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Continuous learning is always time and money well spent

Many of the signs are pointing to an economy that is in recovery mode, and I'm sure we are all relieved about that. It has been a long, hard road for the past several years and we decidedly deserve some respite.


Many of the signs are pointing to an economy that is in recovery mode, and I’m sure we are all relieved about that. It has been a long, hard road for the past several years and we decidedly deserve some respite.

Even though the January 2011 numbers for Class 8 truck sales in Canada were still below the rolling five-year average for that month, the trend is moving in the right direction. That is even more the case in the United States, which is yet another leading indicator that recovery is underway.

PMTC members report renewed interest in equipment acquisition, an interest that has basically been dormant for quite a while. It is anyone’s guess as to how much of the demand is the result of new or returning business as opposed to the absolute need to retire equipment that was extended beyond its useful life during the recession, but we can’t deny the benefit of new equipment orders.

We have also noticed a slight loosening of the financial restrictions implemented by many companies during the recession. At that time some companies went in to full stop mode when it came to employee education, training or other so-called “non-revenue producing” activities, and while fiscally understandable as a short-term model for survival, that approach won’t stand the test of time.

With that in mind I’d like to revisit a topic I addressed a few months ago: the ongoing need for employee education and training.

Many PMTC members have recognized that one proven path to better performance and continuous improvement is that of providing employees with the skills, training, education, and business exposure they need to perform well in their jobs. That’s why many of those companies maintained a policy of employee development throughout the difficult financial times from which we’re just now escaping; long ago they recognized that their future is dependent on having well trained and knowledgeable employees in key roles.

I had that thought in mind a few weeks ago when I was invited to address a group of senior managers from one of our PMTC member companies, and I was quite impressed with that company’s approach to its team’s ongoing development. This company has made it a point to bring together its distribution team on an annual basis for a two-day leadership conference.
The group has grown so large, and the daily operational and service needs are so demanding, that they now need to run back-to-back sessions over a two-week period to accommodate everyone.

With that type of commitment it is obvious that this company recognizes the value of staying close to its employees and providing them with the tools they need to be successful. So, taking that as a given I tentatively ventured to inquire about the cost implications of such a commitment. The short answer was that the returns were so great that cost, while not ignored by any means, was not a primary driver in the decision to host the conferences or their other employee-related initiatives.

This approach could almost be considered avant-garde when compared to the attitude of companies that eschew training as an expense or luxury.

But I don’t think progressive companies do this simply to be seen as being on the leading edge – they invest in their employees because they understand that the investment is a necessary part of the continuum of operating and sustaining a successful business. And that approach has been proven to work.

The type of employee training and education available today takes many forms, and a little research will help any manager determine what would work best for his or her group. In the world of trucking, there are myriad opportunities for specific job-related training as well as opportunities for broader exposure to the industry.

Some examples of specific training/education would include the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council’s refresher course for experienced drivers, as well as its superlative Guide to Human Resources that is specifically designed for trucking firms; through its FleetSmart/Smart Driver programs Natural Resources Canada will help everyone involved with the fleet understand the principles behind fuel conservation; Transcom Fleet Services offers an acclaimed program for dispatchers and front line supervisors that will put them on the road to successful human resource management; and PMTC engages government ministries to meet directly with our members to address specific issues and questions.

More broadly, there are opportunities such as those provided through the upcoming PMTC annual conference. Conferences like this one offer information on a variety of topics that address important issues or that will raise awareness among participants about subjects that could factor in to making their operations a little more effective.

This particular conference is also the best forum for meeting other private fleet operators and exchanging information, ideas and experiences; making contacts that will help over both the short term and in the future.

Again, it is exposure to the industry, its people, and the products, concepts and ideas that others are talking about. I encourage you to visit www.pmtc.ca and review the conference agenda – then come out and visit with us. It will be time and money well spent.


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