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Retention Case Study

Solving Critical Associate Retention

Sysco had a big problem with attracting and retaining one of their most critical positions: drivers. Delivery drivers serve as ambassadors to Sysco restaurant customers. Customers need to know they’ll get what they want when they want it from a knowledgeable driver. Also, Sysco’s 5,000 drivers had a turnover rate of 35-40%, and it was becoming more difficult to fill driver positions due to increasing demand for drivers nationwide.


In examining the drivers’ employment journey and potential dissatisfiers causing the high turnover, there were a number of different factors, but we helped identify the three most critical priorities that we all agreed, needed to be addressed.

1) Rewards:

On the one hand, drivers (who were well trained and very qualified) were being offered potential significant sign on bonuses to join other companies due to high demand and low supply. And on the other hand, Sysco’s current system was competitive but hourly, so the only way drivers could make more money was to work longer hours and be away from home more.

Our team recommended a couple of imaginative solutions around rewards and recognition. We created an industry changing “Activity Based Pay” System that rewarded the drivers for safe, timely, and accurate delivery of products to their customers. In addition, we enhanced the 401k and annual bonus program based upon performance and tenure. The changes increased the drivers’ productivity and pay significantly and rewarded the higher performers at a differentiated rate.

2) Engagement:

The drivers’ engagement significantly improved as well due to improved quality of life by not having to work long hours. As each of the Associate Journey Factors are integrated, we also recommended and implemented “Electronic Lifts” in the drivers’ trucks, increasing their productivity, ease of work, and reducing back injuries. In addition, we established a “Global Drivers Rodeo” where every year the best of the best drivers competed.

3) Sourcing:

Given the short supply of qualified drivers in the market and increasing demand given Sysco’s growth plans, we recommended a number of sourcing solutions. The most impactful was a “Warehouse to Driver Training” program comprised of about 5,000 qualified warehouse associates. These associates, who already knew the products and systems, could apply to obtain their qualified driver’s license and complete the training to be promoted to a driver position. This also has a peripheral positive impact on the night warehouse retention as there was a built-in career path for them.


Sysco achieved an industry leading driver retention rate of 80% which saves each operation approximately $500,000 and over $25 million company wide. In addition, customer satisfaction levels increased while delivery expenses(cost per case) and workers’ comp injury costs decreased.

The company’s CEO noted that having a process that was not overwhelming and targeted on the most important factors helped focus their energy, innovation, and investment on the things that made a difference and brought about great returns.

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