Driving Competitiveness

To attract and retain skilled truck drivers, Noble Gas Solutions took a look at the basics – starting with their pay scale.

Paying employees, especially truck drivers, too little or too much can affect a company’s ability to attract qualified talent and retain valuable employees for the long-term. Low pay causes recruiting challenges, and setting the scale too high adds costs to replace employees. At Noble Gas Solutions, we were determined to find the proper pay scale in order to remain competitive, optimize productivity, stabilize our workforce, and control costs.

Noble Gas employs six full-time drivers, three of them Class A. Two of the drivers have been with the company for 15 years, and we have always been proud of our retention. So it came as a shock when a driver (whose training we had paid for) chose to leave due to a better compensation package working for one of our customers (!), not as a driver, but in the plant.

That experience made us question where our compensation package was positioned within our market. We were not willing to lose another employee due to better compensation elsewhere.

Driver Productivity

Want to Evaluate your Pay Scale?

  • Contract with an independent contractor to ensure HR transformation.
  • Review your employee job descriptions for accuracy and completeness. Compare them to similar positions to ensure they contain comparable pay, duties, skills and qualifications.
  • Assess whether your pay scales are competitive and in line with industry positions that require similar levels of expertise and experience.
  • Obtain and review historical pay scales for your employees. Determine whether the compensation reflects cost of living increases and market conditions.
  • Determine how experience, expertise and tenure affect employees’ wages. Determine fair compensation as a reward for performance and length of service.
  • Review employee training and development opportunities to decide whether certain jobs should receive higher compensation based on completion of training and performance.

To find out how our compensation plan stacked up against other companies with similar positions, we turned to ADP Resource, the company that handles Noble Gas’ payroll services and employee benefits administration. ADP worked alongside PayScale, a salary information firm, to provide wage and salary information specific to our locale and industry.

While Noble Gas offers generous benefits such as full medical, 401k and vacation time, when the analysis was complete, we discovered that our truck drivers (specifically Class A) had a compensation package that was below average for the Northeast region. If I want Noble Gas to be the Supplier of Choice for customers, we certainly can’t be below average; nor can we be average. To be above average, I must hire above-average employees. It was clear I needed to raise the pay scale to attract and retain above-average employees.

I did not want to raise Noble Gas’ driver pay scale just for the sake of raising it. Thus, the discrepancy in driver pay became an opportunity. Geoff Delbridge, Noble Gas’ operations manager, updated yearly performance evaluations, and every driver was reviewed. We wanted to know what they were doing well and what they should be doing better. All of our cylinders have barcodes and are checked in and out, so it was easy to collect some of the data. The GPS on the trucks detailed the time the driver left, how fast he was driving, how many stops were being made and where.

Driver productivity was our focus, and we wanted specifics. How many cylinders were being handled? How much face time with customers? How many customers were being seen? Was the paperwork being done correctly? Were there any customer complaints? What was the pull-away driving time? How many stops?

The data collected were used to develop benchmarks for driver productivity. When a driver reached a benchmark, he would receive a pay raise. Drivers were motivated and incentivized to be “above average.” And while I realize that I can’t expect everybody to be a superstar, we want to make sure the driver does not fall below “average.”

Results

With the data in hand, we updated yearly performance evaluations and adjusted compensation for our drivers where needed. After adjustments, all driver compensation packages are now above the industry average for the Northeast region. We moved from just below the 50th percentile to the 70th, and today our average tenure of drivers is 10 years, with total experience exceeding 50 years.

By investing in our people, especially our hardworking truck drivers, Noble has incentivized performance and loyalty, which has helped solidify the company culture we call the “Noble difference.” I want people breaking down Noble’s door to get in and work with us. I don’t want them breaking it down to get out.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
J. David Mahoney is president and CEO of Noble Gas Solutions, headquartered in Albany, New York, and at www.noblegassolutions.com. He served as president of GAWDA in 1999-2000.