers to come to you with their concerns. Be curious enough to inquire about their needs and questions.
If you’re recruiting a new driver, you know which factors they are likely considering, so address them proactively. Ask questions centered around their home time, benefits, and compensation needs. If you’re getting feedback from current drivers, be curious about their preferences about type of haul, type of run, work schedule etc.
Good listening is only the first step. Once you’ve talked to different drivers to see if you can find any patterns in what they’re saying. Are we not keeping our promises around home time? Is there a certain dispatcher that multiple drivers are having an issue with? Once you’ve nailed down the issues, you can make an action plan for how to address them.
2. Know When to Call or Video Conference…
Sometimes, the medium is the message. Choosing the proper communication method can make the difference between having successful conversations with drivers or leaving them frustrated. Some issues are too long or complicated to discuss over text or email. Calling drivers’ cell phones is the most popular way to communicate with drivers for a good reason.
Most drivers will carry their phones with them 24-7, so if you need to deliver some quick but important and time-sensitive information, this is the way to go.
You can be brief and to the point, while also delivering the personal touch. Same thing holds for job prospects you’re trying to recruit—you can quickly touch base about some details and leave a strong impression in their minds.
Speaking of the personal touch, consider requesting video conferences for added face-time. It’s tough to get an in-person meeting with drivers or job candidates if they are on the road. Using videoconferencing is the next best thing. It will also preserve important non-verbal cues like eye contact and body language. Video interviews are also becoming a popular alternative to phone interviews. Save this for important and longer conversations that could use the added human touch of face-to-face interaction.
3. …And Know When to Text or Email Instead
Knowing is half the battle. Sometimes, text or email is a better platform for communication. You don’t want to send a lengthy message over text. It’s best for short and sweet messages which are time-sensitive. Messages over text won’t require much elaboration or the personal touch to smooth things over.
It is usually best when it’s a follow up to an ongoing conversation rather than springing up something unexpected. Don’t text as the first method of contact to job candidates—it’s just too impersonal! Your job prospects will want to feel like you’re making the effort and that they are worth a phone call. On the other hand, you can text to set up a phone call or ask someone to call back to discuss further details. Texting also gets around network coverage issues or background noise, because the message will go through eventually.
Reserve email for the most important and lengthy messages. Usually, email is best for sharing critical documents like job applications, contracts, insurance policies etc. Sometimes email can also be better than a phone call if you want to keep record of what was agreed upon. Human memory is fragile, and two people may remember different things from the same phone call. Having the written documentation available makes things less ambiguous.
4. Treat Drivers with Respect and Build Trust
This one cannot be overstated. None of your communication strategies and methods are going to work if drivers don’t feel that you’re treating them with respect.
It sounds like a no-brainer, yet this is one of the biggest complaints that drivers have—management doesn’t treat them with respect.
If you’re a recruiter making a first impression, this is even more important. Be careful not to speak too hurriedly, or as if you’ve been stressed or anxious just before the interaction. Friendly and respectful communication is more engaging and will make a better impression.
Even if you’re interacting with drivers who have been with your fleet for years, you should always speak to them as if it’s that very first time.
Strong communication with drivers takes time and consistency. A relationship with your drivers is just like a relationship with anyone else- you build more trust if you keep communicating honestly and clearly over a long period of time. Always being respectful, curious, and understanding in your communications with drivers will lead to a better working relationship, which in turn leads to better retention numbers, and an overall better image of your company in the industry.
Treat drivers with respect, build trust over the years through good communication, and the payoffs for your carrier will be enormous.