BERWICK, N.S. — Who wants to write company policies and procedures, only to have them ignored? Who wants to do their job well, yet see low performers get the same pay? A tool called performance management solves these problems. Its premise is to: explain to employees what they have to do; reward those who do what’s asked of them; and retrain or discipline those who don’t.
Berwick, Nova Scotia-based Eassons Transport started implementing performance management in 2010. Using performance management to measure truck variables like speed or idling is standard stuff, but Eassons is using it to drive, motivate and measure just about everything that the company does.
“This was a huge change and significant shift in the company culture,” says Trevor Bent, human resources risk manager, Eassons Transport. He set up the performance management program and oversees it.
To get a sense of how performance management works, it is illustrative to look at what it has done for Eassons’ drivers and, by extension, the company. In their online accounts, drivers check for new tasks they have to complete. Say, for example, Bent e-mails a new company policy to everyone. In the old days he could only hope and trust that it would be read. Under the performance management system, he not only can tell who has or has not read it, he knows that employees are motivated to read it.
Company driver Randy Delaney talks about these tasks: “When I go into my account, I see what I have to do. There is a list of documents to be read. Each is basically a course. I read each one and then do a brief test afterward with anywhere from four to 40 questions. You are scored on each one. If you don’t pass, you have the option of going back and doing it again. As I complete the documents, they disappear.”
Each task completed adds points to a driver’s monthly scorecard. The higher the score – the maximum per month is 200 – the bigger the bonus. Bent can tell in a few keystrokes how well everyone is doing, anytime. On one fall day, for example, he sees that 84 out of 120 drivers were over 175, 54 scored greater than 190 and just 13 of 120 below 150.
This level of job monitoring caused some early resistance, but most drivers rose to the challenge and are happily pocketing hundreds of dollars in bonuses every month, just for doing their jobs well.
“I don’t see it as spying,” Delaney remarks. “Performance management makes you accountable for your job. I have no problem with that. If I am out there speeding, not turning in my log sheets, not washing my trailer, etc., it makes other drivers’ jobs harder.”
Performance management also feeds into an element of the company’s long-term growth strategy: that of reducing driver turnover.
“We focus our hiring efforts on drivers who are detail-oriented. Turnover has been in the high 20s, percent-wise, for years. This will drop as we fill the company with the drivers that are aligned with the company’s values, goals and objectives,” Bent predicts.
The structure that performance management imposes on Eassons and its employees is critical, Bent says. “When you are growing, the last thing you want is no structure.”
Take something like the weekly payroll exercise. “I am expected to fax my trip report to payroll by noon each Monday. If 120 drivers were to fax them in on Tuesday, payroll would fall behind, working extra hours to process the late trip reports,” Delaney says.
Bent continues, “Some see performance management negatively, that it is about getting written up. I see it as a way within your organization to align everybody to a common goal…to identify gaps and fix them.”
What does Bent mean by common goals? In part, he means putting on paper everything the drivers are expected to do, from properly filling out their log sheets to renewing their passports. Train them. Test them. Tell them what is expected of them. Leave no doubt and make no exceptions.
“If you can measure it and keep it objective, you can keep it fair and keep it consistent,” Bent says. “Align drivers around the company’s expectations. If they don’t know what they are, how can they possibly deliver on them? Performance management can be a pull system. Employees now monitor their own performance. If they don’t know how to do something they come to us for assistance. We don’t chase drives like we did in the past. We want all the drivers to perform, to be responsible, to be on top of their duties. We are creating a culture where drivers are taking ownership of their own performance.”
Take, for example, a new policy. Bent writes it and distributes it out to the drivers. He can count on 50% of them to review it within a week and a half. He may motivate drivers with the chance to win a gift certificate for reviewing documents that are not obligatory reading.
Regular tasks that cost drivers points if they don’t complete them include administrative duties such as cargo temperature checks, proof of deliveries and filing time sheets. Human resources items worth avoiding, because they cost points, are things like preventable incidents, speeding, leaving trailers unwashed and logbook violations.
There is driver improvement training, keeping identification and permits current – all of the things that a pro should be doing.
Every month drivers get a scorecard out of 200: the more of the tasks they do that are expected of them, the higher the score.
Bent turns to his keyboard for a few seconds. “Out of 120 drivers now, we have about 50 who are over 190.”
Fleet managers, each of whom oversee 30 drivers, also get scorecards and bonuses based on their teams’ performance. They can access drivers’ dashboards and are there to help their drivers or contact the terminal manager about driver issues.
“We go to our fleet managers if we have problems. If a driver is consistently scoring poorly, the fleet manager can go to the terminal manager, who contacts the driver to ask him ‘What’s up?’ It might be that the driver didn’t know he had to do X or Y, or did not know he could check idle-time on the satellite. Maybe a driver does not realize that he is doing something wrong and needs more training. This is a way of monitoring and going to a driver if he has a problem,” Delaney observes.
“The motivation of performance management is put on the individual. You can do it or not,” Delaney adds. “The company does not call me every three days and hound me. To cut to the chase, these tasks are all part of my job.”