Motivation Begins with Management

Oct. 24, 2007
Beyond commissions, operators use contests and bonuses to achieve driver loyalty and enthusiasm.

Though the vending industry has undergone many changes, one constant is the importance of customer service, which continues to rely on the quality of route drivers. Hence, developing route driver motivation continues to be of paramount importance.

Commission as Compensation

Driver commissions continue to play an important role in many companies. Many operators believe that paying drivers based on the sales in the accounts they service motivates them to work harder.

Bob Yeomans, owner of Central Vending, Janesville, Wis., focuses almost exclusively on motivating drivers with commissions. He feels this allows them to establish the level of income they want.

Yeomans has never run contests or special programs because he thinks drivers might initially perform at lower levels just to improve and then be rewarded. He expects superior safety and workmanship from everyone, always.

“It all depends on where you set the bar to begin with,” Yeomans said. He does, however, reward longevity with 5-year milestones. At the 35-year mark there is a monetary bonus.

Other motivators

The age old question about the relative value of financial compensation versus other factors, such as personal values like team building and being engaged in the job, still looms as a challenge for many operators.

For Laurel Whitney, general manager, Full Service Vending, Rockaway, N.J., dealing with turnover as drivers move to more favorable climates – South in recent years – caused her to broaden compensation. Not only do Full Service Vending route drivers get lifetime commissions (for the lifetime of the account), but they receive free food and drink all day, as well as better benefits with holiday bonuses and overtime pay.

Also, longevity is largely rewarded. The first person that made it to 10 years got a party and 4-day trip to the Bahamas, said Whitney. The key was that everyone saw the reward.

Do you reward longevity?

Not everyone agrees with rewarding longevity as a motivator. Steve Thornburg, general manager, Family Vending Co., Sunrise, Fla., said he'd rather have an employee who is working for him because he or she likes the job instead of one who is staying because of an upcoming anniversary.

Longevity offers its own reward because it often results in allowing the driver more flexibility in how he handles his responsibilities. However, Thornburg does take motivating employees seriously, ranking it a 4 out of 5 in importance.

“If you can't motivate someone, they shouldn't be working for you,” he said. Family Vending Co. runs a number of contests on inventory, accountability, customer service, etc. The customer service contest, specifically, runs with the help of customers – operation supervisors contact locations to find out if the customers are satisfied.

“The ongoing ones (contests) are the ones that are most successful,” said Thornburg. He finds short-term contests only produce short-term results.

Manufacturer sponsored contests

Thornburg also is a proponent of manufacturer sponsored contests. “Usually they come to us with the special deals,” said Thornburg, “but if I don't hear about anything, I start asking and putting something together with manufacturers or brokers.” Thornburg urges caution in using these contests, however, because recently a manufacturer never came through with the promised prizes.

“It makes the drivers skeptical and they don't know if they can believe in the rewards,” said Thornburg. It ends up being the opposite of a good motivator. Thornburg also makes an attempt to keep summer contests at a minimum because there's so much time taken off for vacations. “People are gone for weeks – it's not fair to run a contest,” said Thornburg.

Family Vending doesn't have commissions for its route drivers, creating a unique challenge for Thornburg. He uses other motivators besides money, including gift cards. “It's so they can reward themselves – it's not just money that goes into the bank,” he said. He avoids using money as a motivator whenever possible.

This type of reward also encourages employees to feel like management cares. A gift card to the route driver's favorite restaurant or store shows a manager who listens and is interested in his or her employees.

Knowing what employees like increases the morale of the workplace, which is a great way to motivate employees to do well. Vending is a people business and managers should be cognizant that their employees, like their customers, have choices.

Build a sense of Team

Programs to keep employees enthusiastic is oftentimes a top-down approach.

Aaron Speagle, vice president of Piedmont Vending, Hickory, N.C., recognizes the value of employees feeling like part of a team. “We try to have monotony breaks, like taking everyone to a baseball game or some other company outing,” said Speagle.

Piedmont Vending has also gone to an open book policy. “We've opened financials to the company,” Speagle said.

In many businesses, relaying some level of financial information regularly to employees makes them feel connected to the business. They tend to be more mindful of how their actions affect the bottom line. Employees also realize they are actually making a difference.

Time of Action deemed critical

Encouraging positive behavior is a key business tool for managers and owners, allowing management to not only recognize employees, but also inspire others to also excel.
Speagle believes the closer he can provide reinforcement to the actual beneficial behavior, the better. On top of normal commissions for route drivers, Piedmont Vending recently instituted a quarterly bonus based on performance, which Speagle said really engages the drivers. He noticed a significant increase in work performance.

Managers must know their employees

Operators have many ideas on what is most important to their employees and how to provide these things. One conclusion most would agree with is the need for managers to know their employees on an individual basis; cookie cutter approaches are not likely to work in vending operations.

Beyond money, morale and job satisfaction are high motivators.