The Human Edge: Plan for success

by Angela Splinter

Every experienced manager will admit that a business is only as strong as its employees, but many fleets can still be surprised by the tangible returns generated through sound human resources practices.

Recent research by Gallup shows that a business can realize as much as 59% more revenue per employee by systematically picking the right managers, identifying personnel who have the natural talent to excel in specific roles, properly engaging employees, and focusing on employee strengths.

Retaining the right employees will make a difference of its own. Trucking HR Canada research has determined that it costs between $6,000 and $10,000 to recruit and train a new truck driver—and that’s before accounting for the business opportunities that are lost if a truck needs to be parked, or the added risk that emerges when relying on drivers with less experience.

Well-structured employee recognition programs help fleets to retain skilled employees and achieve targets for everything from safety ratings to fuel economy. Enhanced recruiting programs help to reduce turnover and identify the job candidates who share a fleet’s vision. Steps to meet customer goals lead to stronger business relationships and secure revenue.

In an industry where profit and loss are differentiated by pennies on the dollar, they are the types of results which can make the difference between failure and success.

But like every other investment in a fleet, successful human resources strategies need to be based on a sound plan that clarifies a fleet’s priorities, commits to specific tasks and timelines, and keeps everyone on track and accountable.
When developing such a plan, take the time to:

Understand the business context and objectives

Every fleet will have unique goals and priorities, identified through sources such as formal business plans. Once this information is in hand, managers can then begin to identify and rank the related challenges and barriers, as well as business practices that are already achieving the desired results.

Gather the data to identify root causes

In addition to identifying a challenge’s underlying cause, quantifiable data offers benchmarks that can be used to measure a related strategy’s future success or failure.

The data can come from a number of sources. A fleet struggling with high fuel consumption, for example, might want to tap into engine electronic control modules to measure factors such as average speeds and idle time, which can be addressed through formal policies, training and incentives. In contrast, a fleet struggling with the costs of high employee turnover might want to look for trends in driver files along with the data collected through exit interviews and staff surveys. Are most of the departures recent hires or retirees? Do they tend to work with particular customers or use particular equipment? Each issue would be addressed a different way.

Focus strategies on root causes

A tailored HR strategy will always be the most cost-effective option and take the greatest leaps toward a strategy’s ultimate objectives. The good news is that many of the trucking industry’s recognized best practices in human resources are already identified through tools such as Trucking HR Canada’s popular Your Guide to Human Resources manuals.

Name a champion

Once a strategy is established, identify the person who will be responsible for meeting the related targets. He or she can ensure the strategies are followed, watch for emerging successes or failures, and respond to unanticipated challenges or opportunities.

Manage the investment

Once the strategies are underway, the emerging benefits can be expressed in financial terms and then compared to the strategy’s cost. But don’t forget to factor in the value of secondary benefits as well. For example, the same defensive driving program that helps to reduce collisions and workplace injuries (expressed in terms such as lower insurance claims and lost time) also encourages fuel-efficient driving practices.

Angela Splinter is CEO of Trucking HR Canada.

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