I Suggest You Replace Your Suggestion Box With This
This year the trucking industry has been experiencing an acute driver shortage. With the driver pool aging and few young people wanting to enter the profession, major news outlets have highlighted the threat this poses to our economy. What’s really stunning is that the Fox Business and CNBC articles that I was interviewed for attracted comments like these on a LinkedIn group for transportation professionals:
“Drivers that are on the road are getting disgusted on how most of the trucking companies treat them.”
“Some of the big carriers have turnover percentages in triple digits. ... The only sustainable solution to the problem is for trucking to become a profession again and not just a job, as it seems to be right now and that's up to carriers themselves.”
“Trucking Industry has got to change their mind set if they are going to keep drivers. .... You got to be more flexible. If your drivers are not happy no one is. DRIVERS are your biggest asset.”
And these remarks are just a small sampling.
Now, I could write off this feedback as the comments of a disgruntled few, but I would be lying. It’s clear there’s a crisis in the way that many companies treat their employees. While most industries don't have on average triple-digit turnover like the trucking industry does, employees across many industries harbor similar sentiments.
A Gallup study last year found that 70 percent of American workers hate their jobs or are completely disengaged.
Having staffers go home miserable every day benefits no one, especially those who want to run a successful business with engaged employees. I recommend that companies treat their workers focusing on what I like to call the three Ts: treatment, transparency and trust:
It only makes sense that employees will leave if treated poorly. Poor treatment encompasses obvious practices like subjecting staff to rude behavior and profanity.
But poor treatment can be more subtle and destructive: Managers can fail to get to know team members as people first and employees second. Cliques can form in the office so that some employees are continually on the outside. And supervisors can ignore employee input or suggestions and create a “shut up and do your job” environment.
All employees have a need to belong, to feel part of their companies. If team members believe that everything happens behind closed doors, they will feel disengaged.
No matter their position in an organization, employees need to feel like they belong. It's impossible to feel part of a company without understanding the “why” -- that is, why decisions are being made in a certain way. If employees understand this, they are much more likely to participate fully.
Don’t be afraid to open the books. Share key data points regularly. Let employees experience the joy of victories and be part of the process of coming up with solutions to problems. Above all, take those on the front lines with you.They often have the best handle on root causes and the best solutions to issues.
Without building trust, a company will be unable to build a lasting culture. Trust is at the foundation of every relationship and critical to manager's ability to manage the company's culture and performance. Without trust, relationships cannot grow.
So, managers, throw out the suggestion box. Replace it with regular listening sessions. The box is just a way of telling the employee to write down an idea because you're too busy to listen. Leaders must be available to listen and follow up. Even if an employee’s idea is not practical, at least extend him or her the courtesy of being heard.
Remember, assume innocence. As soon as a problem arises, managers often go to the dark side. They assume bad motives or negligence. While sometimes this may be true, more often it is not. Unless there's a indication to the contrary, promote an environment that assumes innocence that's hard on the issues but gentle on the people.
As much as employees need to be treated by managers in accordance with the three Ts, the reverse is true. Create an environment where employee behavior is managed identically.
It's a given that paying fair and competitive wages is a necessity. Employers who pay employees fairly must dig deeper as to causes of employee dissatisfaction and that's where they will find the Three Ts.
Related: An Ode to Transparency