According to research done by organizational psychologists (Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002), perceptions of favorable treatment and value from an employee’s company (and more directly from their supervisor) should contribute to Perceived Organizational Support (POS). Perceived Organizational Support is an employee’s general belief that their work organization values their contributions and cares about their well being. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a driver say something along the lines of “All I am is a truck number to them,” I’d be writing this from my own private island. I am not at all implying that companies don’t actually care about their drivers; we’re talking perceptions here. Feeling these negative perceptions can be disengaging and can impact performance, absenteeism, safety, and turnover. On the other hand, high perceptions of organizational support can lead to a driver’s willingness to go above and beyond, in the form of helping other drivers, taking actions that protect the organization from risk, offering constructive suggestions, and gaining knowledge and skills that benefit the organization. With all of these factors in play, I’m proposing that it is important to work toward adjusting these perceptions in order to increase POS.
Yes, I can hear you now. “Great, Megan. Now get your nose out of the psychology books and tell me how I can start to positively impact these perceptions drivers have that my company doesn’t value them and isn’t committed to their success!”
Increasing POS from the top down can directly contribute to a culture of retention. In order to affect change in negative POS, the organization will need to focus on its actions to show their commitment to drivers. Does your company’s mission and website mention the importance of your drivers to your success? When a driver calls in for help, are they treated with respect and in a timely fashion? Does your leadership team refer to “the drivers” or “our drivers?” Are you doing all you can to get feedback from your drivers on their job satisfaction and engagement? If answering these questions leads you to a few small changes you can make, you’re well on your way to increasing drivers’ POS.
The organization will also need to communicate to managers the critical role they play in an employee’s POS, and how their actions are a direct reflection of the entire organization. Communicating to managers the importance of providing support to drivers, along with education on the manager’s metrics directly affected by turnover, is a good start.
Here are a few recommendations that can help your organization to improve drivers’ perceptions of organizational support:
Find ways to increase employee voice in the organization. Provide ways for employees to give suggestions for improving their jobs and the organization. Make sure that managers are encouraging employee voice and that both managers and leaders are taking steps to close the loop on communication when suggestions have been made. Communicate what the organization is doing regarding employees’ suggestions. For example, if an employee provides a suggestion for improvement that isn’t feasible to implement right now, make sure you let the employee know that they’ve been heard and why further action is not being taken on their suggestion. Reward employees for offering innovative ideas. Perhaps include a great employee suggestion in an organization-wide newsletter, and highlight how the organization has seen improvements because of the employee’s suggestion. This shows employees that they have a voice and that their ideas are important and valued by the organization.
Create new ways for leadership to communicate and show their commitment and loyalty to drivers. Have leaders spend time in employee break rooms or in the truck yards having casual talks with drivers and asking them how their job is going. Increase organization-wide communication on driver appreciation, such as an employee spotlight or a letter from the CEO thanking drivers for their hard work and commitment. Increase the focus on drivers and their importance on the company’s website and social media presence. Create more ways for leaders to show their commitment to drivers, such as an employee picnic where senior leaders cook for them. Make sure that the information that new drivers are told is correct and accurate, so that there is less of a likelihood for new drivers to perceive injustices from the beginning.
Ensure that managers understand their role in increasing drivers’ job satisfaction. As discussed earlier, the way the driver perceives their supervisor/manager is often the way they perceive the entire organization. If a manager is managing a large board, make sure they keep notes on each driver, including their name and family members’ names, important dates, and preferred communication methods. Make sure managers are having regular and meaningful check-ins with their drivers. Often in the transportation industry, there is an abundance of focus on hard skills such as driving, loading, and safety skills. Consider manager training on soft skills such as communication and employee appreciation, as well as training to understand each employee’s needs and communication styles.
With increased focus on promoting employee voice, appreciation from leadership, and manager support, we should see improvements in drivers’ perceptions of organizational support. If the recommendations are acted on, I would expect to see an increase in satisfaction around employees feeling valued and feeling like their company is committed to them. These improvements should lead to increased job satisfaction and performance in your company. Higher Perceived Organizational Support is a win-win.
Rhoades, L., Eisenberger, R., Perceived organizational support: A review of the literature (2002). Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 87, No. 4, 698–714. doi: 10.1037//0021-9010.87.4.698