Research Sheds Light On Motivating Route Drivers At National Automatic Merchandising Association OneShow In Las Vegas

Route drivers are often called the backbone of the vending industry. Hence, it helps to understand what motivates them. A pair of consultants did just that and presented their findings of a study on route driver character traits at the National Automatic Merchandising Association OneShow at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

Jay Newman, Ph.D., founding partner of Win the Bigger Game, a Lake Geneva, Wis.-based consultancy that uses a human centered approach to success in business, and Lawrence Hake, a former Aramark regional vice president and now president and CEO of Purchasing Solutions in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., shared results of an industrywide survey of route drivers, assessing who they are and how they work. More than 300 route drivers went online and took an 18-question survey. There were 30 supervisors who also took the survey so there could be a comparison between the two groups.

Newman compared understanding route drivers to utilizing soil for harvesting. You need to identify what the new soil looks like, have a framework for converting the new soil into new revenue and profitability, and figure out how to sustain it.

Route drivers, as a group, tend to be high on the pace/accommodation scale, he said. They take their time, having a steady pace of work with a low sense of urgency.

They rate high on collaboration, liking to work with others and knowing they are not alone.

They also rate high in persistence.

The rate was in the middle in being reflective, sociable and correct.

Route drivers tend to be less self assured and low in directness, meaning they don't like to say how they feel until it's built up so much it comes out explosive.

Newman went on to interpret the data. Route drivers like organization, rules and restraints. They don't like change or a "do whatever" attitude in management.

They are not problem solvers; they want management to fix issues so they can get back to work.

The people surveyed formed a line graph with some being highly focused on the big picture, noticing lots of details, to those who prefer to ignore all details accept the task they are doing in that moment.

Newman said it is especially hard for the two types of people to understand and effectively communicate with each other. He said each must work to understand the other's point of view.

Training and changes within the organization should also be tailored based on this finding. If, for example, a company is switching to handhelds, it makes sense to start with drivers who are in the first group, with big picture skills. This will allows the kinks to be worked out before addressing the group of drivers who don't like to change how they do things.

Newman showed a chart about what motivates route drivers. They are strongly motivated by order and structure.

The importance of money varied among the route drivers. Drivers are either strongly motivated by money or strongly aren't. There was no middle, or conclusive general finding in that area.

Hake warned that if these character traits are ignored and management uses a "one size fits all" approach, there can be lots of turnover, which creates more change and can lead to more drivers quitting. He saw that happen when he worked for Aramark. Route drivers want structure, consistency and to be able to trust the management and the specifics of their job.

Newman quoted the price of losing a high performance driver as $5,000 when all direct and indirect costs were tallied. He also warned that the profile of a good driver might not make the person a good supervisor.

Hake argued that having an assessment done can save money considering mistakes he's seen management make.

The company is working with NAMA to provide a personality or job assessment that would help operators identify where they route drivers fit on some of these scales.