The Human Edge: Five ways to open your doors to solutions

by Angela Splinter

The 2014 Top Fleet Employers program offers plenty of insight into the trucking industry’s best practices in human resources, but one approach is clearly embraced more widely than any other.

Many of the honoured employers have committed themselves to an open-door policy.

Open and honest communication plays an important role in any positive and respectful workplace. But when Trucking HR Canada interviewed fleet employees as part of the screening process for these honours, the open doors seemed to be valued by drivers most of all. Perhaps it is because of the hours that drivers spend alone on the road, or simply a general wish to be recognized for their experience.

“I love the open-door policy. I can speak with anyone—even the VPs and chairman—whenever I want. They take time and listen,” one driver observed. “I believe that this company is very flexible in regard to the personal needs of the employees … there is a great open-door policy with management at all levels,” said the driver at another fleet.

By its very nature, an open-door policy ensures that employees at every level can approach senior managers with any questions or concerns. This freedom fosters a sense of mutual respect and consideration in the workplace. Relationships are strengthened as a result.

As important as this openness may be, a well-structured approach will be most effective. Consider these tips to keep the doors open at your fleet:

  • Manage the time: Open-door policies require leaders who are receptive and take a solution-oriented approach to business matters. But the time has to be managed wisely. It would be all too easy for an approachable manager to spend a large portion of their day, at the expense of other duties, dealing with employees who “just need a minute.”

  • Commit and communicate: Announcing that you have an open-door policy is not enough. A manager who asks for feedback is also committing to action. Those who leave issues unresolved will actually harm morale and productivity alike. Drivers will feel more disenfranchised than ever. In contrast, managers can offer timelines around how issues will be addressed. The answers and actions don’t always need to be in a driver’s favour, but everyone should understand the reasoning behind the decisions.

  • Develop a structure: Different layers of managers are put in place for a reason. Junior and middle managers may feel that their authority is undermined if employees continually go above their heads. Many issues can be resolved by ensuring that employees contact their direct supervisors before taking issues to senior managers.

  • Open your own door: Some people will always be un-comfortable about approaching a boss. Managers can help break down these barriers by stepping out of their own offices and approaching employees. Engage in conversations with drivers throughout the workplace, whether in a dispatch area or a fleet yard. After all, informal conversations can be just as insightful as a formal complaint.

  • Monitor the trends: As important as individual concerns may be, the most telling insight can emerge in broader trends. Do some employees open your door more often than others? If they all seem to report to the same manager or dispatcher, there may be a personnel issue to resolve.

When the approach is properly managed with tips like these, a willingness to consider new thoughts and ideas may be one of the most powerful HR practices of all.

To learn more about human resource tips and techniques adopted by Canada’s Top Fleet Employers, download a free copy of the Drive to Excellence report.

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