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4 Ways to Improve Driver Happiness – And Why it Matters

March 29, 2022

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With low unemployment rates and a tight labor market, companies face mounting challenges to find and retain good drivers. Unlike industries where work is conducted from a desk or behind a counter, any position that requires driving is difficult to fill. Hiring managers have to ensure that the worker is not only reliable at performing their primary task — such as delivering packages or going on sales calls — but also has to make certain they are safe and skilled behind the wheel.

Providing expert training teaches drivers what they need to maneuver safely on the road, but it takes more than that to retain great drivers and employees. Company culture plays an increasingly important role in employee retention.

The challenge of driver retention is most widely noted in the trucking industry, where driver turnover continues to affect operations and lead to changes like increased pay, benefits and bonuses. Even so, companies continue struggling with retention and are looking for ways to not only get good drivers in the door, but make them stay.

One way to improve retention while at the same time boosting morale and employee loyalty is a simple but effective benefit that most, if not all, workers are looking for: Happiness.

Why Happiness Matters on the Job

Job satisfaction and happiness have moved to the forefront of employment discussions, and employee well-being has become a business initiative for many companies. But it’s about more than just making sure workers are happy about coming to work; research shows that companies, not just the workers, benefit significantly when employees are happy.

One report on happiness and productivity from the Social Market Foundation noted that workers who are happy with their jobs are as much as 20% more productive than their unhappy coworkers. If a worker is in the sales field, happiness makes an even bigger impact: happiness scholar Shawn Achor of Harvard University found that a salesperson who was happy on the job had 37% higher average sales than other employees who weren’t happy with their work situation.

Evidence of the effect of happiness on productivity and success has moved from the anecdotal to the heavily researched in recent years, making a solid business case for creating a happier work environment. Companies with high levels of stress end up spending about 50% more on healthcare costs than environments with lower levels of stress and pressure. On the flip side, happy employees take fewer sick days — an average of 15 days less every year — and have stronger immune systems.

There’s also strong scientific evidence linking people’s feelings and thoughts with their actions. Employees who are angry or frustrated at work, or who don’t feel appreciated, are shown to make poorer decisions, are less productive on the job and are less capable of tapping into their creativity. When it comes to driving or working with heavy equipment, happiness may play a big role in reducing on-the-job crashes or workplace incidents, too.

A Link Between Happiness and Driver Behavior

While multiple studies have looked at the effect of negative emotions on human behavior, new research published in the November 2018 issue of the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour emphasized the strong link between negative emotions and driving behavior. The research found that negative emotions affected driving habits in two ways: first, by promoting aggressive driving and, secondly, by reducing the driver’s attention to the road and the environment around them.

Happy, engaged employees don’t just work harder and smarter, they’re more productive and, best of all, are less likely to change jobs. Learning how to promote a happiness culture in the workplace could improve driver retention, increase profits and lead to safer driving records.

How to Improve Driver Happiness

In recent years, more attention has been given to not just recruiting drivers, but retaining them. Promoting a happier workplace improves retention by creating an environment that makes employees want to stay. Some of the effective ways to do that for drivers include:

1. Offer competitive pay.

True, money can’t buy happiness, but being able to make a good wage is critical, particularly for primary earners. It costs more to hire and train a new employee than it does to retain and reward a current one, so focus on ways to improve pay and incentives for drivers.

Incentivizing drivers who save money on hard costs like fuel or who meet goals such as on-time deliveries is a way to reward them financially, improve morale and polish your company’s reputation at the same time.

2. Give feedback.

If you’re happy with someone’s performance, tell them. In fact, tell the entire crew. Feedback is so important to workplace happiness that 65% of workers say they want more feedback, and companies that prioritize giving feedback have a turnover rate that’s nearly 15% below companies that don’t provide feedback. Setting workers up for success not only makes them feel more invested in the company, but it also improves the company as a whole.

3. Focus on health.

Your workers can only do a great job when they feel good. Encourage healthy habits and invest in teaching them about how adequate sleep, exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient water intake affect both their physical health and their mental well-being. Not only will they have fewer sick days, but they’ll be safer drivers.

4. Provide training.

Outlining expectations and providing clear direction from day one is important, because it allows drivers to know what they need to achieve. But in addition to supplying guidelines on company culture and procedures, provide advanced driver training as well.

Giving drivers behind-the-wheel safety training is an effective way to make sure they’re ready to handle the challenges that occur on the road. It also shows your company’s commitment to improving their driving ability and ensuring safety.

Investing in Happiness is an Investment in Safety

Improving driver happiness is an important investment for executives and managers to make, and the rewards will pay off both from having a highly committed team and enjoying more efficient, profitable operations. 

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