Economic winds shift, but Eugenia Churilov cautions against using a tough economy as an excuse to cull the herd and let go of underperforming drivers.
On the contrary, it is time to look at driver retention issues from a different angle and reevaluate approaches, Kriska Transportation’s director of safety, compliance, and security said during an annual meeting of the Fleet Safety Council.
“In an economy like that, when operations are slow, safety gets really busy,” she explained.
“It gives us an opportunity to look at our people [and] what can we help our people with. It’s not about, ‘Once you’re not performing, let’s get you going because the economy is tough.’”
Some might need additional training if performance challenges have to do with safety or operations. But new drivers may hesitate to ask for help during onboarding processes because they’re trying to impress a superior, she added.
Feedback from new recruits
It’s why she recommends asking new recruits for feedback within their first 30 days on the job.
Checking in with drivers can be a challenge when managers are busy and drivers are on the road, but having a formal plan for such processes will serve as a reminder and help build rapport with employees along the way, Churilov said.
From there, it’s easier to determine what additional training is required and invest in it.
“[The] driving force is your biggest sales force,” she said. “If the drivers are happy, you’re going to get more drivers in and you’re going to get your company’s reputation on a much higher level.”
Smaller fleets that lack dedicated departments to follow up with drivers can turn to their experienced drivers to help support the communications process.
Retention is everyone’s responsibility
But commitments to retention begin at the top of every company, Churilov said. “Everyone has to be involved.” That means promoting the same messages and working on common goals.
Ensuring recruiters are clear about expectations is an example of that. The same positions can have different requirements at different companies, she explained, stressing the need to effectively explain differences by addressing questions of how and why.
The training itself, meanwhile, can benefit by combining in-person and online delivery methods. Training that doesn’t require hands-on experience is better completed online, she said. It will also give drivers who don’t count English as their first language more time to read and concentrate.
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