High driver turnover is a significant problem for fleets, but understanding driver burnout and employee disengagement can help you address costly issues before they become unmanageable.
Which Comes First: Driver Burnout or Employee Disengagement?
Employee engagement is a phrase used across all industries. While its definition may differ between industries, Emplify "boiled down hundreds of executive interviews, employee surveys, and hours of research" to arrive at a singular, digestible definition: Employee engagement is "an employee’s intellectual (head) and emotional (heart) connection with an employer, demonstrated by motivation and commitment (hands) to positively impact the company’s vision and goals."
When employees are no longer engaged—known as employee disengagement—productivity, job performance, health and safety suffer. While the link between employee disengagement and driver burnout could be presented as a "chicken or the egg" conundrum, driver burnout could arguably be both a symptom and a result of employee disengagement, rather than one or the other. Regardless, the high correlation between the two provides a sound reason to monitor both.
In this blog post, we’ll break down the causes of employee disengagement and driver burnout, ways to re-engage employees and how to keep track of employee engagement going forward.
No Satisfaction: Causes of Employee Disengagement
Although it varies between individuals, there is a set amount of time to re-engage employees before they become un-re-engageable. Understanding the underlying causes of disengagement can help you create an action plan to address it before your fleet starts to experience truck driver burnout and/or employee turnover. Causes of burnout and disengagement include:
Disconnect between job and expectations: Job descriptions should come as close as possible to what employees in those positions actually do and what’s expected of them. Vague job descriptions or descriptions completely different from the role requirements can turn off incoming new hires as well as current team members; for example:
- You’ve hired a new driver. In the job description, there was nothing about working with technicians or being mechanically savvy. Your new driver arrives at work and is asked to help support technicians as part of their job. This unexpected change in role requirement causes lack of trust in new hires and makes the company come across as less than professional. Furthermore, the techs the new hire is supposed to support may get frustrated at having someone there without the skills and knowledge to properly handle the job.
Insufficient training: Training isn’t really a "one-and-done" kind of thing. Automotive and fleet management technologies are constantly growing and changing, so fleet employees should be apprised of and trained on new technologies adopted by the fleet, whether that’s implementing new software or updating technician certifications to include electric vehicles.
Lack of feedback, coaching and upward mobility: Employees tend to thrive more in their role when the promise of upward mobility is present. Promotion is a goal to work toward with a tangible reward: increased compensation. Simply being able to move up in the company isn’t enough, however. Feedback and coaching are necessary for employees to know where they stand with their performance, learn to correct poor driving behavior and increase morale.
Lack of recognition_reward_feedback implementation: When employees’ hard work and successes go unnoticed by leadership, it can be devaluing. Listening to employee feedback and implementing changes that improve processes based on that feedback helps employees feel heard and appreciated (not to mention improving daily processes based on real-world experience can improve productivity). Additionally, employee success recognition can improve overall morale.
Lack of work-life balance: Your employees are first and foremost people, and should be treated as such. Ensuring a work-life balance for your team reduces the likelihood of burnout with the additional benefit of improving morale and employees’ perception of the company and management.
Lack of trust in leadership: When employees become overworked, not listened to or feel underappreciated, their trust in leadership wavers. When employees feel it has become a struggle to be heard, they start to disengage. After all, no one likes the feeling that they’re talking to a brick wall.
"Fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job."
By identifying causes of disengagement, the symptoms become easier to spot. For example, when people start to feel more run down than lifted up at their place of employment, they can start to shut down. If you notice an employee who was once outspoken start shying away from communication with leadership or even co-workers, it might be time to pull them aside to see what’s going on and what kind of support they need. If caught early enough, this is a great way to re-engage employees.
Resolve Dissatisfaction: Re-engaging the Disengaged
We previously mentioned that there is a set time for disengaged employees to be re-engaged. By catching disengagement early, you can take measures to re-engage employees, decrease the chances of burnout and improve overall driver satisfaction, including:
Implementing employee feedback: Prove to your employees that their knowledge and experience are valuable assets to your fleet. Acknowledging and implementing changes based on employee feedback can improve productivity, safety policies, innovation and engagement.
Incentivising Success: Incentives go a long way in promoting employee engagement, whether it’s a bonus, an award or simply a visible, company-wide show of highlighting an employee’s success. Celebrating success breeds the desire to succeed, helping employees to stay actively engaged with both their job and the company as a whole.
Painting a more accurate job description: If there is a disconnect between a job description and what’s actually expected, reevaluate and update your company’s job descriptions. Not only will this improve the applicant pool, it’ll help align employer and employee expectations.
Implementing ongoing training and coaching: Ongoing training and coaching is imperative for fleets to stay innovative, current and chalk-full of employee satisfaction. Training and coaching shouldn’t be considered only when employees are having issues, but should be used to promote success, stay up to date with changing technologies and inspire both upward mobility and company loyalty.
Employee, and more specifically driver, turnover is expensive. If you’ve ever found yourself asking "why do truck drivers quit," or "why is my turnover rate so high," you can probably bet burnout or disengagement is the culprit. "Fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job," according to Gallup. "Over half of exiting employees (51%) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization."
Fleet Management: Finding a Solution with Software
When you think of fleet management software, you probably don’t associate it with tracking employee satisfaction. More often than not, fleet management software is considered an asset tracking tool. Well, the people you employ are your best (and most expensive) assets and tracking satisfaction goes a long way in improving morale and decreasing turnover. "The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary—and that’s a conservative estimate," according to Gallup. "So, a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year."
To avoid those turnover rates and associated costs, implement a system that tracks employee satisfaction—and don’t be afraid to get creative. While some companies adopt HR software or use third-party employee satisfaction surveys, if you’re using a fleet management software like Fleetio, you can create custom inspections targeted at collecting employee feedback. You can assign these inspections at regular intervals—biannually—or when gearing up to change processes, feedback on the latter of which can provide great insights to help streamline process change implementation.