How do you engender loyalty and team spirit among employees who rarely see the inside of your company? Though it's not an uncommon quandary for trucking companies like Bob Sturgeon's Barr-Nunn Transportation, in Granger, Iowa, it's a growing concern of businesses whose employees telecommute, work part-time, or take family leave.
"In our industry there's a division between drivers and the people in the office," says Sturgeon. Sturgeon hoped that better communication would go a long way toward diminishing the psychological rift, and he wanted to decrease turnover, which, at 55% in 1993, cost the company about $5,000 a driver. So two years ago Sturgeon and vice-president of sales and marketing Mike Johns started a monthly company newspaper called Manifest. It features messages from Sturgeon about the company's mission and values, as well as safety tips, articles about new employees, and coverage of company policy. "We're trying to show them that someone back here is concerned about their welfare," says Johns. "It's a team-building effort."
Every month, the company also gives its drivers four-hour cassette tapes with industry news, country music, interviews, and company information that might include birthday announcements or discussions of the advantages of contributing to the company's 401(k) plan. The two programs cost Barr-Nunn about $3,000 a month, but Sturgeon thinks that combined with other efforts to improve life for drivers, they have definitely had an impact on the bottom line: turnover was down to 35% last year.